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The United States has found trying to keep its borders, especially the US-Mexico boundary, secure from drug smuggling, illegal immigration, and potential terrorism rather difficult. Although manned patrols, high-resolution cameras, ground sensors and fences are used in more populated areas - trying to keep patrols active in desolate stretches has proven to be difficult.
There is more than 700 miles of fencing along the border that spans almost 2,000 miles - with more than 18,000 patrol agents and drones helping patrol the US side of the border. The Predator B drones patrol remote mountains, rivers and canyons using high-resolution video cameras, and all data is evaluated by analysts.
"You have finite resources," said R. Gil Kerlikowske, Customs and Border Protection commissioner, in a statement. "If you can look at some very rugged terrain (and) you can see there's not traffic, whether it's tire tracks or clothing being abandoned or anything else, you want to deploy your resources to where you have a greater risk, a greater threat."
The Pentagon has tasked the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) with finding new methods for drones to be able to launch from aircraft, including the B-1, B-52, C-130, and other large aircraft. Drones would be able to launch from aircraft, conduct their missions, and return to the aircraft so the host plane can fly away from potentially dangerous airspace.
Here is what the DARPA request says: "The agency envisions a large aircraft that, with minimal modification, could launch and recover multiple small unmanned systems from a standoff distance."
"We want to find ways to make smaller aircraft more effective, and one promising idea is enabling existing large aircraft, with minimal modification, to become 'aircraft carriers in the sky,'" said Dan Patt, DARPA program manager. "We envision innovative launch and recovery concepts for new [unmanned aerial system] designs that would couple with recent advances in small payload design and collaborative technologies."
Does Elon Musk ever sleep? It seems now, as The Wall Street Journal is reporting on rumos that Musk is building an internet-via-satellite project, with Musk replying that SpaceX is "in the early stages of developing advanced micro-satellites operating in large formations".
We're still months away from official details, but the rumors do suggest that SpaceX is working with Greg Wyler, who used to work for Google/O3b Networks, where they'll launch a total of 700 satellites. What would SpaceX be doing differently? Well for starts, their fleet of satellites would be 10x the size of the largest currently in orbit, with the individual satellites being much smaller than what is used for communications right now.
Google's Planetary Ventures division has signed a massive agreement with NASA for the Moffett Federal Airfield, an airfield that has three hangars, two runways, and a golf course.
The company signed a giant 60-year lease, which will cos them $6.3 million per year, or $1.16 billion in total. Google has also agreed to pledge $200 million to both restore the hangars, as well as create a previously promised educational building that will show off the airfield's role in Silicon Valley's past.
What will Google be doing with the hangar? That's not known yet, but I'm sure the search giant will unveil everything soon enough.
Engineers from BAE Systems are using virtual reality to better design Royal Navy warships, hoping to create designs more effectively and cheaply. Using virtual models offer a more real-world glimpse of a ship over traditional wood or cardboard designs that were previously used.
Here is what Mick Ord, BAE Systems Naval Ship managing director recently said: "Visualization technology is transforming the way we design, build and deliver complex warships. By creating a virtual prototype, we can mature and optimize a ship's design and gain a real understanding of the vessel and the experience of those serving on board before manufacturing begins."
Three offshore patrols are being used by the virtual reality platform, and that number could increase in the future. BAE Systems has installed the virtual reality suite at facilities in Bristol, Portsmouth and Glasgow.
Medical researchers are developing new robots with the ability to fight Ebola and other dangerous viruses that could pose future health risks across the world. Development is advancing rapidly, but very few models are available to actually fight these risks - but doctors can deploy telepresence robots to remotely communicate with medical patients, along with clean up and decontamination of hospital rooms and other locations.
"People have an expectation that the robots are going to go in and do something dramatic," said Ken Goldberg, University of California, Berkeley engineering professor. "The capabilities are limited right now. There's a lot of research that needs to be done. We just want to set expectations. This is not going to save the day. These are some tools that we hope will be useful in both the near term and long term."
