CRACUNS Drone Able to Deploy from Underwater Station Developed

Drones may be beginning to fill the skies and seas for a number of purposes, but what if a drone could lurk beneath the surface, just waiting to be deployed on an aerial operation? A drone developed by John Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Lab can do just such a thing, able to remain submerged for months prior to launch. When launched, the drone then ‘swims’ to the surface of the water and takes to the air just like any other quadcopter drone.

Named the Corrosion Resistant Aerial Covert Unmanned Nautical System or CRACUNS, this drone is created using cutting edge techniques such as those employed by 3D printing. This construction gives it a composite airframe with which it is able to survive the water movement and pressure of remaining underwater for long periods of time. The sensitive components of the drone that would be destroyed by water are contained within a dry pressure compartment and any exposed components have had commercially available waterproof coatings applied to them. So far, these techniques have held up, with a CRACUNS drone being kept in sea water for two months with no sign of damage or operational issues.

CRACUNS also contains no metal components, to remove susceptibility to rusting as well as managing to be lightweight and low-cost. Altogether, this makes CRACUNS an attractive proposal for researchers and government agencies as the drone is able to operate in areas that were impossible for drones in the past. Large numbers of the drones could also be employed at any one time, either to cover a larger area or in case some units were to be lost. Whether drones like CRACUNS become more commonplace remains to be seen, but the techniques used in its design and construction show that there is still room for the development of groundbreaking new methods for fabricating machines.

Volvo ROAR is an Automated Bin!

Volvo is known for their safe cars, my own family has the saying that Volvo’s are the people’s tanks. They are known for other things and soon they could be the ones responsible for your bins thanks to ROAR.

ROAR (RObot based Autonomous Refuse handling) is designed to help those who come pick up your bins every week. ROAR is a two-part system, with the first part being a drone. The drone creates a “target” for the robot, named ROARY, that enables it to locate and navigate towards the target bin, with it even picking up obstacles and moving around the threats.

ROAR is the brainchild of three universities undergraduates with both Chalmers University of Technology, Mälardalen University and Penn State University to help create the project. The second part of the project is the automated emptying of bins. When you approach the back of a garbage truck it detects how far away a person is, when you are too close the process ends meaning it is safe and keeps curious passersby out of harms way from the large lifting and crushing mechanics.

You could soon see a single person traveling in the truck, with a small selection of drones and copters helping pick up your truck with minimal manpower and risk to both you and the neighbourhood. What do you think about the idea? Is the concept of automating everything going a little too far when it will even take out your rubbish?

The Drone Racing League Has Officially Launched

We have had eSports for a while now and while I can understand why it captures so many people all around the world, it wasn’t anything for me. What was missing in eSports for me, I might find in the new Drone Racing League that now officially has been launched. The Drone Racing League, or DRL for short, is just what it sounds to be, so there aren’t many surprises there.

Drone racing could very well become one of the biggest sports of the future. While it doesn’t take the physical agility that normal race drivers need, this requires just as much concentration and skills from the pilots. The quad-copter drones are equipped with cameras that allow the pilots to stay in control while they also allow spectators to get the same view as the pilots.

FPV Quadcopter drone pilots have been competing on a smaller scale for a while and last summer we also saw the first FPV Quadcopter Racing Drone Nationals at the California State Fair. The Drone Racing League takes the whole thing to a new level and a much wider audience. This is a multimillion-dollar league and not just some amateurs competing to see who is best. The first race was held in the Miami Dolphins football stadium in Florida and Stephen Ross, the owner of the stadium, is one of the main investors in the DRL. Other investors include Matt Bellamy, the lead singer of Muse, and the talent agency CAA.

The drone have been specially built for this league and can reach speeds of up to 80 mph. The races will be streamed and the league has no doubt that it one day will fill the stadium with thousands of screaming fans. For now, there are six races planned for this year where the first was flown yesterday.

The video above is more of a teaser for the entire thing and I bet quite a few want to see more. So below you’ll find a video from last years FPV Quadcopter drone nationals. This video gives more insight into the technology and some of the hard legwork that has been done before this league could become a reality. Scot Refsland, the organizer behind last year’s Drone Nationals, is also working on a bigger competition for this year called the Drone Worlds and it is set to be held in Hawaii this time.

