AI, captain! First autonomous ship prepares for maiden voyage

The Mayflower 400 autonomous trimaran during sea trials in Plymouth this week

by Anna Cuenca

The “Mayflower 400″—the world’s first intelligent ship—bobs gently in a light swell as it stops its engines in Plymouth Sound, off England’s southwest coast, before self-activating a hydrophone designed to listen to whales.

The 50-foot (15-metre) trimaran, which weighs nine tonnes and navigates with complete autonomy, is preparing for a transatlantic voyage.

On its journey the vessel, covered in solar panels, will study marine pollution and analyse plastic in the water, as well as track aquatic mammals.

Eighty percent of the underwater world remains unexplored.

Brett Phaneuf, co-founder of the charity ProMare and the mastermind behind the Mayflower project, said the ocean exerts “the most powerful force” on the global climate.

Rosie Lickorish, a specialist in emerging technologies at IBM, one of the partners on the project, said the unmanned craft provided an advantage in the “unforgiving environment”.

“Having a ship without people on board allows scientists to expand the area they can observe,” she told AFP.

A variety of technology and service providers have contributed to the project with hundreds of individuals involved from nations including India, Switzerland and the United States, said Phaneuf.

The project would have cost 10 times the roughly $1 million (820,000 euros) invested by ProMare without the “global effort,” he added.

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Doosan Hydrogen Drones Take Flight in the Netherlands

Posted By: Miriam McNabbon:

Doosan hydrogen drones will take flight in the Netherlands, testing offshore solutions including drone delivery, marine monitoring, and search and rescue.

South Korean Doosan Mobility Innovation (DMI) has penned a deal with Dutch government agency NHN (Development Agency Noord-Holland Noord, NHN), a regional development organization and governing agency for maritime economic development support project METIP.

As part of the METIP project, METIP partner DroneQ Aerial Services will be the local drone services provider, operating the Doosan hydrogen drones.   The Doosan solutions feature hydrogen fuel cell “powerpacks” which give their commercial platforms a flight endurance of more than 2 hours.  Projects will include drone delivery, lifesaving applications like search and rescue, environmental monitoring, facility inspections and reconnaisance.

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Self-driving cars will force Highway Code to ‘change entirely’ with major new law changes


SELF DRIVING cars will force the Highway Code to “change entirely” as most of the rules “will be redundant” under the new technology, according to solicitors.

Legal experts say road rules will have to be “changed entirely” to ensure the laws are relevant to the new driverless technology. Specialists warn drivers may not need to be taught things like stopping distances or how to indicate as cars will do this automatically.

Hojol Uddin, Head of Motoring and Partner at JMW Solicitors said the new technology will help the car do “everything else we were taught to do”.

He said: “The Highway Code will have to be changed entirely to determine the relevance of certain rules.

“For example will the driver really need to know stopping distances and times if the computer is going to do the thinking for you as well as the stopping.

“In addition, will it be necessary for mirror signal manoeuvre being drilled into every student when cars of the future will do this for you?

“Most of the Highway Code will be redundant, as cars will be able to read signs and everything else we were taught to do.”

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China launches main part of its 1st permanent space station

In this image taken from video footage run by China’s CCTV via AP Video, a Long March 5B rocket carrying a module for a Chinese space station lifts off from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in Wenchang in southern China’s Hainan Province, Thursday, April 29, 2021. China has launched the core module on Thursday for its first permanent space station that will host astronauts long-term. (CCTV via AP Video)

by Sam McNeil

China on Thursday launched the main module of its first permanent space station that will host astronauts long term, the latest success for a program that has realized a number of its growing ambitions in recent years.

The Tianhe, or “Heavenly Harmony,” module blasted into space atop a Long March 5B rocket from the Wenchang Launch Center on the southern island province of Hainan, marking another major advance for the country’s space exploration.

The launch begins the first of 11 missions necessary to complete, supply and crew the station by the end of next year.

