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US Navy scientists have created a miniature glider drone, dubbed the Cicada, which is designed for its simplistic and disposable functionality. The small drone doesn't have an engine and features just 10 moving parts and costs around $1,000 - and could drop in price down to $250 each - seems like nothing more than a circuit board attached to a paper airplane.
After being dropped from a drone, airplane or other form of aircraft, the Cicada drones can be assigned GPS coordinates. During a live test three years ago, the drones were launched from almost 60,000 feet and successfully landed less than 15 feet of their intended target.
The drones could be equipped with microphones and other tools, opening the door to multiple possible missions.
Researchers are working on a new drone that is able to automatically unfold itself and quickly go airborne, with the compact and foldable drone ideally suited for emergency first response. The custom quadcopter drone is able to launch in less than one second, and is easily transportable since it's the size of the palm of your hand.
The current prototype has to be folded up by hand - taking less than 10 seconds with a skilled operator - but an auto-fold feature is in development. The drone weighs just 1.3 ounces, so first responders at a natural disaster site could launch a number of these small aircraft to help survey a site.
"You can take it out of the box, switch on the motor, and it's ready to fly," said Dr. Stefano Mintchev, professor of robotics at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, in a statement to LiveScience.
There are a growing number of companies in the United States fighting for lucrative government contracts focused on disaster recovery. The Pentagon is hosting a multi-million-dollar competition that will have robots compete in a rigorous series of tests to gauge how developed this technology is at its current level.
"We don't know what the next disaster will be, but we know we have to develop the technology to help us address these kinds of disasters," said Gill Pratt, program manager at DARPA, when speaking with reporters.
Even though DARPA - and governments across the world - are developing robots that could be deployed for disaster recovery, there is some concern that autonomous robots could be used for rather devious purposes.
Robots aren't just going to one day take over manufacturing jobs, but could also replace lawyers, grocery store clerks, teachers, and other positions in the service sector, according to an author with a background in robots and automation.
There are a number of different focuses for robotics, with companies expanding outside of just manufacturing - with the new generation of robots able to work in fast food restaurants, hotels, retail stores, farms, and other common workplace tasks.
"As we look forward from this point, we need to keep in mind that this technology is going to continue to accelerate," said Martin Ford, Silicon Valley executive and author, in a statement to NPR. "So I think there's every reason to believe it's going to become the primary driver of inequality in the future, and things are likely to get even more extreme than they are now."
The Ocumetics Bionic Lens could one day transform the eye-care world, as the custom lenses can provide three times better than 20/20 vision. Instead of needing eye glasses or contacts, the surgically-implanted lenses would be able to improve a person's vision regardless of how poor their vision was beforehand.
"This is vision enhancements that the world has never seen before," said Dr. Garth Webb, Canadian optometrist and CEO of Ocumetics Technology, in a statement published by CBC. "If you can just barely see the clock at 10 feet, when you get the Bionic Lens you can see the clock at 30 feet away."
The surgery takes around eight minutes, with the procedure similar to a cataract surgery, and would immediately improve vision. Dr. Webb showed his technology to ophthalmologists prior to the start of the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery - with clinical trials involving international surgeons expected down the road.
The US Navy and Lockheed Martin want to attach a Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) to the F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jet, so it has greater range when identifying and attacking targets. The LRASM has undergone three tests by the Navy, DARPA and Air Force, with operational deployment expected by 2019.
The autonomous missile has a range up to 200 nautical miles, though additional information regarding its guidance systems and seeker technology are classified. However, the missile should be able to identify - and dodge - any obstacles en route to its target.
"We wanted to make sure it can exit the canister when the booster lights up and the missile stays intact," said Hady Mourad, program manager at Lockheed Martin Missiles, in a statement to Military.com. "We're furthering the maturity of our surface launched integration and planning on doing a few flight tests in the near future."
Researchers from the University of Surrey in the UK have developed an interesting new, noninvasive drug test that can detect cocaine in your system through your fingerprints. The system looks for two common cocaine metabolites: benzoylecgonine and methylecgonine.
These two metabolites can be found in blood, sweat, and urine using a "mass spectrometry technique known as Desorption Electrospray Ionisation (DESI)", reports Engadget. Metabolites dissipate from our sweat much quicker than they do in blood and urine, so law enforcement will one day in the near future be able to know if a suspect is high right then and there, or was high a few nights ago.
The study's lead author, Melanie Bailey, told Motherboard: "We can distinguish between cocaine having been touched and cocaine having been ingested". With fingerprints being unique, it's hard to swap out a urine sample or test, which will make this type of technology fast-tracked beyond belief. The team has added that their research is still in its early stages, as they'll need to secure much more data on the effects of dosage and timing before they can move to more reliable testing. They still say that this technology will be made available to law enforcement within 10 years.
Researchers have created a new robotic device that is able to mimic octopus tentacles, with the hope that surgeons can carry out surgeries in a faster, safer manner.
Ideally, surgeons will be able to check parts of the human body that are normally difficult to access without major interference - and part of the robotic arm can assist with the surgery without hurting the medical patient. The octopus-themed arm is able to bend up to 255 degrees, increase stiffness up to 200 percent and stretch up to 62 percent - giving doctors and surgeons much more flexibility.
"The potential is to allow the performance of current minimally invasive procedures in an easier way for the surgeon, as well as to enable them to perform procedures that are currently not possible in a minimally invasive way with the instrumentation surgeons have today," said Tommaso Ranzani, lead author and researcher at the Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, in a recently published story.
An engineer at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) has created a long-range iris scanner that can accurately and quickly identify people up to 12 meters away. The scanner is able to capture a person's full face and both irises, even if they are simply walking by the scanner.
There are a number of potential use cases, ranging from police and military deployment, to possibly one day replacing identification scanners. If implemented, it could also remove the need for a traditional fingerprint biometrics login with notebooks and computer systems.
"Fingerprints, they require you to touch something," said Marios Savvides, an engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University, in a statement published by The Atlantic. "Iris, we can capture it at a distance, so we're making the whole user experience much less intrusive, much more comfortable."
Drone technology is advancing rapidly, and it may not be too much longer when humans will no longer need to directly control them, according to Intel.
During the Intel Future Showcase in the UK, Intel and Ascending Technologies showed off a drone that uses six Intel RealSense Cameras - that power the drone so it can fly by itself. Using the onboard cameras, a drone can create a real-time 360-degree map of the world, supporting depth and distance analyzing functionality. The idea of a self-navigating drone might be frightening to some, but appears to be a small glimpse of the future.
"Ultimately it will make for a safer and more useful robot... it can avoid people for example, so we can be less likely the drone will run into someone and cause harm," said Scott Dwyer, product and marketing manager at Intel, in a statement published by BT.