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The United States Air Force is boosting pay for drone pilots, and using additional manpower from the Air Force Reserves, in an effort to fill a drone pilot gap. Drone pilots are in high demand by the US military, with current pilots working up to 14 hours per day, six days per week, according to the US Air Force.
Current drone needs to help battle ISIS in Iraq and Syria have placed additional strain on the Air Force, despite initial plans that demand would drop after most troops were withdrawn from Afghanistan. Now, the Air Force is trying to find ways to entice pilots to stay in the military and continue leading operations.
"We thought we were drawing down and had a plan in place to man this enterprise that would, if we had actually drawn down, we'd be fine right now," said General Mark Welsh, US Air Force chief of staff, in a statement to the media. "We've met the operational demand signal, but we're doing it by putting people in a position where they're not having a debate whether they want to continue doing this."
ShotSpotter technology is being used in areas with high levels of crime and gun violence, which helps law enforcement respond faster to gun shots. Using microphones located around "problem areas" of cities, the ShotSpotter system is able to provide instant locations of gunshots within 10 feet.
The use of the system allows police to investigate shootings that often times aren't reported after they occur. However, it is rather expensive to deploy, with costs ranging from $60,000 up to $100,000 per year per square mile.
"It helps us catching guys and it helps us with officer safety," said Orlando Cuevas, Camden County police chief, in a statement to CBS News. "Now these officers are not traveling blindly into an area where a gunshot is."
Duke University researchers have grown human skeletal muscles in a research lab, with the manufactured creation able to contract and respond like native tissue. It's possible the lab-created muscles can help with drug research and so researchers are better able to study diseases.
Researchers used human cells that progressed past stem cells but didn't reach full muscle tissue yet - and the myogenic precursors were allowed to form into muscle fibers located in a custom 3D scaffolding.
"One of our goals is to use this method to provide personalized medicine to patients," said Nenad Bursac, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Duke University, in a press statement. "We can take a biopsy from each patient, grow many new muscles to use as test samples and experiment to see which drugs would work best for each person."
It's hard to predict what will happen as robotics technology matures, and artificial intelligence software advances, but there is growing concern that robots could end up taking jobs from humans. In Germany and other European Union (EU) nations look to solve political problems, there is growing concern that robots - and not immigrants from other nations - could lead to a shrinking work force.
"What's fundamentally different is that (these advances) have the ability to affect a broader set of workers," said Jeremy Bowles, a researcher at the Bruegel Institute in Brussels, Belgium. Bowles believes humanoid robots will be able to carry out human tasks that could one day impact white-collar employees.
However, a counter-argument is that the rise of robotics will help spur the economy, as there will be additional opportunities for businesses. "Robotics is seen as a pivotal technology, which is not only going into robotics per se but into so many other branches and technologies," said Uwe Haas, secretary general of the European Union's robotics program. "It will create new jobs because [it will make] new businesses possible."
Police agencies in the San Francisco Bay Area have shown an increased interest in using drones for various operations, though the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other privacy advocates aren't amused.
The Alameda County Sheriff's office purchased two drones last year for about $97,000, citing an interest in using them for disaster response and search-and-rescue operations.
"Through our research we learned that a small, unmanned aircraft can support first responders in situations which would benefit from an aerial perspective, and that by having it could expose dangers that could otherwise not be seen," said Tom Madigan, Alameda County Sheriff's Office captain, told Bloomberg News. "That's what triggered our interest."
The NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) has started testing its VolcanoBot 1 robot in Hawaii, sending it into inactive fissures located inside the active Kilauea volcano. The small two-wheeled robot is less than seven inches tall and around one foot long, with the ability to help researchers create 3D fissure maps.
"We don't know exactly how volcanoes erupt. We have models but they are all very, very simplified. This project aims to help make those models more realistic," said Carolyn Parcheta, JPL postdoctoral fellow.
NASA hopes to refine the VolcanoBot 1's abilities, which could be rolled out for future missions on planets and moons besides Earth. There is specific interest in exploring craters on the moon and Mars, with Earth-based experiments helping perfect hardware before sending them into space.
The CNN news organization and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have agreed to create a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRDA) to see how drones can be used for news gathering and reporting.
CNN previously had an agreement with the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI), with CNN, GTRI and FAA working together - and could help create a roadmap for wider drone use in news reporting.
"Our aim is to get beyond hobby-grade equipment and to establish what options are available and workable to produce high quality video journalism using various types of UAVs and camera setups," said David Vigilante, CNN Senior Vice President, in a statement. "Our hope is that these efforts contribute to the development of a vibrant ecosystem where operators of various types and sizes can safely operate in the US airspace."
A new mobile application described as a "brain thermometer" is being developed by AnthroTronix, and has the ability to accurately gauge soldier traumatic brain injuries and other physical ailments. The Defense Automated Neurobehavioral Assessment (DANA) conducts neurocognitive and psychological tests that can help medical experts identify problems.
Participants are asked to answer on-screen exercises, with speed and accuracy tracked - a medical provider would then analyze the tests and compare it to pre-deployment test figures.
"In essence, measuring reaction time is like taking the temperature of the brain," said Corinna Lathan, CEO of AnthroTronix. "It's a vital part of the data that any health professional needs to evaluate his patient."
Research into artificial intelligence (AI) continues to evolve, and there is growing concern that uncontrolled AI could have a significant impact on mankind. To prevent this from happening, the Future of Life Institute (FLI) wants AI researchers to sign an open letter to protect humans from intelligent machines.
"We recommend expanded research aimed at ensuring that increasingly capable AI systems are robost and beneficial: our AI systems must do what we want them to do," the letter reads. "The attached research priorities document gives many examples of such research directions that can help maximize the societal benefit of AI. This research is by necessity interdisciplinary, because it involves both society and AI. It ranges from economics, law and philosophy to computer security, formal methods and, of course, various branches of AI itself."
AI is being used in autonomous weapons systems, robots and humanoids, and in autonomous vehicles - raising serious ethical questions that must be answered.
Drones invaded the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), with attendees able to see the latest and greatest consumer drone products. As more first-time pilots and hobbyists take to the skies in 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is scrambling to help find methods to teach proper flight safety.
Meanwhile, drone makers are increasing technology - and while it's recommended to fly in areas less populated - that simply won't be possible as more first-time pilots begin to fly drones. Designers are working on drones that could be able to utilize built-in autonomous technology so they can avoid other drones, trees, buildings, streetlights and other obstacles - but that isn't currently possible.
Universities and private companies are working on new algorithms to make drones smarter, along with new emergency landing features. One solution being developed is image recognition software paired with tracking software so drones can identify helicopter landing pads for opportunities to land.