The United States Air Force is using an Ebola-zapping robot at a Langley hospital to help kill the virus and prevent it from spreading. In addition, the Xenes Disinfection Services robots are being used in private hospitals, as a method to prevent the spread of Ebola - by ensuring ultraviolet rays help kill the virus.
Humans will find signs of extraterrestrial life within the next 24 years if current science developments and research breakthroughs continue, according to senior astronomer Dr. Seth Shostak. Shostak leads the Center for SETI Researcher in Mountain View, California, and recently spoke to students at Deer Valley High School about the current hunt for aliens in outer space.
"If there are at least a few thousands of those 100-billion star systems out there - a few thousand that have some society that's broadcasting signals that are reaching us today - then we're going to find E.T> within two dozen years."
Researchers will directly find life nearby, discover microscopic life, or end up finding evidence of intelligence life somewhere in space.
The Mars One project is an ambitious program, where Mars One wants to see human beings on the red planet by 2025. Not only that, but Mars One CEO and co-founder Bas Lansdorp has said that he wants to leave the astronauts on Mars, and establish a self-sufficient settlement.
During the Engadget Expand show, there was a Life on Mars event where Lansdorp took the stage to talk about all-things Mars. He said that human settlement on the planet isn't just challenging, but it's almost close to achievable. He explained that the technology required for the Mars One project to succeed already exists, so that side of the problem isn't that bad. Then we have the issue of blasting a rocket in the right direction for the trip to succeed, with the first Mars One probe to touch down in 2018, and another to hit the red planet in 2020.
In 2022, life support systems and other essential equipment will be sent to Mars ahead of the first manned missions to the red planet, something that will launch in 2024 if all things go to plan. Why bother going to Mars? Lansdorp has said that it's simple, it's just "progress". He said that's why the human race is such a successful species, is that we're always pushing the boundaries. He said that the Mars One project is an excuse to expand on our exploration of the cosmos, where he hopes that the adventure to Mars will bring together the world in "one common goal". He added that by televising the journey of the first off-world settlers, we can live with them. He teased that "it's literally the next giant leap for mankind".
The North Korean military is still likely years away from successfully launching a ballistic missile with nuclear capabilities, but the country now has a Soviet-era submarine that can fire ballistic missiles. South Korean and US military experts are concerned North Korea continues to develop a nuclear weapons program, and utilizing ballistic missiles is an important step in that process.
"While the potential threat from a future North Korean capability to launch ballistic missiles from submarines should not be ignored, it should also not be exaggerated," said Joseph Bermudez, a military analyst. "While the development of submarines carrying ballistic missiles could provide North Korea with a survivable second-strike nuclear capability... it also assumes that Pyongyang would entrust an operational nuclear-armed missile to the captain of a submarine who would, in time of war, most likely be out of communication with the leadership."
It appears North Korea is a step closer to the miniaturization of nuclear warheads that could be fitted to ballistic missiles - but whether or not the country could accurately aim these missiles towards South Korea or Japan - remains a frightening unknown. However, fitting a nuclear weapon aboard a submarine opens up new challenges to South Korea, Japan, and the United States, with launch tubes and installation of a fire system possible within the next two years.
Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson still plans to be a passenger on the first tourist flight into space, even though SpaceShipTwo suffered a "serious anomaly" and exploded during a test flight. The company plans to move ahead with construction on another aircraft which could be done before the end of 2014.
Even with the recent SpaceShipTwo test incident, the 800 passengers that have signed up for the $250,000 ride have reportedly voiced their support. In fact, two more people signed up and paid for a trip on a future Virgin Galactic flight, Branson said.
Here is what Branson recently told CNN: "There is no way I would ask others to go on a Virgin Galactic flight if I didn't feel it was safe enough myself. They want to see this happen, and they want to show their commitment."