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The use of mini-drones has captured the attention of military contractors, but have great potential in the private world and commercial industry.
It wasn't too long ago when drones in the private sector were extremely expensive, but as technological advances develop, the overall price is continuing to drop. In addition, there is a booming private sector dedicated to the design and sale of drones that can be easily flown by citizens. In the future, drones will continue to expand away outside of military and government use, and will develop even further among private citizens.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is currently drafting guidelines that will outline private drone use - but until then - the market is still essentially a new-age version of the wild west.
The New Mexico Spaceport Authority is trying to attract new customers willing to launch commercial flights from Spaceport America, but those efforts hit a bump in the road when Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo suffered a "serious anomaly" that left one test pilot dead. With the Virgin Galactic flights delayed, New Mexico could lose up to $1.7 million per year, as authority officials try to find new temporary revenue streams.
Leasing the facility for outside functions such as photo and video shoots, fashion shows and similar activities will help ease the financial bleeding - but the true benefit could be from UP Aerospace and other future rocket launches. SpaceX's tests of a reusable rocket is expected to begin in spring 2015, which will add much-needed revenue.
The State of New Mexico has invested almost $220 million into space tourism, but lawmakers are increasingly concerned about the state's investment.
Kohler, a well-known manufacturer of bathroom and kitchen products, has introduced the new Purefresh deodorizing toilet seat that can kill certain bathroom smells that most people want to hide. The battery-operated toilet seat has a $90 price tag and is able to intake air and pass it through an odor-eating carbon filter - and an optional scent pack.
The toilet seats were launched on Nov. 10, just in time to put under the Christmas tree, with carbon filters available for $6.99. The carbon filters and two D batteries required to operate the toilet seat should be able to last up to six months.
Not surprisingly, trying to develop an appealing odor-eating toilet seat isn't anything new, and it has been done before. Brondell launched a similar no-odor toilet seat, but it was pulled from the market after about five years.
The University of California at Berkeley demonstrated the PR2 robot in 2010, a robot designed to help take care of laundry -and the research is advancing nicely. During the demonstration four years ago, it took the robot around 20 minutes per towel, but it continues to speed up as research developments mature.
A large portion of the overlooked and mundane steps that can be easily done by humans, however, has proven to be difficult to assign for PR2. Steps ranging from locating dirty laundry and picking it up to transporting the laundry to the washer, putting in detergent and then placing the clothes into the dryer are difficult.
In Japan, where an aging population needs assistance as the age gap widens, Japanese researchers are developing robots designed to aid in daily chores and activities.
The US Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC) is working on a pocket-sized drone that can fly for 20 minutes, giving ground troops real-time video of the surrounding area. Soldiers would be able to easily carry the drone as part of the Cargo Pocket Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (CP-ISR) program.
Soldiers in the UK have tested the PD-100 Black Hornet palm-sized helicopter, manufactured by Prox Dynamics, and similar drone technologies would be able to benefit US soldiers. Besides the extremely small size of the drone, being able to transmit footage directly to ground soldiers would be extremely beneficial.
"The Cargo Pocket ISR is a true example of an applied systems approach for developing new Soldier capabilities," said Dr. Laurel Allender, NSRDEC acting technical director recently said. "It provides an integrated capability for the Soldier and small unit for increased situational awareness and understanding with negligible impact on Soldier load and agility."
Using 3D printing technology to create replicas of the human heart presents the opportunity to save babies' lives, according to a new study submitted to the American Heart Association. Surgeons have the ability to better treat congenital heart defects, while also being able to strategize where they cut tissue and make other improvements.
The ability to 3D print hearts gives surgeons the opportunity to prepare prior to surgery, but it's unsure if heart replicas will help increase success from surgical outcomes. A clinical trial would give medical experts the chance to work on enough cases to see how 3D-printed hearts could help, especially among young children with complicated heart defects.
"From the first two cases straight out of the gate, we've had this dramatic impact," said Dr. Matthew Bramlet, pediatric cardiologist at the University of Illinois College of Medicine and Children's Hospital of Illinois and study co-author.
Lockheed Martin is promoting its helicopter drone, the K-MAX, as a potential asset to help fight wildfires, helping protect firefighters and pilots. The K-MAX can fly in tandem with the four-pound Indago drone that is used as a fire scout, while the firefighting drone dropped 12 tons of water in one hour.
The K-MAX has the ability to lift and transport up to 6,000 lbs. of cargo while at sea level, or more than 4,000 lbs. while flying at 15,000 ft. density altitude. The helicopter has more than 750 hours of autonomous flight since live testing began in 2007, Lockheed Martin reported.
"The FAA would designate the airspace in the vicinity of the fire area as restricted airspace," said Keith Little, Lockheed spokesman. "We would coordinate with the FAA prior to any actual usage regarding obtaining COA (Certificates of Waiver or Authorization) approval for K-MAX that would allow a quick approval for use of K-Max in support of firefighting operations in the designated restricted area."
US soldiers in the field could be able to one day generate power using wearable technologies that also reduce the weight of their gear. The Maneuver Fires Integration Experiment (MFIX) project was conducted at Fort Benning earlier in the year, with researchers testing prototypes of energy-harvesting products.
The Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC) is leading the effort, with a focus on smaller, lightweight, and energy efficient batteries. Small amounts of energy can be harvested, and would have otherwise would have been wasted as heat, sound, vibration, movement or light, according to researchers.
"MFIX is looking at new concepts with energy-harvesting devices and how they fit in a tactical environment," said Noel Soto, NSRDEC Warfighter Directories' project engineer on the Power and Data Management Team.
In a comment made on an essay written by 'virtual godfather' Jaron Lanier, titled "The Myth of A.I." on Edge.org last week, SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk the threats of AI might become real, and that he is worried that "the risk of something seriously dangerous happening is in the five year time frame. 10 years at most" according to CNET.
Musk posted his comments on the Edge.org, but they were quickly removed; not quick enough for some media outlets to pick it up, though. Musk talked about his involvement as an early investor in the British artificial intelligence company, DeepMind, which is now a cog in Google's ever-growing machine. He wrote: "The pace of progress in artificial intelligence (I'm not referring to narrow AI) is incredibly fast. Unless you have direct exposure to groups like DeepMind, you have no idea how fast-it is growing at a pace close to exponential".
The founder of SpaceX continued, saying that AI companies "recognize the danger" and are working toward controlling the "bad" superintelligences "from escaping the Internet". Well, that sounds safe enough.
Amazon is rolling out a fleet of robots that will help the company boost productivity and ensure timely deliveries ahead of what should be an extremely busy 2014 Christmas holiday shopping season. The robots can help locate and pick items, which are verified by a human picker before being boxed up and sent from the facility - the company will be able to save upwards of $900 million each year, with robotic assistance able to help save 20 percent to 40 percent per shipped order.
To help ensure it would have a robotics inventory it could call upon, Amazon purchased Robots maker Kiva Systems for $775 million in 2012 - and there have been more than 1,400 Kiva robots already working in Amazon's logistics chain.
Amazon tends to have successful shopping seasons, but as the US economy has recovered - and consumers have extra money to spend this Christmas - Amazon wants to ensure everything runs smoothly and customers will be happy.