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The European Space Agency (ESA) and Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) have announced a partnership to launch a robotic space mission that will lift off by 2021. Both programs will share proposals and development duties equally, as each proposal must be signed by a lead investigator from Europe and in China.
Proposals are due in March, peer review begins in April, and mission selection is scheduled to occur before the end of the year.
"The goal of the present Call is to define a scientific space mission to be implemented by ESA and CAS as a cooperative endeavor between the European and Chinese scientific communities," the ESA recently said in a statement. "The mission selected as an outcome of the present Joint Call will follow a collaborative approach through all the phases: study, definition, implementation, operations and scientific exploitation."
The consumer and commercial drone markets are booming, despite continued hesitancy demonstrated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and the commercial market could rise from $609 million in 2014 to $4.8 billion by 2021.
There are a few verticals that are expected to drastically increase commercial drone use, including package delivery, utility line inspection, agriculture, and for use in oil and gas mapping. The FAA is quickly trying to create guidelines to provide guidance regarding drone flights and safety regulations that must be met by operators.
Commercial drones have been used in Japan, Australia and select markets since the 1980s - but with increased hardware developments and lowering costs - will increase in the United States, UK, Western Europe, and other developed nations.
A drone quadcopter flying with more than six pounds of methamphetamine crashed in a parking lot on the Mexico side of the US-Mexico border.
A Mexican citize informed authorities regarding the crashed drone, with police saying the crystal meth was tethered to the drone using plastic materials and black tape.
Drug smuggling is a major business for organized cartels in Mexico, with techniques ranging from hiding drugs insides humans and vehicles to using catapults and sophisticated tunnels under the border. The use of drones, however, provides a typically fast, reliable method to smuggle a few pounds of narcotics across the border.
Google is wanting to get back into space, where it is teaming up with SpaceX to join its Internet satellite venture. The Mountain View-based search giant has agreed to value SpaceX at over $10 billion, before it invests large sums of money into Elon Musk's space transportation business.
The total round of funding on SpaceX is said to be even bigger, with some very big names throwing their checks into the company. SpaceX wants to launch countless micro-satellites that would operate in low-orbit around Earth, with the company already in the early stages of development. Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX and real-life Tony Stark has said that this venture will end up providing cheap Internet for the entire world.
This project would eventually see wireless networks installed around Mars, when humans get to the point of colonizing the red planet. While satellite Internet is usually considered worse than most wired and fiber methods, it will bring Internet connectivity to parts of the world that wouldn't otherwise receive Internet connections.
As more private drone operators take to the skies for the first time in 2015, privacy concerns appear to be at an all-time high. Drone Labs recently introduced its Drone Detector solution, alerting users to a drone's presence - able to detect recreational and commercial drones. Instead of using acoustics-based solutions, the Drone Detector uses multi-factor authentication to identify a drone's presence.
"To be clear, most [drone] pilots are responsible, law-abiding people," said Zain Naboulsi, co-founder and CEO of Drone Labs. "We [at Drone Labs] are drone pilots ourselves. Unfortunately there are some bad pilots out there who don't follow the rules. We are committed to protecting people from unwanted drone invasions."
The FAA estimates up to 30,000 commercial drones flying by 2030 over the United States, but hasn't estimated the number of private drones.
The University of California, San Francisco Medical Center at Mission Bay officially opens on Sunday, February 1, and will make use of 25 autonomous robots. Each robot is pre-programmed with the hospital's floor plans, and can autonomously navigate the best route to get to assigned areas - taking supplies to and from labs, stock rooms, the pharmacy and kitchen.
The robot is unable to answer voice commands, but can say 70 different phrases to communicate with staff and visitors. Furthermore, it has 30 onboard infrared and sonar sensors, a laser and camera, providing better ability to avoid collisions.
"Tissue samples, blood samples need to get from point A to point B very fast," said Ken Goldberg, UC Berkeley professor of robotics, in a statement to CNET. "You can't afford to wait for someone to show up. The robot that never gets distracted, never stops for coffee, could be great for these critical deliveries."
A bit of a weird one for the world today: NASA has repurposed the the original processor that powered the first PlayStation from Sony in its probe sent to Pluto.
The MIPS R3000 CPU was the chip found in the original PlayStation, but NASA is using the CPU to control thrusters, guidance, and other systems in its probe to Pluto. The processor has been "radiation hardened" to survive the harsh elements of the sea of stars that we call space, too. The PlayStation may have used a 33MHz R3051 CPU, but the New Horizons spacecraft features a 12MHz Mongoose-V CPU.
An Imagination spokesman told Electronics Weekly: "It is found in workstations and servers designed by companies such as Evans & Sutherland, DEC, Silicon Graphics, Tandem Computers and Whitechapel Workstation. Most notably, it was the CPU chosen for the original PlayStation game console from Sony and is still being used by Toshiba in a range of microcontrollers". Seven years after it launched, the New Horizons spacecraft has "awoken" and is taking a look at Jupiter. It is a whopping 3.5 billion miles from the Sun, and should start orbiting the dwarf planet soon.
The US Army Research Laboratory is developing a new type of battery for the battlefield, with scientists testing different materials. Ideally, they want to create a battery that corrodes slower - if it all - and the rechargeable batteries have less charge/discharge cycles, while increasing stability during high-voltage scenarios.
Over the next few months, the ARL team wants to begin evaluations of larger battery cells from commercial manufacturers, so they are able to analyze safety and performance. If approved, the ARL will have created new batteries that are lighter and can last longer during use in tough environments.
"We help to develop new battery materials that are lighter and last longer for the Soldier, so he doesn't have to carry so many batteries," said Cynthia Lundgren, Chief of the Electrochemistry Branch of the Power and Energy Division in the Sensors and Electron Devices Directorate. "If we could raise the voltage of a single cell - energy density is a direct function of the voltage - we could make the battery lighter."
Quadcopters are starting to hit the mainstream market in force, thanks to their recently lowered pricing, ease of flying for beginners and various camera opportunities including GoPro recording or First Person View (FPV) flying - as seen below mounted on normal two-winged, one propeller R/C aircraft.
The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has issued a warning this holiday season, stating on their Twitter that pilots should be aware that they must "remember to keep 30m away from vehicles, buildings & people." This comes after a Melbourne man ended up crashing his drone in the middle of a police operation and almost taking down an officer with it.
Little-known to most, if you're looking to use a quadcopter for commercial filming purposes, you must actually obtain an official license - with only a handful of people holding these nation-wide, so I'm told.
Artificial intelligence is developing at a rapid rate, and Elon Musk wants to make sure robots don't one day try to overtake mankind. The donated funds will be used to help support AI research activities, especially projects with a focus on non-threatening AI development.
"Here are all these leading AI researchers saying that AI safety is important," Musk recently said regarding AI. "I agree with them, so I'm today committing $10M to support research aimed at keeping AI beneficial for humanity."
Physicist Stephen Hawking joined Musk and signed an open letter that pledged AI would be developed in a productive, safe manner for humans. The Future of Life Institute published the open letter, which has generated great interest from tech and science industry leaders.