Are we moving toward pilotless airliners?

This week’s Question: NASA has worked with industry to help create the Synthetic Vision System (SVS), a virtual reality display system for cockpits. The SVS uses 3D to provide pilots with intuitive means of understanding their flying environment, including graphical displays of terrain and hazards. In coming months, Universal Avionics, an avionics manufacturer, will release a product called InSight, which blends larger displays, higher-resolution 3-D synthetic vision, and new icon-based command-and-control architecture. Some say that synthetic vision developments, along with other emerging aviation technologies like touch-screen steering and voice recognition, could lead to a day when airliners fly themselves...

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Star Wars’ New Rolling Droid Is a Real Robot

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The over-reliance on computer generated effects was just one of the sorry aspects of the Star Wars prequels left a bad taste in the mouths of many fans. But here’s just cause for a new hope: BB-8, the cute little soccer ball droid featured in the Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser, was a practical effect.

This news comes from the mouth of Luke Skywalker himself: In a recent interview, Mark Hamill said he even got a chance to play with the busy little droid. It appears that J.J. Abrams was serious about his promise to use practical effects in the new movie, even when his team has to build frenetic, high-speed droids buzzing across desert terrain.

Henry Sapiecha

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The US Army’s drone airport with $33 m contract signed to commence construction

With the ink drying on a new $33 million contract, Texas is about to get a brand new, dedicated droneport. Yes, like a spaceship houses spaceships, a droneport—a term we may or may not have made up just now—gives unmanned aerial vehicles a place to call home.

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Evaluating the Orion spacecraft’s heatshield
Lockheed martin engineers were eager to get their hands on samples of the heat shield used on the Orion Space craft after the 20,000 pound capsule returned to earth after a four and a half hour trip on December 5th. The capsule was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station via a United Launch Alliance Delta 4 heavy booster. It went on a two-orbit trajectory and ended up about 3,600 miles from earth before returning to the planet at a leisurely 20,000 miles per hour...

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University research will help robots know their limits

University of Sheffield-logo

A team of UK researchers is embarking on a collaborative project to ensure that the autonomous robots we build in the future will be safer, making decisions that are ethical and follow legislation on robotics.

Robots that can think and act without human intervention are moving from fiction to reality. The nuclear, aerospace, manufacturing and agricultural industries are starting to develop autonomous systems that can carry out tasks that are either too difficult or too dangerous for humans, while driverless cars are already with us.

Researchers at the Universities of Sheffield, Liverpool and the West of England, Bristol have set up a new project to address concerns that might arise around these new technologies and link new developments to existing industrial standards and responsible inn...

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Flying drones indoors can end up like this

Flying drones indoors is rarely a wise decision. Flying large drones indoors near innocent bystanders is asking for trouble. So when TGI Friday’s mistletoe-toting drones injured someone in a cramped restaurant in Brooklyn, well, we should’ve seen this coming.

Last month, the Texas-based restaurant chain announced a promotion whereby DJI Phantom drones armed with mistletoe would troll a UK location looking for “cozy couples” to ambush with, well, what we traditionally associate with the parasitic plant — an obligation to smooch.

The idea was cute, if entirely self-serving, not to mention potentially dangerous. Gizmodo dismissed it as a marketing stunt. Back in 2013, a couple of festive DIYers launched a quadcopter toting mistletoe in San Francisco’s Union Square, having some nic...

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Elon Musk of Spacex Teases Seafaring Spaceport Drones, ‘X-Wing’ Fins for Rockets. Video & pics here.


We’ve always known Elon Musk was dreaming big, but a few Twitter hints on Saturday gave us a few ideas how big. Long story short: Musk is designing a craft that resembles the wing pattern of an X-Wing, as well as preparing a landing point at sea.

The SpaceX chief unveiled the new Falcon 9R rocket design, which includes four guiding wings that unfurl shortly after launch. While subtitling it the “X-Wing” design, it’s actually the Hypersonic Grid Fins. Their X-configuration is meant to aid in the landing of the craft, one of the first ever reusable rockets. If the program is successful, it could be a huge boon toward making space launches a sustainable business.

