Drone Use Will Skyrocket By 2021, Government Says

Jonathan Vanian for Fortune: In addition to data about hobbyist-owned drones, the FAA said that it expects roughly 442,000 drones to be used by businesses by 2021 for tasks like taking pictures of farmland or inspecting cell phone towers. That's nearly ten times as many drones than the 42,000 the FAA said businesses used in 2016.

Drone Defense Startups Flock to the Rescue

Reuters: Airspace is among some 70 companies working on counter-drone systems as small consumer and commercial drones proliferate. But unlike others, it aims to catch drones instead of disabling them or shooting them down.

First Robot Cop to join Dubai Police Force in May

Janice Williams for Newsweek: The first robot cop is expected to join Dubai's police force in May. Officials in Dubai unveiled plans to introduce a robotic police officer to the United Arab Emirates during a policing forum recently and said they intend to have robot cops serving as about 25 percent of the force by 2030.

How Sensors, Robotics And Artificial Intelligence Will Transform Agriculture

In a new initiative called FarmView, researchers are working to combine sensors, robotics and artificial intelligence to create a fleet of mobile field robots they hope will improve plant breeding and crop-management practices.

Perceptual Robotics, Autonomous wind turbine inspection

SUAS News:  Perceptual Robotics is applying leading edge autonomy concepts to industrial applications.  Currently based in the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, our passion is to bridge the divide between academia and industry. Perceptual Robotics is applying leading edge autonomy concepts to industrial applications. Currently based in the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, our passion is to bridge the divide between academia and industry.  Through our Innovate UK project, we will be developing a fully autonomous system for the intelligent, efficient and reliable inspection of wind turbines.   Cont'd...

Are Robotics a Key to the Next Phase of Recycling?

Arlene Karidis for Waste360:  About 10 years ago, computer scientist Matanya Horowitz became intrigued at how far robotics had come within some industries and he started thinking about its potential in recycling, particularly for recognizing and sorting materials. Horowitz postulated that intelligent systems could have a huge impact if they could be designed to identify any material in a waste stream and pull it out. But there were unique challenges to address within the recycling niche, and Horowitz went to work to troubleshoot them. After years of tweaking, the proprietary technology he created under the Denver-based company, AMP Robotics, is running in several material recovery facilities (MRFs). The robotic system, called the AMP Cortex Robotic Sorter, has the attention of several stakeholders, including the Closed Loop Foundation and a federal government agency.   Cont'd...

Crashing Drones Into Test Dummies for Safety

Alan Levin for Bloomberg:  Hank sat impassively on a Virginia Tech athletic field, ready to take it on the chin for the future of drone commerce. About 30 yards away, an eight-rotor unmanned copter hovered, buzzing like a swarm of bees. The 21-pound drone tilted forward, accelerated sharply and slammed into Hank’s head, smacking the crash-test dummy’s neck backward and embedding shards of shattered propeller in his plastic face. There is little disagreement that the small- and medium-sized drones flooding the U.S. market can seriously injure or even kill someone. Understanding and minimizing the risk will be key to convincing regulators to expand their permitted uses, clearing the way for plans by Amazon.com Inc. and Alphabet Inc. to have them deliver packages or news outlets such as Time Warner Inc.’s CNN to use them for aerial video.   Cont'd...

Cobalt Robotics Introduces a (Mostly) Autonomous Mobile Security Robot

Evan Ackerman for IEEE Spectrum:  Today, Cobalt Robotics (a startup based in Palo Alto, Calif.) is announcing an autonomous mobile robot designed for indoor security applications that can “work alongside human guards to provide better security than people can do alone.” The key realization here is that security guards spend the vast majority of their time doing almost nothing, and even in a worst case scenario (like someone trying to break in, or a fire or other serious problem), their primary responsibility is making the right phone call as quickly as possible as opposed to dealing with the situation directly.   Full article:

Dyson backs Britain plc with $2.5bn AI and robotics investment

Andrew Orlowski for The Register:  Britain's most successful engineer Sir James Dyson is taking on Google and Facebook with a $2.5bn investment to turn the former RAF base at Hullavington near Malmesbury into a research campus for robotics, AI, and other advanced technology, including batteries and vision systems. The size of the planned facility dwarfs the existing HQ.  The investment marks both a change of direction for Dyson, which will now begin to challenge US data giants in the race to find practical implementations of AI, and expresses a vote of confidence in a post-EU British economy. The founder recently hinted that it was examining how to incorporate pattern recognition and decision making into its 360 Eye robot vacuum cleaner.   Cont'd...