China’s space program has also recently brought back the first new lunar samples in more than 40 years and expects to land a probe and rover on the surface of Mars later next month.

Minutes after the launch, the fairing opened to expose the Tianhe atop the core stage of the rocket, with the characters for “China Manned Space” emblazoned on its exterior. Soon after, it separated from the rocket, which will orbit for about a week before falling to Earth, and minutes after that, opened its solar arrays to provide a steady energy source.

The space program is a source of huge national pride, and Premier Li Keqiang and other top civilian and military leaders watched the launch live from the control center in Beijing. A message of congratulations from state leader and head of the ruling Communist Party Xi Jinping was also read to staff at the Wenchang Launch Center.

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Baidu Apollo to launch fully driverless ride-hailing services in Beijing

Baidu Apollo will launch fully driverless robotaxi services to the public in Beijing starting from May 2, 2021.

This will be China’s first paid autonomous vehicle service where users can hail a robotaxi without a safety driver behind the steering wheel, marking a landmark step on the road to commercialization of autonomous driving.

The fully driverless Apollo Go Robotaxi service will first be launched in Beijing’s Shougang Park – one of the venues for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics – and will soon be transporting visitors at the games. 

With the ride-hailing service being launched during the bustling Labor Day holiday period, Baidu will be the first Chinese company offering a fully driverless robotaxi service under commercial operation.

By using the Apollo Go App, users can locate a robotaxi in the vicinity and hail a driverless ride by themselves through a system of unmanned self-service processes.

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Bridgestone and Lightyear Combine Forces for the World’s first Long-Range Solar Electric Powered Car

The FINANCIAL — Bridgestone and Lightyear combine forces for the world’s first long-range solar electric powered car. Bridgestone applied its lightweight and environmentally-friendly ENLITEN technology on Turanza Eco tyres specially engineered for Lightyear One, providing significant efficiency contribution in order to maintain battery life, maximise vehicle range, and reduce environmental impact. The collaboration is the latest development demonstrating Bridgestone’s progress in delivering its strategy to be a global leader in advanced solutions and sustainable mobility, Bridgestone notes.

ENLITEN technology enables tyres to have a super low rolling resistance while requiring less raw materials to be used, providing significant efficiency contribution in order to maintain battery life, maximise vehicle range, and reduce environmental impact. Partnership between Lightyear and Bridgestone is a direct result of shared focus on sustainability and builds upon work together for the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. Lightyear One will hit test tracks in Q2 2021 and be commercially available by the end of Q4​.

Building on 90 years of expertise, Bridgestone, a global leader in advanced solutions and sustainable mobility, has announced an exclusive partnership with Netherlands-based mobility innovator Lightyear. Bridgestone has engineered tyres specifically for Lightyear One, the world’s first long-range solar electric vehicle, which is set for commercial availability by the end of this year.

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Weed-killing robot is 20 times faster than humans

Carbon Robotics, a Seattle-based developer of autonomous farm technology, has announced its third generation of weed elimination robots.

The Autonomous Weeder, developed by Carbon Robotics, uses a combination of artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and laser technology to safely and effectively drive through crop fields – identifying, targeting and eliminating weeds.

Unlike other weeding technologies, the robot utilises high-power lasers to eradicate weeds through thermal energy, without disturbing the soil. This could allow farmers to use less herbicides, while reducing labour costs and improving the reliability and predictability of crop yields.

“AI and deep learning technology are creating efficiencies across a variety of industries and we’re excited to apply it to agriculture,” said Paul Mikesell, CEO and founder of Carbon Robotics. “Farmers, and others in the global food supply chain, are innovating now more than ever to keep the world fed. Our goal is to create tools that address their most challenging problems, including weed management and elimination.” 

The technology developed by Carbon Robotics can improve crop yields and quality, since lasers leave soil microbiology undisturbed, unlike tillage. The lack of herbicides and soil disruption can pave the way for a regenerative approach, leading to healthier crops and higher yields, as well as reduced health problems in humans and other mammals.

