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FAA approves first commercial drone flights with no on-site pilots

Engadget

Farms and other agricultural operations in certain rural areas in the US can now use robotic drones to take images of or gather data on their crops. The FAA has approved Massachusetts-based American Robotics' request to be able to deploy automated drones without human pilots and spotters on site. As The Wall Street Journal notes, commercial drone flights typically require the physical presence of licensed pilots making them a costly undertaking. AR's machine eliminates the need for on-site personnel, though each automated flight will still need to be overseen by a remote human pilot. According to the relevant documents (via The Verge) the FAA has uploaded on its website, the pilot "who is not co-located with the aircraft" will have to conduct pre-flight safety checks to ensure the drone is in working condition.


FAA approves first fully-automated commercial drone flights (with a catch)

Mashable

You can officially claim autonomous commercial drones for your 2021 bingo card. On Friday, Massachusetts-based industrial drone developer American Robotics announced it had received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to operate its fully-automated "Scout" drones without any humans on-site. It's the first waiver of its kind, as the FAA has previously approved the use of autonomous commercial drones exclusively under the condition that human observers be present along the flight path -- or that risk of collision be mitigated through otherwise hyper-strict limitations. Advocates of drone technology say those restrictions have long held the industry back. "Decades worth of promise and projection are finally coming to fruition," CEO and co-founder of American Robotics Reese Mozer said in a press release.


NASA declares the Mars InSight digger dead after two years

Mashable

NASA announced on Thursday that a "mole" on Mars has ended its mission after landing on the Red Planet nearly two years ago. The mole -- also called a digger, drill, and probe -- was built by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and deployed by NASA's InSight lander. Its purpose was to drill 16 feet into Martian soil to take its temperature and...well, it never managed to do that. The digger had drilled down merely 14 inches before getting stuck in the first month of its mission. Months later in Oct. 2019, NASA engineers made a plan to put the digger back on track by using a robotic scoop to help refill the 14 inches and support the digger in its next attempt at burrowing down 16 feet.


FAA Approves Fully Automated Commercial Drone Flights

WSJ.com: WSJD - Technology

U.S. aviation regulators have approved the first fully automated commercial drone flights, granting a small Massachusetts-based company permission to operate drones without hands-on piloting or direct observation by human controllers or observers. The decision by the Federal Aviation Administration limits operation of automated drones to rural areas and altitudes below 400 feet, but is a potentially significant step in expanding commercial applications of drones for farmers, utilities, mining companies and other customers. It also represents another step in the FAA's broader effort to authorize widespread flights by shifting away from case-by-case exemptions for specific vehicles performing specific tasks. In approval documents posted on a government website Thursday, the FAA said that once such automated drone operations are conducted on a wider scale, they could mean "efficiencies to many of the industries that fuel our economy such as agriculture, mining, transportation" and certain manufacturing segments. The FAA previously allowed drones to inspect railroad tracks, pipelines and some industrial sites beyond the sight of pilots or spotters on the ground as long as such individuals were located relatively close by.


Bumble disabled its politics filter after it was used to out Capitol rioters

Engadget

The dating app Bumble has disabled its politics filter after it was supposedly used to reveal the identities of Capitol rioters, Mashable has reported. Bumble support posted on Twitter that it "temporarily removed our politics filter to prevent misuse," adding that it "prohibits any content that promotes terrorism or racial hatred." Bumble has promised in another tweet that it will "be reinstated in the future." It also stated that it has removed users confirmed as participants in the US Capitol attack. We've temporarily removed our politics filter to prevent misuse.


NASA abandons InSight mission to crack the surface of Mars

Engadget

NASA has been forced to end its mission to drill down into the Martian soil after its unique geology proved too much for the InSight lander. The InSight probe was equipped with a probe -- dubbed the Mole -- which was going to drill up to 10 feet into the ground. However, the agency said that the soil's "unexpected tendency to clump" meant that the drill could never get enough purchase to function properly. It's the end of a long saga that began at the start of 2019 when the properties of Mars' soil proved tough to crack. After plenty of trial-and-error, and some help from InSight's robotic arm, the hardware only managed to reach a few centimeters into the ground.


AI-Powered Text From This Program Could Fool the Government

WIRED

In October 2019, Idaho proposed changing its Medicaid program. The state needed approval from the federal government, which solicited public feedback via Medicaid.gov. But half came not from concerned citizens or even internet trolls. They were generated by artificial intelligence. And a study found that people could not distinguish the real comments from the fake ones.


NASA gives up trying to burrow under Mars surface with 'mole' probe

New Scientist

NASA's "mole" on Mars has failed. After nearly two years of attempting to dig the InSight lander's heat probe – nicknamed the mole – into the Red Planet's surface, engineers have finally given up. The InSight lander arrived on Mars in November 2018. Its main purpose is to study the planet's deep interior in order to help us understand the history of the solar system's rocky worlds. The lander has three main instruments to help it do that: a seismometer to catch vibrations travelling through the ground, a radio to precisely measure Mars's rotation and learn more about its metal core and a setup called the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) to measure the heat flowing out of the planet's centre.


The White House Launches the National Artificial Intelligence Initiative Office

#artificialintelligence

For the past 4 years, the Trump Administration has been committed to strengthening American leadership in artificial intelligence (AI). After recognizing the strategic importance of AI to the Nation's future economy and security, the Trump Administration issued the first ever national AI strategy, committed to doubling AI research investment, established the first-ever national AI research institutes, released the world's first AI regulatory guidance, forged new international AI alliances, and established guidance for Federal use of AI. Building upon this critical foundation, today the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) established the National Artificial Intelligence Initiative Office, further accelerating our efforts to ensure America's leadership in this critical field for years to come. The Office is charged with overseeing and implementing the United States national AI strategy and will serve as the central hub for Federal coordination and collaboration in AI research and policymaking across the government, as well as with private sector, academia, and other stakeholders. The National AI Initiative Office is established in accordance with the recently passed National Artificial Intelligence Initiative Act of 2020.


Global Big Data Conference

#artificialintelligence

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), more than 80% of the ocean "remains unmapped, unobserved, and unexplored" – despite constituting more than 70% of the planet's surface. Now, a pair of Navy veterans are looking to change that with a line of autonomous robot vehicles that will plunge the ocean's depths in search of big data for the company's clients. "The company really started when Joe [Wolfel] and I first got together, which was back in 2004," said Judson Kauffman, who shares the CEO role with Wolfel, in an interview with Datanami. "We met in [Navy] SEAL training together, and ended up being assigned the same unit, and then went into combat together and became very close friends. There, they developed the idea for Terradepth, which "stemmed from some knowledge that we gained in the Navy" – really, Kauffman said, "just of how ignorant humanity is of what's underwater, what's in the sea." "It was shocking to learn how little we know, how little the U.S. Navy knew," he continued – and the more they dug into the issue after their time in the Navy, the more surprised they were.