FLARES – A New Drone Launch and Retrieval System

Just like a full-sized aeroplane, landing a fixed wing drone is no easy feat, made even more difficult under poor ground conditions and lack of space. Most drone makers accept this issue by designing their drones to handle light crash landings. Sometimes this just isn’t reasonable, be it due to the risk of damage to the drone or space limitations such as on warships. Boeing subsidiary Insitu has an answer to this problem, the Flying Launch and Recovery System, or FLARES for short.

FLARES, at least in appearance is incredibly straightforward. The drone to be launched is attached to the underside of the craft by the ground crew. It then carries the attached drone up into the air. Once at a sufficient altitude, the attached drone revs its engines up to speed and then detaches from the FLARES craft. The quadcopter then returns to the ground crew, where it can be fitted with a skyhook. Once back in the air, the drone snags onto the skyhook hanging from the quadcopter, arresting its momentum similarly to landing on an aircraft carrier. The ground crew can then safely reel in the drone using the skyhook pulley on the ground.

So far, the main craft used to test FLARES has been a lightweight version of the ScanEagle UAV, proving the system currently able to catch a craft of around 40 pounds in weight. And the tests that have been run so far only used existing commercial stock, which means there could be plenty of advancements with more specialist hardware, allowing the system to be used with larger and heavier drones.  The system is still in its infancy too, with the tests demonstrating the system being the first time the system has been trialed, the success of which appear to be quite remarkable. When fully realized, FLARES could allow the development and deployment of more advanced fixed wing drones, with far less concern for handling almost inevitable crashing or the site from which it operates.

US Army Tests New Drone Swarm

The latest drone test exercise run by the US Army was different to most, in that instead of showcasing a brand new multi-million-dollar aircraft, it instead used a swarm of standard off-the-shelf consumer drones.

The objects of these exercises were twofold. Firstly, deploying the drones as a swarm to simulate a threat and later testing the possibility of utilizing the same cheap swarms in military operations. This would allow the US Army to adapt to the potential threats of consumer drones when used against their forces and develop countermeasures against these tactics.

The exercises included a combat simulation with a swarm of drones supporting the opposing forces, who used them to spot enemy defensive positions, allowing their forces to gain a tactical advantage against them. Another test was flooding the airspace with drones, disrupting radar with dozens of small airborne objects.

Individually, a single consumer drone is no match for any one of the combat drones used by the US Army in it’s current operations, being far more vulnerable to both gunfire and jamming. However, with costs of up to 100-times less than this specialist hardware, it becomes far more feasible to deploy large numbers, as well as allowing them to be more disposable. Shooting down one small drone is easy. Shooting down one hundred is far less achievable. And with the potential for these consumer drones to be customized relatively cheaply with longer range equipment, night-vision and similar sensors and even weaponry, consumer drones seem to be gaining a place in modern warfare.

Can you imagine the toys you see on shelves everywhere now, being deployed in war, and will this change the face of the low-cost drone market? Only time will tell.

Feds Investigating Teen Who Made Gun-Mounted Quadcopter

An 18-year-old engineering student who modified a quadcopter to carry a four-shot handgun is being investigated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Austin Haughwout posted a video of his “Flying Gun” to YouTube, a 14-second clip that has been watched close to two million times, and its popularity has brought it to the attention of the US federal government.

“The FAA will investigate the operation of an unmanned aircraft system in a Connecticut park to determine if any Federal Aviation Regulations were violated,” a statement reads. “The FAA will also work with its law enforcement partners to determine if there were any violations of criminal statutes.”

Though the FAA has refused to comment further on the matter for the time being, the teen’s father, Bret Haughwout has been very vocal regarding the backlash to his son’s creation.

“It’s pretty simple. You’ve got a mechanical engineering student that builds different things, and this is just the last thing that he built. That’s all there is to it,” Haughwout said of his son, a student at Central Connecticut State University.

On the media coverage of the “Flying Gun”, Haughwout adds, “I’d say it’s the liberal mindset. Liberals just want to regulate away everything that people do. Anytime someone goes to do something, they want to put restrictions on it,” misunderstanding the term ‘liberal’ in a way that only an American gun-nut can.

While he’s raving, Haughwout then attacks the semantics of the coverage, growling, “You know what? Stop using the wrong word. It’s not a drone. It’s a quadcopter, just like an RC boat, or an RC car, or an RC airplane, or an RC helicopter.” As long as this weaponised quadcopter is being controlled by a teenager, that makes it much safer.

“There’s a machine gun attached to it […] So what’s the big deal here?” he asks. What’s the big deal, indeed.

Thank you Yahoo! News and Newsweek for providing us with this information.