Introducing Handle from Boston Dynamics

Handle is a research robot that stands 6.5 ft tall, travels at 9 mph and jumps 4​ ​feet vertically. ​It uses electric power to operate both electric and hydraulic actuators, with a range of about 15 miles on one battery charge. ​​​ Handle uses many of the same dynamics, balance and mobile manipulation principles​ found in the quadruped and biped robots we build, but with only about 10 actuated joints, it is significantly less complex. Wheels are efficient on flat surfaces while legs can go almost anywhere: by combining wheels and legs Handle can have the best of both worlds.

How drones are helping design the solar power plants of the future

Katie Fehrenbacher for T he Guardian:   At the edge of a plot of muddy farmland, a few miles down the road from the University of California at Davis, an engineer takes a few quick steps across crop rows and lets go of a three-foot drone. Within seconds, the device – which weighs less than 2lbs and carries a powerful camera – ascends hundreds of feet into the cold, clear, blue sky and begins to snap detailed photos of the ground far below, including a long row of large solar panels mounted on steel poles. This flight is just a test, demonstrated by Kingsley Chen, the drone fleet coordinator for SunPower at the solar company’s research and development center, which is under construction and about a two-hour drive northeast of the San Francisco Bay Area. The drone will enable SunPower to survey a wide region and help design a solar power farm that can fit more solar panels on a piece of land, more quickly and for lower costs than it previously could.   Con'td...

Tech firms keep expanding 'Robotics Row,' Pittsburgh's mini Silicon Valley

Aaron Aupperlee for TribLive:  Advancements in robotics, autonomous manufacturing, self-driving cars and more are taking place in the former warehouses, factories and foundries of Pittsburgh's Strip District and Lawrenceville neighborhoods. Argo AI, an self-driving car startup partnering with Ford, became the latest to join Robotics Row, a string of technology companies setting up shop along the Allegheny River. The company announced Thursday it would base its headquarters in the Strip District. "We see the Strip District as a mini Silicon Valley," Argo AI CEO Bryan Salesky told the Tribune-Review. "In my mind, that is the future of the tech hub in Pittsburgh." At least 20 companies and organizations working on robotics and autonomous technologies call the three-mile stretch of riverfront home.  Cont'd...

How a College Kid Made His Honda Civic Self-Driving for $700

Tom Simonite for MIT Technology Review:  Brevan Jorgenson’s grandma kept her cool when he took her for a nighttime spin in the Honda Civic he’s modified to drive itself on the highway. A homemade device in place of the rear-view mirror can control the brakes, accelerator, and steering, and it uses a camera to identify road markings and other cars. “She wasn’t really flabbergasted—I think because she’s seen so much from technology by now,” says Jorgenson, a senior at the University of Nebraska, Omaha. Others are more wary of the system, which he built using plans and software downloaded from the Internet, plus about $700 in parts. Jorgenson says the fact that he closely supervises his homebrew autopilot hasn’t convinced his girlfriend to trust the gadget’s driving. “She’s worried it’s going to crash the car,” he says.   Cont'd...

NXT Robotics Unveils Rugged All-Terrain, All-Weather Outdoor Security Robot

SAN DIEGO, CA--(Marketwired - February 21, 2017) - Mobile robotics are playing an increasingly important role in the security of our borders, military facilities, and even power plants. To meet this growing demand, San Diego-based NXT Robotics has developed Scorpion, a rugged all-terrain and all-weather outdoor security robot designed to provide organizations with round-the- clock physical security monitoring and reporting capabilities. NXT Robotics, known for its advanced mobile security patrol platform, will debut Scorpion at West 2017 at the San Diego Convention Center, Feb. 21-23 (Booth 1208). Scorpion is an autonomous security patrol that lowers costs while maximizing physical security surveillance capabilities. Scorpion is designed for places such as military facilities, power plants, borders, parking structures, farms and ranches, and seaports. Scorpion's rugged outdoor design, multi-camera use, video capture and rich sensor payload helps secure assets and ensure public safety while navigating challenging environments.  Cont'd...

Six-legged robots faster than nature-inspired gait

Science Daily:  When vertebrates run, their legs exhibit minimal contact with the ground. But insects are different. These six-legged creatures run fastest using a three-legged, or "tripod" gait where they have three legs on the ground at all times -- two on one side of their body and one on the other. The tripod gait has long inspired engineers who design six-legged robots, but is it necessarily the fastest and most efficient way for bio-inspired robots to move on the ground? Researchers at EPFL and UNIL revealed that there is in fact a faster way for robots to locomote on flat ground, provided they don't have the adhesive pads used by insects to climb walls and ceilings. This suggests designers of insect-inspired robots should make a break with the tripod-gait paradigm and instead consider other possibilities including a new locomotor strategy denoted as the "bipod" gait. The researchers' findings are published in Nature Communications.   Cont'd...

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