But not to be outdone by introducing us to just a little piece of science fiction come to life, Musk also unveiled the Autonomous ...

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GoPro Manufacturing Camera-Equipped Drones

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According to reports from the Wall Street Journal, rugged camera maker GoPro is developing a new line of drones equipped with the companys high-definition cameras.

The drone will retail somewhere between $500 to $1000. While countless GoPro enthusiasts attach the lightweight devices to drones, this would be the first time GoPro will build their own drone with a built-in camera. It’s meant to compete with companies like SZ DJI Technology Co., who’ve developed their own camera drone. The Wall Street Journal speculates that the move could also cause some drone makers to cut GoPro compatibility as they face competition from the company.

Current regulations stipulate drones for amateur use only, though with advances in the technology, the Federal Aviation Administration is rehauling regulation...

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Cheetah robot has real-world applications uni studies reveal.

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In this Oct. 24, 2014 photo, researchers stand beside a robotic cheetah on an athletic field at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) researchers Randall Briggs, left, and Will Bosworth monitor a robotic cheetah during a test run on an athletic field at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass. MIT scientists said the robot, modeled after the fastest land animal, may have real-world applications, including for prosthetic legs. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

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In this Oct. 24, 2014 photo, a robotic cheetah rests at the feet of researcher Randall Briggs on an athletic field at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

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In this Sept...

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Fraunhofer developing flying inventory robot drones to keep check on stock

Flying inventory robotic drones

flying-inventory robot drones

Inventories are a necessary evil that need to be carried out at least once a year. Despite their necessity, they are also tedious, time consuming, labor intensive, and often involve businesses shutting their doors for whole days as they count how many unsold widgets are in the back room. The Fraunhofer Institute’s InventAIRy Project plans to change that by developing a new flying robotic drone that not only takes over the drudgery of stock taking, but also acts as a new tool for record keeping and streamlining warehouse operations.

Taking inventory has changed a great deal from the days when a small army of workers equipped with clipboards and pencils were the only way of counting stock...

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SkyJack: The drone that hijacks other drones in mid-flight

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Amazon’s Prime Air announcement last week brought concerns about the use of commercial drones to the fore, but one programmer may have just muddied the waters even more. Notable hacker Samy Kamkar recently modified a Parrot AR.Drone 2 with his custom software, called SkyJack, allowing it to seek out the wireless signals of other UAVs and take control of them, even while in flight.

If his name sounds familiar, that’s because Kamkar is the same hacker-turned-legit security researcher that released a worm that took down MySpace back in 2005 and later went on to expose security weaknesses in several major credit cards.

For his latest project, Kamkar rigged a Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 with a Raspberry Pi, a USB battery, and two wireless adapters, before uploading his custom programming...

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Meet the Kiva robot-Amazon’s busiest employee

As consumers buy more from the Internet’s largest retailer, it stays on top of it  by fitting out warehouses with robots that work at speeds faster than humans can
amazon-kiva-robots-images www.spy-drones (11)The fleet of machines — installed in 10 of Amazon’s US warehouses in California, Texas, New Jersey, Washington and Florida — enable the company to deliver millions of items to customers. Along with many other retailers, the online shopping giant started its Black Friday sales a week early, building up to one of its busiest days of the year — Cyber Monday. Last year, customers ordered more than 36.8 million items globally, or 426 items per second, according to Amazon.

Amazon expects that number to go up this year but wouldn’t say by how much...

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Explore the Eiry Ruins of Chernobyl Through the Eyes of a Drone

A drone armed with video equipment recently flew over the skies of Pripyat, a Ukrainian city that was home to the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. After the disaster, the city was abandoned, though some curiosity seekers have explored the ruins of the irradiated city.

Danny Cooke took the footage while working on a 60 Minutes segment, providing a rare aerial view of the city. Postcards from Pripyat, Chernobyl captures some startling contrasts, filming abandoned, decayed swing sets alongside resurgent plant life. In some cases, the plant life has taken over buildings, invading abandoned swimming pools.

Fast decaying isotopes have let radiation levels drop to acceptable levels for exploration in the Zone of Alienation, though no one still lives in Pripyat, and many of the buildings have decay...

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