Drone Enters Flightpath of Passenger Airplane

Drones, the enthusiast way to get your videos taken from a perspective only caught by hanging off a tall object or sending a camera into space on a weather balloon. It was only a matter of time before someone decided to toy with its much larger cousin, a commercial aircraft.

On Friday, a keen enthusiast looking for the perfect shot, took to the Dallas Love Field with their trusty quadcopter. Once in the air, it isn’t clear whether they were going for a scenery shot or a unique look at a landing aircraft; either way it was too close for comfort and some airspace laws.

As a Southwest flight began its descent, the pilot called into air traffic control to report the sighting of a quadcopter within “a few hundred feet”.

“It was close enough to Love Field that the air traffic controller was able to see it from the tower,” Lynn Lunsford, a Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman told a local newspaper.

“Our pilots on the flight deck of Flight 28 observed a traffic conflict as they approached Dallas Love Field,” stated Alyssa Eliasen, a Southwest spokeswoman. “The flight landed safely and our crew filed a report with appropriate agencies. The Safety of our customers and employees is our top priority and our pilots take this responsibility very seriously.”

“We’re concerned because these are easily purchased devices, and they have pretty amazing capabilities,” Mark Duebner, the city’s director of aviation, told the Dallas Morning News. “But I don’t think the average person understands the airspace limits around the airport because they wouldn’t have reason to know them… We need to do some campaigns to raise public awareness, though because we don’t need these anywhere near the airport.”

Local police forces on ground and air were deployed very quickly after the incident, but couldn’t recover the drone nor the operator. With the easy access to drones, should they be controlled in a similar way to which model RC craft can only operate in certain areas as not to cause conflict with flight paths? Let us know in the comments.

Thank you to ArsTechnica for providing us with this information.

Even The Pope Has a Drone!

We’ve seen many weird and wonderful things getting gifted to Pope Francis, such as the Fiat car and even a pizza, but the latest one is quite interesting. Pope Francis has long been a supporter of modern technology, something we’ve seen through his use of Twitter, iPads and such, even more so recently when he auctioned off his iPad, naturally given the proceeds to the poor, but also because he was upgrading to a newer model.

Now a group of students from a Jesuit school in Rome have presented Pope Francis with his own quadcopter, painted specially with the colours of the Vatican flag. This may seem like a strange gesture, but it’s a very clever one indeed, as the students felt it was good to show the Pope the benefits of such technology.

The students wanted to show “the values of [drone] technology in the service of man.” and how “drones have proved useful to check the condition of structures [such as in Nepal] and study paths from bringing relief to people who need this in remote villages.”

It’s true that drones are a cool gadget to play around with, but they’ve been vital in relief and rescue efforts around the world, helping to save lives and a whole lot more. However, it’s unlikely the Pope will be taking the drone out for a spin any time soon, but we suspect he’ll auction it off to raise money for those who need it.

Thank you Engadget for providing us with this information.

Brain of a Bee Used to Pilot a Drone

Earlier this year, we brought you the story of a simulated worm brain that had been uploaded into a LEGO robot, and now it seems that The Green Brain Project is taking that idea to the next level, implanting a recreation of a bee’s brain into a robotic flying drone.

The Green Brain Project approaches artificial intelligence from an environmental perspective, using its expertise to find new ways of using AI to solve threats to humanity, specifically the declining honey bee population. As the Green Brain Project puts it on its website:

“The ‘Green Brain Project’ combines computational neuroscience modelling, learning and decision theory, modern parallel computing methods, and robotics with data from state-of-the-art neurobiological experiments on cognition in the honeybee Apis mellifera. These various methodologies are used to build and deploy a modular model of the honeybee brain describing detection, classification, and learning in the olfactory and optic pathways as well as multi-sensory integration across these sensory modalities.”

The deceptively complex bee brain was digitally cloned – a neuromimetic model, as The Green Brain Project calls it – and inserted into a modified off-the-shelf quadcopter drone. When activated, the bee brain is able to pilot the drone without assistance, using its on-board camera to navigate its surroundings.

Though the bee brain does not yet have full control over the rotors yet – they default to turning when the drone is turned on – teams across the world are working on a version that can not only choose when to fly, but can be implanted into a tiny bee-like body so, should the world’s bee colonies collapse as has been predicted by some environmentalists, these apidae cyborgs could conceivably take their place, maintaining necessary flower pollination.

Thank you PhysOrg for providing us with this information.

