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With more and more people using drones, mixed with companies like Amazon using it for delivering retail goods, the skies will soon be filled up with automated, unmanned drones. Things could get busy up there, and with no management of traffic, it could lead to disaster.
NASA is now leading the pack, by developing a traffic management system designed specifically for drones, with the team at NASA's Moffett Field aiming to construct an air traffic control system for low-flying aircraft. Drones usually fly at between 400-500 feet. The system would be similar to existing traffic control system, where the drone system would monitor weather conditions, as well as keeping an eye out for other drones in the sky.
Buildings and other low-flying news helicopters would have to also be kept in check, with drones easily smashing into them if wind was to funnel up and veer it off course. This is something that traditional planes don't need to worry about, as they're cruising at above 30,000 feet.
NASA is about to get the reinstall discs for its Opportunity rover on Mars, and do a fresh install. The US space agency has been having issues with the Opportunity, where it can't get the vehicle to reboot, with scientists pegging the issue on worn-out cells in its flash memory.
After ten years of service, and trekking the alien landscape of Mars, we should be surprised with its ten-year run. NASA had originally had an expected mission life of just three months, so even with the problems, lasting ten years is quite the achievement. Scientists will soon back up Opportunity's memory, then send a format command to prevent the bad cells from being accessed.
The signal for this action will take 11.2 minutes to reach the Opportunity, as Mars is currently 212 million miles away. Since the Opportunity touched down in 2004, the winds on Mars have kept its solar panels mostly clean, which is another surprising thing to note, especially with an expected mission life of just three months.
Google's Project Wing effort is tasked with developing drones that can be used to deliver goods and relief aid in case of a national emergency. The drone has four propellers that are electrically driven, with a wing span up to five feet, and weighs under 19 pounds. There have been at least 30 test flights conducted in August alone, as the research team begins analyzing test flight data.
The appeal of delivery drones has piqued the interest of Amazon, and it looks like Project Wing from Google will have the same type of overview. It will still take years of development before Project Wing is able to realistically develop goods, with the potential of receiving products in a short amount of time.
"We're now back in California reviewing what we've learned from the tests and preparing our next set of adventures," Google said in a press statement.
The NASA next-generation Space Launch System (SLS) is a multi-billion-dollar rocket project that is expected to officially debut during a November 2018 space launch. NASA expects to invest an additional $7 billion from February 2014 until the late 2018 test launch, in which the SLS will shuttle an Orion crew vehicle past the moon and back to Earth.
"If we don't do anything, we basically have a 70 percent chance of getting to that date," said Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA space operations associate administrator, in a statement to the media. "Our intent is to go look at those (expected) problems and see what we can do to mitigate (them)."
Total cost could surpass $12 billion to develop three variations of the SLS, with billions more needed to fly heavier next-generation boosters into orbit. As NASA and other space nations look beyond the International Space Station (ISS) - mainly to Mars - the SLS could help NASA push research of the Red Planet to a new level.
Lockheed Martin has teamed up with Electro Optic Systems to create a space object tracking site in Western Australia, designed to give researchers a better way to assess the threat of man-made junk floating in orbit. There are more than 200,000 objects to track using lasers and sensitive optical systems that will be used to identify and track threats in space.
"Ground-based space situational awareness is a growing priority for government and commercial organizations around the world that need to protect their investments in space," said Rick Ambrose, Lockheed Martin Space Systems EVP, in a statement.
Space junk remains a major concern for space agencies and private companies launching satellites and other aircraft into space. With more than 2,000 government and commercial satellites in orbit - and more than 200 space junk-related threats each day - it can be an extremely costly problem if debris traveling up to 17,500 miles per hour hits a shuttle or satellite.
The person responsible for breaking into Ben Eberle's vehicle to steal an Apple iPod Touch could face felony charges, as the custom device has been programmed to help a wounded U.S. Army veteran and triple amputee move. The MP3 player used i-limb, a custom application programmed for use by his prosthetic right hand - a newer technology that would have been virtually impossible just a few years ago.
Eberle was serving in Afghanistan when he was wounded by an improvised explosive device (IED) that claimed his right hand and both of his legs. The i-limb app was created by Touch Bionics, whose logo is displayed on the back of the stolen iPod.
A new prosthetic hand costs around $75,000, which will be required if the iPod Touch isn't turned over to the San Antonio Police Department.
Iran TV, a state-sponsored TV broadcast channel, reportedly showed images of an Israeli drone that the Revolutionary Guard shot down. The Iranian broadcast identified the drone as a Hermes 450, a medium size UAV designed for longer duration endurance missions.
The drone was shot down over the weekend and there are no visible markings to signify it is an Israeli aircraft, but Iranian military officials say the aircraft belongs to Israel. The drone reportedly also didn't last fly in Israeli airspace before trying to head to the uranium enrichment facility in Natanz, around 150 miles south of Tehran.
Iran is negotiating with the western world about its nuclear ambitions, which the U.S. and other nations say is designed to develop a nuclear weapon. Not surprisingly, Iran denies the claims, stating its ambitions are for medical research and energy generation, not weapons development.
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."