Apple and Amazon were passed over in a program spearheaded by the Trump administration that would have given them a greater say in how the drone industry is regulated. On Wednesday, the US Transportation Department announced 10 winning drone pilot projects that will help more unmanned aerial vehicles take to the skies. Among the winners were Silicon Valley tech giants Google, Intel, Qualcomm and Microsoft. However, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said there are'no losers' and she thinks dozens of the applicants not chosen could be greenlighted by the FAA in the coming months. Selected winners will be able to conduct experimental drone flights that are beyond the rules outlined by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
A quick, hassle-free way to stay on top of robotics news, our robotics digest is released on the first Monday of every month. Sign up to get it in your inbox. February is only just gone, and already 2017 is shaping up to be a year full of big ideas and ambitions. The Future of Life Institute, for example, just published the Asilomar AI principles: 23 guidelines to ensure AI developments are beneficial to humanity. They are calling for shared responsibility and caution against an AI arms race.
A brood of sidewalk drones could be rolling around the nation's capital within a year, if a District of Columbia Council member has her way. Executives from Starship Technologies, with roots in Estonia and London, say their goal is to unleash a platoon of "smart, friendly robots" that will ply sidewalks along with pedestrians to make local deliveries of groceries or small packages "almost free." The company is led by Skype co-founders Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis, and launched the effort in November. Councilwoman Mary Cheh and company officials sought to make a splash by promising one of the squat vehicles on Wednesday would deliver legislation to the council authorizing self-driving delivery robots. The little white device, which looks like an ice chest rolling on six wagon wheels, did indeed scoot its way into Council Secretary Nyasha Smith's office with the three-page bill in its compartment and reporters on its tail.
From crop dusting to package delivery, commercial drones are about to become a part of everyday life. "Just in the last 18 months, we've registered twice as many unmanned aircraft (as) we registered all aircraft from the previous 100 years," said Earl Lawrence, director of the Federal Aviation Administration's Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Office. To safely integrate the vast numbers of new unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into the nation's airspace, the FAA is relying on a group of 23 research institutions led by Mississippi State University. The Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence (ASSURE) is conducting in-depth studies on virtually every aspect of drone operations, including air traffic control, pilot certification and crash avoidance. "What happens when a drone hits a wing or a windshield or any other part of the aircraft is (one) of our key questions," Lawrence said.
Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your Automaton bloggers. We'll also be posting a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next two months; here's what we have so far (send us your events!): Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today's videos. The 2016 U.S. Robotics Roadmap was released this week; it's a massive document authored by 150 roboticists that's intended to help frame and guide research and policy decisions with the goal of solving societal problems in the United States. We'll be taking a closer look at it, but here's a 30-minute summary from lead editor Henrik Christensen: The legged robot ANYmal can support disaster relief teams with safer search and rescue operations.