Meet the Drone-Based Hoverbike That Could Revolutionise Travel

We all know how easy to use drones are. Many of us have taken to the skies with a drone, performing tricky stunts and captured amazing video footage, but what if we could ride one of those drones?

Well, this project, the ‘Hoverbike’, is said to be exactly that. It utilises drone-like technology to make manned-flying easy and even cheap. Its creators say that pretty much anyone can get the experience of flying a helicopter at a significantly lower price and with significantly less training using the Hoverbike. The most exciting thing however, is that all of this is apparently just around the corner.

The developers of the bike have had a successful Kickstarter campaign, drawing more than double the money they requested. They did this through selling scaled drone prototypes that backers could receive to see the Hoverbike technology in action.

You can see those prototypes and more in the video below.

Source: Speed Society

Quadcopter Style Drone May Offer Better Safe Landings for Mars Rovers

Quadcopters and drones are proving to be one of the most popular bits of technology of the last decade, and a team at the ESA are discovering that they’re not only great fun here on Earth, but could also provide us with benefits on Mars. The ESA recently tested a new Mars quadcopter style dropship. The fully automated concept known as Skycrane was created in just eight months under the ESA StarTiger program.

The Skycrane hardware development was mostly derived from commercially available quad-copter components, something that will no doubt have sped up its development whilst keeping costs lower than building propitiatory hardware. The automated nature means that the “dropter” could detect and navigate hazardous terrain, search for a safe and flat landing zone and deploy its payload safely. This is achieved by using a range of vision based navigation systems via on board cameras and software, laser ranging equipment and barometers.

The prototype was tested at Airbus’s Trauen site in Germany where it successfully navigated the mock Martian Surface and deployed its dummy rover to the chosen target zone using its bridle.

Thank you Gizmag for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Gizmag.

3D Printing Quadcopters Drones Could Be Used In Emergency Situations

3D printing and quadcopters are two of the coolest innovations to happen in recent years, one can make virtually anything you want and the other can go virtually anywhere you want, so what if you were to combine the two? Well that’s exactly what one team of Engineers from the Imperial College of London have been working on, flying 3D printer drones.

While there’s still some work and a fair amount of doubt about the 3D printing ideals, which they hope could see the drone print a landing nest in treetops, allowing it a place to land and recharge (most likely via solar power) automatically. However, they still plan to include some form of the printing mechanism which can deploy a sticky foam on dangerous objects, before attaching themselves and lifting that hazard away. This is obviously handy for dangerous cleanup operations that involve hazardous waste, where it would be too dangerous to send in a person.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/DyAvbq8o7xI[/youtube]

Obviously the technology still needs some work, but there are hopes to deploy something similar to help with search-and-rescue scenarios and many other kinds of emergency where parts need to be quickly deployed to difficult places. The technology even has a place in the construction industry as it could be used to repair bridges and other structures.

Thomas J Creedy, a PhD student working on the project at Imperial College London, said in a statement: “This is an exciting first step in the lab’s development of co-operative robotic systems for building structures inspired by the natural world.”

Obviously the technology still needs work and its 3D capabilities are still somewhat 2D, but as a proof of concept the idea certainly has merit. I for one look forward to yet more innovations from the world of 3D printing and quadcopters.

Thank you BBC for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of BBC.

Renault Concept Car Comes Equipped With Quadcopter Drone

We love crazy ideas and unique ways of using gadgets and tech, this latest idea from Renault thicks those boxes and their new Concept car not only looks cool, but comes equipped with its own quadcopter than can be deployed from the roof to go seek out the end of traffic jams.

Of course the possibilities are endless, you can use it to take a cool selfie of yourself while driving, or use your cars headsets up display to drive your car from a 3rd person perspective, just like you can in racing games. Of course this isn’t what Renault discuses in their video, but they’re just not seeing the full potential of their ideas like I am.

“The vehicle’s robust, yet fun design, along with its technology-driven features, is targeted at meeting the needs of young customers in these markets,” Renault said. “This concept car offers a fun, yet robust design combined with hyper connectivity.”

I’m not entirely sure what hyper connectivity is, but it’s likely just slang for a pair of USB ports and Bluetooth. Having a car with its own personal drone to scope out traffic and do other cool things sounds like a fun idea, of course I highly doubt it would ever go into production like this, just too many safety concerns about people being able to deploy drones on the highway.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/SF7it6_2j7Q[/youtube]

Thank you Pocket Lint for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Pocket Lint.