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Heading to Disney in the future? Don't be surprised if you see drones flying overhead, as the company recently filed multiple patents to use drones in its amusement parks. It seems Disney wants to substitute drone-assisted shows for fireworks or large light shows, providing customers with a new experience.
Disney recently filed three patents for drone use, including a multi-drone projection screen system, possible overhead light displays, and drones attached to puppets or balloons to give them motion capabilities. The drones would be controllable from the ground, but would be pre-programmed and have synchronization to avoid contact with one another while in the air.
Drone use by militaries and governments seem to get the most attention, but there is a booming market for civilians and private sector companies trying to expand their capabilities. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is currently working on commercial drone laws, as more private sector companies want to use small drones for commercial purposes.
The United States Navy and Lockheed Martin are moving forward with Fortis exoskeleton testing, but the government contractor hopes to see its technology adopted in the commercial world. Lockheed started research and development on the Iron Man-style suit more than five years ago, and it's moving along nicely.
"We are pleased that once again a technology advanced through our program will be put into commercialization," said Rick Jarman, Lockheed Martin official, in a statement. "The Fortis exoskeleton contract is just another example of how collaboration around research and development speeds the time to market for these important innovations."
The suit is currently being tested in Navy shipyards and could become something for the private sector, with a unique ability to allow wearers to carry heavy amounts of weight. Leg braces and a back prace that goes over the shoulders help provide stability, using lightweight composites to not overburden the wearer.
led Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) successfully destroyed a mock enemy earlier this year, as the U.S. government looks forward to an enhanced missile defense system. The $40 billion project endured three consecutive failed tests, as Boeing struggled to hit targets. Since its launch 2001, the missile defense shield has 65 hit-to-kill out of 81 total attempts.
Boeing is struggling to create a space-like environment on Earth, which previously was explained as an "impossible" problem to overcome. The GMD system, designed to intercept ballistic missiles, wants to destroy targets when they are at the height of their trajectory - and trying to simulate how to destroy missiles more than 60 miles above the Earth's surface is extremely difficult.
"It's hard to reproduce [space-like conditions]," said Cindy Belliveau, Boeing structural dynamics engineer, in a video statement. "You have lots of different stories, and you pick the one that makes the most sense or is the most likely."
The U.S. Army Advanced Hypersonic Weapon was test launched from the Kodiak Launch Complex in Alaska, but something went wrong and officials triggered a self-destruct sequence. It's unknown what kind of problem the aircraft had, but was destroyed just four seconds after launching, according to military officials.
Developed as part of the U.S. military's Conventional Prompt Global Strike program, the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon was created by the Sandia National Laboratory. A successful test in November 2011 saw the craft fly from Hawaii to the Marshall Islands, as the U.S. Army saw the unique glide vehicle pass through a successful series of ground testing and simulations.
"Due to an anomaly, the test was terminated near the launch pad shortly after lift-off to ensure public safety," according to a release from the U.S. Department of Defense. Officials have launched an "extensive" investigation to determine what went wrong during the second launch.
Iran's Revolutionary Guard reportedly shot down an Israeli stealth spy drone near a nuclear enrichment facility in Natanz, located about 185 south of Tehran. In addition, Iran also used the media attention to announce Iranian-manufactured UAVs and missiles - to be used for defensive purposes only. Even if Iran managed to shoot down the drone, there would be questions related to the country's defensive capabilities to allow an aircraft to get so close to the enrichment site.
"A spy drone of the Zionist regime was intercepted by a surface-to-air missile," said an official statement released by the Revolutionary Guard. "The vigilant reaction of our defense system downed this drone before it could reach the skies over Natanz."
There is global concern regarding Iran's expanding nuclear program, and it wouldn't be surprising to hear Israel and other nations want to closely monitor Tehran's efforts. The volatile country says the nuclear capabilities would be used to enhance the life of Iranians, not for developing a nuclear weapons arsenal.
Researchers found full-body X-ray scanners found in U.S. airports between 2009 and 2013 weren't as effective as the TSA led us to believe - with knives, firearms, and explosives successfully concealed. In addition, scanner operating software could be manipulated to alert "all-clear" to the scanner operator, even if there was contraband found.
Researchers from the University of California, San Diego, Johns Hopkins University and University of Michigan contributed to the study. The scanner in question, the Rapiscan Secure 1000, was pulled from airports last year because of privacy concerns. The test unit was purchased on eBay and featured the same proprietary software and settings as the units used by the TSA.
"Frankly, we were shocked by what we found," said J. Alex Halderman, University of Michigan computer science professor, in a statement. "A clever attacker can smuggle contraband past the machines using surprisingly low-tech techniques."
Drone pilots might be flying missions thousands away from the battlefield, but can suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) just like Marines and soldiers with boots on the ground. In a U.S. Air Force study, 4.3 percent of around 1,000 drone operators suffered from moderate to severe PTSD - still a lower number than the 10 to 18 percent of personnel on deployment, however.
It's not uncommon for drone operators to conduct reconnaissance on targets before launching a missile, getting a rare glimpse of their normal lives. Some of the survey respondents noted recurring nightmares, trouble falling asleep, difficulty concentrating and intrusive thoughts, among other symptoms.
"I would say that, even though the percentage is small, it is still a very important number, and something that we would want to take seriously so that the folks are performing their job are effectively screened for this condition and get the help that they [may] need," said Wayne Chappelle, a clinical psychologist and consultant USAF School of Aerospace Medicine.
The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory is interested in learning more about British space plane engine technology that could be used for future U.S. military hypersonic aircraft. The Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (SABRE) is being developed by England-based Reaction Engines for the Skylon space plane.
The engine was supported by $100 million in funding from the British government and European Space Agency (ESA), with private financing matching the same figure - and millions more are expected to be invested into the program. Reaction Engines has had the next-generation engine in development for more than two decades, ensuring SABRE features both rocket and air-breathing modes.
"AFRL is formulating plans to look at advanced vehicle concepts based on Reaction Engine's heat-exchanger technology and SABRE engine concept," said AFRL officials, in a statement recently sent to Space.com.
Researchers impressed with octopuses and squid and their impressive camouflage abilities have created a color-changing camouflage technology. A study published in the "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences" journal revealed a new flexible material consisting of light sensors and temperate-sensitive dye. The technology is able to detect and adapt colors based on its surroundings, but is currently limited to black and white only.
Researchers wanted to study animals in the wild, specifically cephalopods able to camouflage themselves, in an effort to create a new material from collected data. The U.S. Navy has helped fund research, but there has been a great amount of interest from private sector companies hoping to utilize this type of custom material.
"Real cephalopods are capable of levels of active camouflage orders of magnitude more sophisticated than our system," said John Rogers, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign researcher, in a statement. "But we hope to eventually design manmade systems that rival those we see in biology."
The U.S. Navy is currently testing the Lockheed Martin Fortis exoskeleton, designed to help Navy ship maintenance personnel carry heavier loads. Lockheed has developed two separate exoskeleton suits and will work closely with the Navy to analyze which one is better designed to help workers.
Testing will be done at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Virginia and the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Washington. The unpowered, lightweight Fortis exoskeleton increases the wearer's overall strength and endurance, and testing is being done as part of the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS) program.
"Ship maintenance often requires use of heavy tools, such as grinders, riveters or sandblasters," said Adam Miller, Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control director of new initiatives. "By wearing the Fortis exoskeleton, operators can hold the weight of those heavy tools for extended periods of time with reduced fatigue."