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Neurable introduces brain-computer interface headphones

BCI headphones. Credit: Neurable

by Sarah Katz

The neurotechnology company Neurable has revealed plans for brain-computer interface (BCI) headphones, similar to previous products designed to learn from human movement and predict intent.

This idea began with the product lead Dr. Ramses Alcaide. Inspired by his uncle’s successful engineering of his own prosthetic legs following a horrific automobile accident, Alcaide realized the usefulness of technology that could assist users with physical mobility. 

During his time as a neuroscience Ph.D. student working with differently abled individuals, Alcaide took note of the discrepancy between the abilities of prosthetics versus brain reading technology. Ultimately, his observations influenced his decision to focus on developing technology capable of directly interacting with the human brain in real-time. 

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Level 4 aerial autonomy: Drones can now fly themselves

Firm achieves highest level aerial autonomy yet documented. Why that’s a game changer.

By Greg Nichols 

A company that develops autonomous drone technology for industry and defense achieved a milestone heretofore reserved for land-based vehicles: Level 4 autonomy. This appears to be the first successful demonstration of level 4 autonomy in an aerial system.

We’ve tracked the company, Exyn Technologies, particularly its national defense aspirations. As I wrote in early 2020, Exyn began developing for the enterprise and is active in sectors like oil and gas and infrastructure inspection. The company’s drones are designed to work in complex, GPS-denied environments where unknown terrain and uncertain ground conditions can make flying perilous. This mission brief has also led Exyn to explore defense industry applications.

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High-tech contact lenses are straight out of science fiction — and may replace smart phones

A concept image showing a contact lens with digital and biometric implants. 

 By Bishakh Rout, McGill University

Contact lenses are the result of an accidental discovery made during the Second World War. Ophthalmologist Harold Ridley noticed that despite acrylic plastic shrapnel shards becoming embedded in the eyes of fighter pilots, it did not appear to cause any harm. This finding eventually led to the creation of hard intraocular lenses for the treatment of cataracts. 

Over the years, new scientific discoveries have led to softer and more comfortable contact lenses. And now, research bringing together chemistry, biology and microelectronics is resulting in contact lenses that are straight out of science fiction.

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Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange set to launch an NFT marketplace

The marketplace is aimed at creators and traders of collectables in visual arts, music, games, sports, and more.

Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange has revealed plans to launch its own non-fungible token (NFT) marketplace where users can create, buy and sell digital collector’s items

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How teleportation is powering the internet of the future

By Ian Evenden 

Is a quantum network the next step for how we transfer data?

We like phat pipes, and we cannot lie. And over the past 20 years we’ve seen internet connections change from dial-up to ADSL over copper wire, to today’s fibre-optics. So what’s next for how we transfer data? 

Imagine a network that, instead of using pulses of light to send signals, uses the properties of photons themselves. This is a quantum network, and it relies on something Einstein wasn’t very fond of: quantum entanglement. Decried as ‘spooky action at a distance’ by the moustachioed relativity-theoriser, entanglement means creating a pair of photons in such a way that, when you measure the quantum state of one, you immediately know the same property of the other no matter how far apart they are. Transferring information in this way is known as quantum teleportation, but rather than men in red shirts doomed to die, what’s teleported here is the quantum information. If you’re really clever, this is enough to build an internet. 

Such really clever people include graduate student Samantha Davis and Dr Raju Valivarthi, who both work in the Division of Physics, Mathematics, and Astronomy at the California Institute of Technology. They published a paper in 2020 detailing how, using “state-of-the-art low-noise superconducting nanowire single-photon detectors” (and off-the-shelf optics) they were able to teleport qubits at a wavelength commonly used in telecommunications down optical fibres, with a fidelity of 90%. Clearly, with an error rate of 10%, they’re not quite there yet, though work on this is ongoing both at Caltech and Fermilab. 

What’s perhaps most interesting about the Caltech work is the way it uses common networking components, and can interface with today’s internet. 

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