This growing season, crop researchers at the Univ. of Illinois are experimenting with the use of drones—unmanned aerial vehicles—on the university’s South Farms. Dennis Bowman, a crop sciences educator with U. of I. Extension, is using two drones to take aerial pictures of crops growing in research plots on the farms.
One of the reasons we don’t yet have self-driving cars and miniature helicopters delivering online purchases is that autonomous vehicles tend not to perform well under pressure. A system that can flawlessly parallel park at 5 mph may have trouble avoiding obstacles at 35 mph. Part of the problem is the time it takes to produce and interpret camera data.
At this year’s IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, a research team introduced a new wrinkle on the idea of printable robots: bakable robots. In two new papers, the researchers demonstrate the promise of printable robotic components that, when heated, automatically fold into prescribed 3-D configurations.
Automated guided vehicles—or AGVs—are robotic versions of draft animals, hauling heavy loads and navigating their way in factories, distribution centers, ports and other facilities. These modern beasts of burden are evolving so rapidly in capabilities and electronic intelligence that the need for the equivalent of standardized performance testing has become apriority for the fast-growing AGV industry and its customers.
Scientists from the Biorobotics Laboratory (BIOROB) at EPFL in Switzerland have developed small robotic modules that can change their shape to create reconfigurable furniture. Like Lego bricks, these robotic pieces, or Roombots, can be stacked upon each other to create various structures. Each piece has three motors that allow the module to pivot with three degrees of freedom, and each also has a battery and wireless connection.
Titan Aerospace, a maker of solar-powered drones, has been purchased by Google, which says it could help bring Internet access to remote parts of the world. Titan's atmospheric satellites, which are still in development and not yet commercially available, can stay in the air for as long as five years. Titan's website has cited a wide range of uses for the drones.
If the wreckage of a missing Malaysian airliner rests somewhere in the Indian Ocean's depths, then investigators will likely need to entrust the hunt at least partly to robot submarines and the scientists who deploy them to scan remote swaths of the seafloor. Such unmanned subs played a critical role in locating the carcass of a lost Air France jet in 2011, two years after it crashed in the middle of the south Atlantic.
The European Mars rover unveiled Thursday at a "Mars Yard" testing ground in Britain is designed to drill beneath the surface of the Red Planet searching for signs of life. It's been dubbed “Bryan” by its creators, and the plan is to send it to Mars in 2018 as part of the European Space Agency's ExoMars program, an ambitious plan that begins in 2016 with the launch of a Mars orbiter and demonstrator landing module.
When life on Earth was first getting started, simple molecules bonded together into the precursors of modern genetic material. A catalyst would’ve been needed, but enzymes had not yet evolved. One theory is that the catalytic minerals on a meteorite’s surface could have jump-started life’s first chemical reactions. But scientists need a way to directly analyze these rough, irregularly shaped surfaces.
The Atlantic razor clam uses very little energy to burrow into undersea soil at high speed. Now a detailed insight into how the animal digs has led to the development of a robotic clam that can perform the same trick. The device, known as “RoboClam,” could be used to dig itself into the ground to bury anchors or destroy underwater mines.
Soft robots have become a sufficiently popular research topic that they now have their own journal, Soft Robotics. In the first issue of that journal, Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers report the first self-contained autonomous soft robot capable of rapid body motion: a “fish” that can execute an escape maneuver, convulsing its body to change direction in just a fraction of a second, or almost as quickly as a real fish can.
Driving behavior is a key factor that is often insufficiently accounted for in computational models that gauge the dynamic characteristics of vehicles. Researchers in Germany have developed a new driving simulator designed to make the “human factor“ more calculable for vehicle engineers.
Inspired by the termites’ resilience and collective intelligence, a team of computer scientists and engineers at Harvard Univ. has created an autonomous robotic construction crew. The system needs no supervisor, no eye in the sky and no communication. Exhibiting a swarm-like intelligence, these robots, in any number, can cooperate simply by modifying their environment.
Writing a program to control a single autonomous robot navigating an uncertain environment with an erratic communication link is hard enough; write one for multiple robots that may or may not have to work in tandem, depending on the task, is even harder. As a consequence, engineers designing control programs for multiagent systems have restricted themselves to special cases. Until now.
Researchers have introduced a unique microrobotic technique to assemble the components of complex materials, the foundation of tissue engineering and 3-D printing. Tissue engineering and 3-D printing have become vitally important to the future of medicine for many reasons. The shortage of available organs for transplantation, for example, leaves many patients on waiting lists for life-saving treatment.
Several hundred ants have boldly gone where no ants have gone before: the International Space Station (ISS), high above Earth. An unmanned supply rocket delivered 600 small black common pavement ants to the ISS. Their arrival marked the beginning of an experiment designed by a team at Stanford Univ. to determine how the ants, in these exotic surroundings, adapt the innate algorithms that modulate their group behavior.
The alien world of aquatic microorganisms just got new residents: synthetic self-propelled swimming bio-bots. A team of engineers has developed a class of tiny bio-hybrid machines that swim like sperm, the first synthetic structures that can traverse the viscous fluids of biological environments on their own.
Expectations are high for RoboEarth, a new European-funded system to speed the development of human-serving robots. Scientists from five major European technical universities have gathered in the Netherlands this week for its launch and to demonstrate possible applications. The first: the deceptively simple task of delivering a glass of milk to a patient in a mock-up hospital room.
North Carolina State Univ. researchers have used silver nanowires to develop wearable, multi-functional sensors that could be used in biomedical, military or athletic applications, including new prosthetics, robotic systems and flexible touch panels. The sensors can measure strain, pressure, human touch and bioelectronic signals such as electrocardiograms.
Using arm sensors that can read a person’s muscle movements, Georgia Institute of Technology researchers have created a control system that makes robots more intelligent. The sensors send information to the robot, allowing it to anticipate a human’s movements and correct its own. The system is intended to improve time, safety and efficiency in manufacturing plants.
The real world has not caught up yet with "Star Wars" and its talking, thinking robots, but some of the most sophisticated units that exist are heading to Florida this week for a Defense Department-sponsored competition. Seventeen humanoid robots will be evaluated Friday and Saturday for how well they can complete tasks including driving an all-terrain vehicle and opening doors.
Although researchers have determined the ages of rocks from other planetary bodies, the actual experiments have been done on Earth. Now, for the first time, researchers have successfully determined the age of a Martian rock with experiments performed on Mars. The work could not only help in understanding the geologic history of Mars but also aid in the search for evidence of ancient life on the planet.
The Titan Arm, a robotic device invented by Univ. of Pennsylvania engineering students, looks and sounds like part of a superhero's costume. But its creators say it's designed for ordinary people—those who need either physical rehabilitation or a little extra muscle for their job. The arm can help its wearer carry an additional 40 pounds.
A researcher team from Spain and Italy say that when envisioning in vivo microrobots of the future, we should forget cogwheels, pistons and levers. These miniature robots will be soft, and behave much like euglenids, tiny unicellular aquatic animals. Their work in studying these creatures have given them insights on how to design soft robots with effective mechanical structures.
The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL)'s Acoustics Div., with Bluefin Robotics, executed a record setting 507 km (315 mile), long-endurance autonomy research mission using its heavyweight-class mine countermeasures autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), Reliant. NRL's Reliant AUV, when equipped with a low-frequency broadband sonar system, is perhaps best known as the prototype for the new U.S. Navy Knifefish mine-hunter.