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Science, Space & Robotics Posts - Page 28

Concern growing that drones could be used as weapon for terrorists

Following news that a drone flew in near proximity of an Airbus A320 in July, there is growing concern among UK researchers that terrorists could use small drones to attack aircraft. The drones are small, difficult to see, and aren't picked up on radar - and carrying some type of explosive charge, would be able to cause chaos.




It would seem most likely the Airbus A320 incident involved a small drone operated by a civilian, but experts wonder what could be done if terrorists began to operate the drones.


"But what if that was a terrorist that had bought several drones on the Internet?" asked David Dunn, University of Birmingham professor, in a statement published by the Telegraph. "They could surround the aircraft with multiple drones at 200 ft. after take-off and take out the engines and leave it with nowhere to go. It would be the equivalent of an aerial truck bomb, like a suicide bomb only the terrorist could fly it remotely, with impunity."

NASA developing new biodegradable drone, helps the environment

NASA is developing a new bio-drone that could splash down in a body of water, disintegrating while not hurting the environment. The biodegradable drone's chassis is made of mycelium, which is a fiber found in mushrooms - and can also be found on or in soil located near mushrooms.




"If you have living organisms acting as biosensors and the plane crashes, there certainly could be problems as the plane interacts with the environment," said Lynn Rothschild, NASA developer spearheading the project, in an interview with the team. "Hopefully people could think of this in advance, and design such that this never becomes a problem."


Drones that crash can have a significant impact in the immediate area, such as if it crashed on coral reefs and other sensitive habits that are being studied. Flying this type of custom drone allows researchers to get a closer look at unique locations, and researchers are continually making adjustments to make it as eco-friendly as possible.

Suitable Technologies shows off store staffed by robots

What better way to sell a product than a working in-store demonstration? That's the ideology of Suitable Technologies, which is using its telepresence robots in its Palo Alto, California-based store. The retail location is a live demonstration of the Beam Remote Presence System, featuring a wheeled base and two support beams for a screen.



The telepresence technology, which costs $20,000 - with a $2,000 consumer version available - also includes Wi-Fi radios, cameras and microphones.

Continue reading 'Suitable Technologies shows off store staffed by robots' (full post)

Rinspeed Budii autonomous car concept to be unveiled at auto show

Automotive futurist company Rinspeed will publicly debut its "Budii" autonomous-driving concept vehicle in March 5, 2015, during the 2015 Geneva Motor Show. The vehicle is reportedly based on the BMW i3 and will be fully autonomous, learning the "habits and preferences" of the driver. Budii is an electric-powered car that the automaker hopes will become a driver's "best buddy."




Rinspeed showed off the XchangE, a modified Tesla Model S, autonomous vehicle during the 2014 Geneva Motor Show.


Autonomous vehicle research is evolving rapidly, with a number of automakers interested in self-driving car concepts. Rinspeed believes publicly available autonomous cars will one day be inevitable, but will take multiple stages before they are common on roadways.

UK pilots also reporting close calls with small drones in the skies

It's not just commercial pilots in the United States reporting a growing number incidents with small drones, as a pilot in the UK flying into Heathrow Airport said he saw a drone flying close to the airport. The pilot of the Airbus 320 airliner estimates the drone was about 700 feet off the ground, with the UK Civil Aviation Authority issuing it a Class A (serious risk of collision) labelling.




The UK doesn't allow drones less than 44 pounds to go above 400 feet in elevation, and they cannot fly near commercial airspace and airports. However, it's possible private drone operators might not be aware of the restrictions - and are unaware of potential dangers.


Trying to prevent incidents between small drones and airliners is being left up to national governments, though they are responding slowly. Both the US and British governments are considering safety rules for airspace around airports, which would hold drone operators accountable for flying safely.

Artificial skin able to feel sensations like rain drops, human touch

Researchers have made great progress in prosthetics development in recent years, and a team in Korea and the United States have pushed things even further. Amputees will be able to better experience the world around them by using prosthetics equipped with "smart skin," able to allow them to feel sensations.




The unique elastomer soft polymer has integrated temperature, pressure and humidity sensors, along with electrodes that are able to stretch and stimulate the patient's existing nerves. Trying to develop technology able to send control commands from the nervous system to the prosthetic - and sensory feedback from the prosthetic back to the nervous system has proven to be difficult.


"Previously, these robots or prosthetic arms/legs did not have skins that enable high resolution/sensitivity sensing of pressure, strain, temperature, humidity," said Kim Dae-Hyeong, author co-study, in a statement to CBS News. "We focused on this point by developing high density/sensitivity sensor array that is similar with the real human skin."

US government expanding legal drone use, but progress not fast enough

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has given permission to four companies now able to operate drones for commercial purposes, granting five new exemptions. Specifically, UAS, Woolpert, Clayco, and VDOS Global will fly drones to help conduct oil rig flare stack inspections, aerial surveying, and monitoring construction sites. All flying drones must be within visual sight of the operator and weigh less than 55 pounds, according to the FAA.




"Unmanned aircraft offer a tremendous opportunity to spur innovation and economic activity by enabling many businesses to develop better products and services for their customers and the American public," said Anthony Foxx, Transportation Secretary. "We want to foster commercial uses of this exciting technology while taking a responsible approach to the safety of America's airspace."


The FAA granted seven exemption waivers to movie studios earlier in 2014, and has received 167 requests.

Continue reading 'US government expanding legal drone use, but progress not fast enough' (full post)

Military developing unmanned underwater vehicles, including eels

Researchers from Singapore have demonstrated a unique robotic eel that is able to travel through the water in a similar fashion as a real eel. The prototype is able to move quietly and could become an excellent stealth tool to sneak up on ships and other water-based vehicles.




Militaries are interested in using underwater robots to help conduct research, map the sea floor, check for mines, and other operations. The eel robot should prove to be adaptable to varying environments, such as hulls, reefs, and other geological formations.


"Anguilliform [eel like] fish consume less energy when on a long distance journey than regular autonomous underwater vehicles," said Jianxin Xu, a researcher from Singapore, in a statement to Defense One. "They are highly maneuverable and flexible, making them more suitable than Gliders for navigation... they're less detectable than robot subs that propel themselves the same way as conventional subs."

Real estate agents embracing drone flights to promote properties

Real estate agents are increasingly using drones to help sell homes and commercial properties, giving prospective buyers an extremely unique view. Being able to capture aerial photographs and record video is proving popular among buyers unable to visit locations in-person.




Using drones also allows real estate agents an opportunity to scout out potential development opportunities, looking at buildings that can be redeveloped or vacant sites that can be purchased.


The price of drones continues to decrease, and as governments try to determine how to create drone flying guidelines, will only increase in popularity in the real estate industry.

Samsung quietly moving ahead with robot innovation, filing new patents

Samsung is best known for its consumer electronics products, but the South Korean technology giant has shown increased interest in robotics development. The company has filed a large number of patents related to robotics technology, designed for government, military and consumer use. Samsung will continue dumping large amounts of resources into research and development of robotics, as the autonomous industry continues to mature at a rapid pace.




The Samsung SGR-1 robotic military sentry already is in use in the tense Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea - and has the ability to identify targets up to two miles away, with weaponry that includes a machine gun and a grenade launcher.


Many Japanese companies are developing robots that can be used in the consumer market, but Samsung appears more interested in creating solutions for professional use. Using the Internet of Things infrastructure, expect new generations of Samsung-created robotics to use the SmartThings platform.

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