Dragonfly is a ‘relocatable lander’ drone designed to fly on Saturn’s Titan moon

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It turns out that Titan, one of Saturn’s many moons, is a relatively optimal place to fly a drone. This is due to the fact that Titan’s atmosphere is four times denser than the Earth’s. So when NASA chose Titan as the next location to “search for the building blocks of life,” they decided to take advantage of that by using a drone instead of a typical rover.

Dragonfly will essentially be a large drone with eight rotors that weighs in at around 1,200 pounds. It will be approximately the same size as the Curiosity rover, only much more maneuverable due to its form factor.

Described as a “relocatable lander,” Dragonfly will travel by flight from location to location much quicker than even the fastest rover to date. NASA describes Dragonfly’s capabilities as being able to “fly its entire science payload to new places for repeatable and targeted access to surface materials.”

Dragonfly was chosen to be part of NASA’s New Frontiers program. The purpose of the program is to “support missions that have been identified as top solar system exploration priorities by the planetary community.”

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Drone swarms use nets to catch other drones in flight

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Sandia National Laboratories researchers leading the MARCUS project are working to develop a system that addresses current and future national security threats posed by small unmanned aircraft systems

Robotics engineers from Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) are developing drones that can capture hostile drones in flight. Funded by the NATO Science for Peace and Security Programme, the Mobile Adaptive/Reactive Counter Unmanned System (MARCUS) project uses swarms of four unmanned quad-copters working in concert to intercept a drone and catch it in a net.

As drones become more numerous and more sophisticated, they also pose a growing threat. Unmanned aerial systems (UAS) are now a major component of the world’s major militaries but drones are also showing up in terrorist attacks, invasions of privacy, or acts of mischief at airports that could down an aircraft.

There have been a number of anti-drone systems developed over the years, including jammers, lasers, and even eagles trained to bring them down, but MARCUS aims to not only counter the threat of small UAVs but also to capture them for disposal or information gathering. According to SNL, this isn’t the first system to use nets but it is the first to combine nets with teams of drones controlled by a ground-based computer to coordinate the swarm’s course to ensure interception.

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SwarmTouch: A tactile interaction strategy for human-swarm communication

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A user manipulating the formation of a swarm of drones using SwarmTouch. Credit: Tsykunov et al.

 SwarmTouch: a tactile interaction strategy for human-swarm communication

Researchers at the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech) in Russia have recently introduced a new strategy to enhance interactions between humans and robotic swarms, called SwarmTouch. This strategy, presented in a paper pre-published on arXiv, allows a human operator to communicate with a swarm of nano-quadrotor drones and guide their formation, while receiving tactile feedback in the form of vibrations.

“We are working in the field of swarm of drones and my previous research in the field of haptics was very helpful in introducing a new frontier of tactile human-swarm interactions,” Dzmitry Tsetserukou, Professor at Skoltech and head of Intelligent Space Robotics laboratory, told TechXplore. “During our experiments with the swarm, however, we understood that current interfaces are too unfriendly and difficult to operate.”

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Walgreens will start making drone deliveries in October

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The process of refilling your prescription at the local pharmacy just got a lot more futuristic.

Wing — which is owned by Google parent company Alphabet — just announced a partnership with FedEx and Walgreens, a national grocery store chain, to start making drone deliveries in Virginia as soon as October.

Wing claims the “first-of-its-kind trial” will explore “ways to enhance efficiency of last-mile delivery services,” according to a press release.

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We’re going to mistake the drones of the future for annoying flying insects

 

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Harvard’s robotic flying bee has been in development for well over a decade now. And despite its incredibly simple design, over the past few years, its creators have improved Robobee’s capabilities, adding abilities such as the ability to hover and even steer itself down a pre-determined flight path. It’s too tiny to carry its own batteries and has been long reliant on a connected power cable. But last August, for the first time ever, Robobee made its first flight without a wire tether.

