Just a week after it was announced, Google's new AI ethics board is already in trouble. The board, founded to guide "responsible development of AI" at Google, would have had eight members and met four times over the course of 2019 to consider concerns about Google's AI program. Those concerns include how AI can enable authoritarian states, how AI algorithms produce disparate outcomes, whether to work on military applications of AI, and more. Of the eight people listed in Google's initial announcement, one (privacy researcher Alessandro Acquisti) has announced on Twitter that he won't serve, and two others are the subject of petitions calling for their removal -- Kay Coles James, president of the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank, and Dyan Gibbens, CEO of drone company Trumbull Unmanned. Thousands of Google employees have signed onto the petition calling for James's removal.
The plant, which is also known as "Wood's hau kuahiwi" and was thought to be extinct, is apparently still around and possibly even flourishing in its native Hawaii. Researchers for the National Tropical Botanical Garden on the island of Kauai made the discovery with a little help from a drone. Three of the plants were spotted in footage captured by a drone that was sent out to explore Kalalau Valley. The remote region of Kauai is known for its biodiversity, thanks to cliffs that make the region inaccessible to the humans and goats that pose a threat to local plant life. You can see the NTBG's drone footage below, and see the plant itself (clearly marked) at roughly the halfway point.
During the past 50 years, the frequency of recorded natural disasters has surged nearly five-fold. In this blog, I'll be exploring how converging exponential technologies (AI, robotics, drones, sensors, networks) are transforming the future of disaster relief--how we can prevent them in the first place and get help to victims during that first golden hour wherein immediate relief can save lives. When it comes to immediate and high-precision emergency response, data is gold. Already, the meteoric rise of space-based networks, stratosphere-hovering balloons, and 5G telecommunications infrastructure is in the process of connecting every last individual on the planet. Aside from democratizing the world's information, however, this upsurge in connectivity will soon grant anyone the ability to broadcast detailed geo-tagged data, particularly those most vulnerable to natural disasters.
A bill to prohibit the flying of drones over Self-Defence Forces and U.S. military facilities in Japan, as well as venues for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, cleared the Lower House on Tuesday. The bill, aimed at guarding against terrorism, has sparked protests from the media over its potential disruption of newsgathering activities. Taking these into account, a House of Representatives panel added a supplementary provision to the legislation, requesting the government ensure press freedom and people's right to know. The ruling parties aim to enact the bill, an amendment to the existing law on drones, during the current Diet session through June. The legislation also bans drones from flying over venues for this year's Rugby World Cup.
The drone attack that brought Gatwick airport to a standstill last December could have been an "inside job", according to police, who said the perpetrator may have been operating the drone from within the airport. Sussex police told BBC Panorama that the fact an insider may have been behind the attack was "treated as a credible line of enquiry from the earliest stages of the police response". Gatwick's chief operating officer, Chris Woodroofe, believes the perpetrator was familiar with the airport's operational procedures and had a clear view of the runway or possibly infiltrated its communication network. "It was clear that the drone operators had a link into what was going on at the airport," he told Panorama, in his first interview since the incident. He said the culprit had carefully picked a drone that would remain undetected by the airport's DJI Aeroscope detection system being tested at the time.
The drone attack that caused chaos at Gatwick before Christmas was carried out by someone with knowledge of the airport's operational procedures, the airport has said. A Gatwick chief told BBC Panorama the drone's pilot "seemed to be able to see what was happening on the runway". Sussex Police told the programme the possibility an "insider" was involved was a "credible line" of inquiry. About 140,000 passengers were caught up in the disruption. The runway at the UK's second busiest airport was closed for 33 hours between 19 and 21 December last year - causing about 1,000 flights to be cancelled or delayed.
In a case of technology penetration through acquisition and investment, thermal imaging company FLIR Systems has been making an aggressive push into the military drone sector. In February, I wrote about FLIR's acquisition of Endeavor Robotic Holdings, a military defense company specializing in ground robots, for a whopping $385 million. That acquisition came shortly after FLIR acquired aerial drone company Aeryon for $200 million in January, and overnight it made FLIR a powerful player in defense robotics. Now the company has announced it has made a strategic investment in DroneBase, a global drone operations company that provides businesses access to one of the largest Unmanned Aerial Surveillance (UAS) pilot networks. FLIR will be the exclusive provider of thermal product solutions for DroneBase.
Alphabet's subsidiary Wing announced this week that it has officially launched a commercial drone delivery service "to a limited set of eligible homes in the suburbs of Crace, Palmerston and Franklin," which are just north of Canberra, in Australia. Wing's drones are able to drop a variety of small products, including coffee, food, and pharmacy items, shuttling them from local stores to customers' backyards within minutes. We've been skeptical about whether this kind of drone delivery makes sense for a long, long time, and while this is certainly a major milestone for Wing, I'm still not totally convinced that the use-cases that Wing is pushing here are going to be sustainable long term. I've still got a bunch of questions about these things. For example, does the drone have any kind of in-flight sense and avoid?
Drone deliveries have been the subject of many a flashy promo video over the years, but until now, they haven't been available for everyone to use whenever they want. That's still the case in most of the world, but one part of Australia just won the ability to get things delivered through the air. Limited drone deliveries courtesy of Wing are now available in Australia's capital city of Canberra, the drone service announced on Monday. Wing is part of Alphabet, making it one of Google's corporate siblings. At first, Wing drone deliveries will only be available in three suburbs: Palmerston, Franklin and Crace.
MOSCOW - The Russian Defense Ministry has deployed a surveillance drone to an artillery division stationed on a group of islands controlled by Russia but claimed by Japan, a Russian newspaper reported Monday. The drone will be used for patrolling coastal areas and surrounding waters, as well as for rescue operations, according to the newspaper, Izvestia. The artillery unit is stationed on two of the four Russian-controlled islands off the coast of Hokkaido, known in Japan as Etorofu and Kunashiri. The Orlan-10 drone, the same type as those sent by Russia to Syria, is able to operate within a 120-kilometer radius for up to 14 hours while transmitting images from a mounted camera, the Russian paper said.