General Dynamics has developed the Knifefish, a drone submarine that can hunt for mines for the Navy via sonar. At a length of 19 ft. long and a weight of 3,000 lbs., the sub is released by a Littoral Combat Ship (LCS.) It was on display recently at the Navy League's Sea, Air, Space Conference in National Harbor, MD. Due to be in use by 2017, so far the fishbot must return to the LCS to upload any information found.
Virginia Tech researchers, in conjunction with other universities, created a robotic jellyfish that can be powered by sea water. Commissioned by the U.S. Navy, the robojelly mimics movements of its living counterpart by allowing water in, closing up to push it back out, resulting in a jet that propels it. Made mostly of silicon, its artificial muscles have a shape-memory alloy that helps it return to its original form. Environmentally friendly, possible usage could be in surveillance and environmental monitoring.
Check out Harry's Law latest airing as it featured the use of mini-drones to spy on people in the U.S., a topic that we wrote about last month. Anyone who watches primetime knows that writers like to pepper episodes with a smattering of facts tossed in for effect. Catch last nite's episode on NBC's site.
Here's a thought. Suppose a wireless network could be set up in areas where the internet and social network access is not allowed so that activists and rebels could let the outside in? Suppose no more. Electronic Countermeasures was created by Liam Young and London based Tomorrow's Thoughts Today.
The idea is that UAVs establish temporary networks literally on the fly. The best part of it all is that they could be utilized wirelessly with mobile devices so that no connection is needed. This pirate interweb could be moved around with autonomous drones wherever and whenever needed. Kudos to the group and others like it that seek the truth and a way to make it public.
The U. S. Navy has been developing a firefighter for its fleet based on Virginia Tech's CHARLI-L1. NRL is in charge of the project that also involves the University of Penn. The Shipboard Autonomous Firefighting Robot will be able to sense a fire with the use of sensors and an IR camera can shoot through smoke. Made autonomous with the assistance of algorithms, it will work in small spaces or on ladderways and be capable of throwing extinguishing grenades at its target. SAFFiR can work for up to 30 minutes per charge and can move in all directions while balancing even in rough seas. Testing should occur onboard the ex-USS Shadwell in September 2013.
Boston Dynamics has come a long ways since Big Dog. Their latest accomplishment is Cheetah, a robotic creature that just broke a speed record at 18 mph, beating out MIT's 13.1 mph made in 1989. Running on a treadmill and powered by a hydraulic pump, the feline bot's movements are based on the real thing and it increases its pace by flexing and unflexing its back with each step. Funded by DARPA and geared eventually for the military, BD is planning on making it free-running and taking it into the real world later this year.
Plans for allowing US military drones to invade our airspace have been finalized. Congress passed legislation and President Obama signed the law that allows the FAA to govern the skies. Within 90 days police, firefighters and other first response agencies will begin flying UAVs weighing less than 4.4 pounds with certain restrictions. By May 2013, drones weighing less than 55 pounds will be allowed and full integration will occur by Sept. 2015.
At that time rules will be set as to where they can fly and a bandwidth for UAV radio communications will be set. Gretchen West, Executive VP for the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International trade group promises that they will be used for "law enforcement, to monitor traffic, for search and rescue and to track suspects," not widespread surveillance.
With inspiration from actual pop-up storybooks, some Harvard scientists can almost literally build a hive of robotic bees. The Mobees (Monolithic Bees) can be mass produced from sheets of carbon fiber, plastic film, titanium brass and ceramic and laser cut into a sheet of 18 layers with flexible hinges. They can then be "popped up" into 3D, 2.4mm tall bots. Just like their living counterparts, they are autonomous and can interact as a colony. Because they can be mass produced quickly, do not be surprised if someday you find them in a neighborhood or war near you.
A group of experts who come from Sydney University, have created a robot that is being used to test troops who may run into terrorists. Sent to a Marine base in Virginia's Quantico, The Marathon Targets are trained to "think" and because they are autonomous, flee as fast as a human if one of their group is shot. They even have enough smarts to seek shelter. The company received a $57 million contract with the USMC after showing its lifelike armored-plated T2 prototype. They also have another Terrorbot with four wheels for use in rough terrain.
Boston Dynamics BigDog now has a sidekick. PETMAN is a two-legged 6 ft. tall bot that can walk, perform squats and do pushups should the need arise. Probably available next year, it has been going through tests of chemical warfare agents, maneuvers in a suit, generates heat and sweats like a human. We are just grateful that they haven't taken the next step and added an evil Terminator head to its robotic body.