It wasn’t necessarily the most spectacular flight, however. Instead of soaring across the laboratory, buzzing past researcher’s ears, Robobee lifted off for a mere second under its own power before falling out of the sky—saved from a crash landing by an emergency kevlar safety wire. To achieve this feat, RoboBee received a couple of key hardware upgrades last year, including the addition of two extra wings, bringing the total to four, which contributed to a 38 percent boost in lifting power. It also got the smallest set of solar cells you can buy, weighing in at just 10 milligrams.

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Maryland test confirms drones can safely deliver human organs

 

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Researchers from the University of Maryland attach a cooler containing a kidney to a DJI M600 Pro drone in preparation for a test flight.

When a patient who needs an organ transplantation is finally matched with a donor, every second matters. A longer wait between when an organ is removed from a donor and when it is placed into a recipient is associated with poorer organ function following transplantation. To maximize the chances of success, organs must be shipped from A to B as quickly and as safely as possible—and a recent test run suggests that drones are up to the task.

One transplant surgeon’s personal experience at the operating table, waiting for organs to arrive, prompted him to think of new forms of delivery. “I frequently encounter situations where there’s simply no way to get an organ to me fast enough to do a transplant, and then those life-saving organs do not get transplanted into my patient,” says Dr. Joseph Scalea of the University of Maryland Medical Center. “And that’s frustrating, so I wanted to develop a better system for doing that.”

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Researchers use drones to detect potholes, cracks, and other road damage

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Drones are good for more than ferrying burgers to hungry golfers and snapping pics ready-made for social media, as it turns out. They’ve also been proposed for nuclear reactor inspection and used to detect signs of damage on wind turbines. In a newly published paper on the preprint server Arxiv.org (“Real-Time Dense Stereo Embedded in A UAV for Road Inspection“), scientists describe AI that can be embedded in a quadcopter for road inspection.

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ADIFO: The hyper-agile, omnidirectional, supersonic flying saucer

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ADIFO could resurrect the idea of flying saucers, promising extreme speed, efficiency and aerial agility

At low speed, it operates like a quadcopter, at high speed, it’s a jet-propelled, highly efficient supersonic aircraft whose entire body acts as a low-drag wing. Those are the claims of the Romanian creators of this flying saucer that’s designed to offer unprecedented aerial agility across a broad range of speeds.

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Be prepared to bug out over this insect-inspired winged drone

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A French inventor took to Kickstarter last week to raise funds for an insect-inspired winged drone called MetaFly. It generated quite a bit of buzz. At the time this article was published, more than 1,850 people had pledged more than $187,500 to bring the drone to market.

Unlike traditional commercial drones, which use propellers to generate lift, winged drones use, you guessed it, wings to take flight. Much like the bees it’s modeled after, MetaFly flaps its wings vigorously, creating a differential between draft and lift — an efficient flight mechanic used by flying animals. Thanks in part to this efficiency, the drone is lightweight and maneuverable, if at times a bit erratic in flight.

“[MetaFly’s] purpose is to allow you to discover and experience this unique way of flying,” Edwin Van Ruymbeke, MetaFly’s inventor, told Digital Trends. “This is exciting at a whole different level compared with usual drones or flying models.”

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iRobot unveils Terra, a Roomba lawn mower

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iRobot is best known for making vacuum cleaner robots: the infamous Roomba lineup. But the company also makes mopping robots (Braava lineup), pool cleaning robots (Mirra lineup), a bot to help clean gutters, and even programmable robots (Create lineup). So, what’s next for your home? A lawn mower robot.

Queue the “get off my lawn” jokes.

iRobot today introduced the Terra robot lawn mower, which features “state-of-the-art mapping and navigation technologies, high-performance, high-quality mowing, and easy installation.” It is arguably easier for a robot to mow a lawn than clean a house, but the company is still starting off cautiously — the iRobot Terra robot mower will be available for sale in Germany and as part of a beta program in the U.S. sometime later this year. iRobot said it would share more specific availability and pricing at a later date.

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Dangle no more: Window-washing drone for towers could replace human cleaners

I’m Drones are edging evermore into the workplace, transforming the way jobs are done and enabling companies to save time, improve safety, and cut costs all at the same time.

Take this enormous window-washing drone. Built by Latvia-based Aerones, the machine aims to replace those human-operated cradles you’ve seen dangling on the side of huge towers.

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