Marco Pavone is leading a team at the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Stanford that are developing robotic hedgehogs to study the Martian moon Phobos. The half meter wide rolling bots will autonomously hop and tumble in 10 meter moves on the surface. Working with NASA and MIT, the 3 year mission includes a Phobos Surveyor that will act as mother ship for up to 6 of the hedge bots while orbiting around Mars and collect data from them that can be sent back to Earth. There is no official ok for the project but the participants are hoping it will occur in the next 20 years.
A team at Darwin Aerospace must have been too busy to stop working when they came up with the idea of the Burrito Bomber. The idea here is to order a burrito via an app while your phone sends your location. A burrito is loaded into a Delivery Tube which is flown and dropped to you.
They used a SkyWalker X8 Flying Wing with Ardupilot to navigate. The Burrito gets dropped with the help of a Quantum RTR Bomb System, a 3" diameter mailing tube, and 3D printed parts.The plane works either manually or autonomously. They utilize a Futaba 9C controller and EzUHF transmitter. Full instructions on their site means that you can make your own Burrito Bomber.
Before this, the team concentrated on air and space exploration projects so perhaps this latest one with bring them enough PR to garner them some backing for future ideas. Imagine a fleet of pizza delivery saucers!
Last November, Liquid Robotics launched 4 Wave Gliders from San Francisco, CA. After a 9,000 mile trek, two arrived in Japan and two in Australia. One of them, Papa Mua, broke a Guinness World Record for the longest distance traveled by a robot. The project was designed to show how these water bots can gather data and travel at the same time.
A second purpose for the trek is to draw attention to a $50,000 research grant for the roboticist that can come up with the best way to utilize that knowledge. Head over to their site to see what the five finalists have to offer.
Japanese researchers discovered and published images taken by one of their satellites orbiting the Moon about 3 years ago. It depicted a large hole below the surface. Enter William 'Red' Whittaker, a robotics expert that has been testing a bot in a defunct coal mine near his home in Pennsylvania. His 4-wheeled Cave Crawler is still a prototype at this point but NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) is funding the project to turn it into a reality by 2015.
Researchers from Georgia Tech have used a dragonfly as a basis for a micro UAV. The four-winged TechJect is small enough to fit in a palm but has the capability to be used as a quadricopter, helicopter and fixed wing aircraft. Four years of research and development went into the project with $1 million dollars worth of funding from the Air Force and some from Indiegogo. The 6" long insectbot weighs 0.88 oz. it can be flown by RC or an iPad, smartphone or computer.
It seems that one of the unsung heroes of Sandy was Mercury, a wave glider from Liquid Robotic that was in the Atlantic, about a hundred miles east of Toms River, New Jersey. While the Frankenstorm did its worst, the intrepid service bot not only kept floating, it reported a 54.3 millabar drop in pressure. It continued to report the barometric pressure every ten minutes and is out there still.
The Chiba Institute of Technology has been working on a robotic wheelchair with 4-wheel drive that can be lifted off the ground and "walk" up stairs while remaining steady with onboard stabilizers. It has the ability to turn 360º, can be controlled by a joystick and has sensors imbedded for dealing with obstacles. The chair is still a prototype at this stage and will undergo trials before meeting the public.
A declassified document was recently found in the National Archives that featured a VTOK aircraft that was being built for the Canadian government in 1952 by Avro Aircraft until they found it too expensive. In 1955, the U.S. Army and Air Force decided to pick up the tab on the vehicle that had a wing span of 18 ft., a height of 4 ft. 10-inches and a weight of 4,620 lbs.. The ultimate goal was to build a hovercraft capable of reaching a speed of Mach 4 (2,880 mph) and a height of 100,000 feet (19 miles.)
Needless to say, the project was scrapped in 1961 when a model of the VZ-9AV Avrocar with turbojet engines uncontrollably rolled when tested above 3 feet and only hit a speed of 35 mph. The vehicle is now in the USAF's National Museum where all can lament its demise or appreciate it as a fine example of military intelligence during the Cold War.
We gave up eating tuna decades ago because dolphins were also getting caught in the nets. The Department of Home Security came up with their own fish that you cannot eat and should be smart enough to avoid getting trapped. The BIOSwimmer can be used to inspect interiors of ships and exteriors of harbors. Check out the first few seconds of the video to catch the tunabot in action. This was made a couple of years ago so it must be really impressive by now.
In an effort to show that they were a proud sponsor of the Olympics 2012, BMW utilized some oversized RC Mini Coopers to clean the field of wayward discuses, hammers and javelins. Built to scale, they are not exactly a toy that you can bring home, but maybe this 1/14 Mini will suffice as a means of cleaning up discarded socks, empty beer cans and assorted dust bunnies.
It's sometimes difficult to imagine good weather in outer space, but it seems that Mom Nature provided just that for the landing of Curiosity. It took eight months and 350 million miles to make it to Mars this morning after "seven minutes of terror." It then sent a signal via NASA's Odyssey orbiter because Earth was beneath Mars' horizon.
For the next two years the rover will climb up Mount Sharp to study clay and sulfate and see if conditions are favorable for supporting microbial life (unless the Martians object.)
The search continues to find the location of Amelia Earhart's plane after finding an old photograph of Nikumaroro Island in the Republic of Kiribati with something "suspicious-looking" in the water. PIH's autonomous Bluefin Robotics 21 will be searching in the area by means of multi-beam sonar. A second dive will involve black and white photography with the team collecting data, replacing batteries and reprogramming when needed.
Finally, a TRV 005 robot with manipulating arms made by Submersible Systems will try for close-up views with a high-def video camera to be controlled by a human on the surface ship. The project is being funded by TIGHAR's (International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery) after raising almost $2.2 million from various sources, including the U.S. State Department and private companies. They believe that Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan may have landed on a reef of a coral atoll. FedEx even got into the act by helping deliver bots and equipment to the area.
The expedition will begin July 2 from Honolulu when the Hawaiian research vessel Ka'Imikai-o-Kanaloa departs. The date marks the 75th anniversary of Earhart's disappearance. You can help the project out by donating and/or purchasing collectibles from TIGHAR before it begins.
The U.S. Air Force's X-37B returned to Earth this past Saturday after being in orbit for over 15 months. Originally part of NASA as an experimental project, when funding ran out DARPA got custody. They passed it on to the Air Force in 2006. The robotic plane, aka Orbital Test Vehicle-2, performed "on-orbit experiments" and there is much speculation as to why its purpose is so hush-hush.
Some say it could be a dreaded space weapon while others believe it might be used for spying. The AF contends that it is simply "to put experiments in space and bring them back and check out the technologies,"
We would like to think it had a much more exotic part in the grand scheme of things, such as alien communication or practicing for the time when robotic takeover forces us to leave our mother Earth. Regardless of its usage, the next flight should be later this year when the first X-37B takes the OTV-1 into the final frontier.
The ASV Roboat will be setting sail on July 9. The robotic sailboat created in 2006 will go to the Baltic Sea and have to travel for about 100 hours over 150 nautical miles, breaking the previous record of 78.9 miles. Solar panels control most of the power along with a backup methanol fuel cell. It features multiple sensors, runs by WLAN, UMTS/GPRS and communicates via an IRIDIUM satellite communication system. Roboats builders INNOC sees their vessel being used as an early warning systems for tsunamis, oil spill clean-up and oceanographic measurements.