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Here's What It Takes to Fly a Drone on Mount Everest

WIRED

On the morning of July 10, 2018, a cook at K2 Base Camp in Pakistan was looking through his binoculars toward Broad Peak when he spotted something that looked like a body about 2,000 feet below the summit. The cook shared his discovery with Bartek Bargiel and his brother Andrzrej, members of a Polish expedition hoping to make the first ski descent of K2, the world's second-highest mountain. At first, the Poles thought they were looking at a corpse. But after more careful study they realized that it was a man in distress, clinging to the side of the mountain with an ice axe. There was no communication between the teams in the two separate base camps, so the Poles immediately dispatched one of their teammates, who took off running to the other camp, which was five miles down-glacier.


Autonomous Drone Racing with Deep Reinforcement Learning

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

In many robotic tasks, such as drone racing, the goal is to travel through a set of waypoints as fast as possible. A key challenge for this task is planning the minimum-time trajectory, which is typically solved by assuming perfect knowledge of the waypoints to pass in advance. The resulting solutions are either highly specialized for a single-track layout, or suboptimal due to simplifying assumptions about the platform dynamics. In this work, a new approach to minimum-time trajectory generation for quadrotors is presented. Leveraging deep reinforcement learning and relative gate observations, this approach can adaptively compute near-time-optimal trajectories for random track layouts. Our method exhibits a significant computational advantage over approaches based on trajectory optimization for non-trivial track configurations. The proposed approach is evaluated on a set of race tracks in simulation and the real world, achieving speeds of up to 17 m/s with a physical quadrotor.


Drones With 'Most Advanced AI Ever' Coming Soon To Your Local Police Department

#artificialintelligence

Three years ago, Customs and Border Protection placed an order for self-flying aircraft that could launch on their own, rendezvous, locate and monitor multiple targets on the ground without any human intervention. In its reasoning for the order, CBP said the level of monitoring required to secure America's long land borders from the sky was too cumbersome for people alone. To research and build the drones, CBP handed $500,000 to Mitre Corp., a trusted nonprofit Skunk Works that was already furnishing border police with prototype rapid DNA testing and smartwatch hacking technology. They were "tested but not fielded operationally" as "the gap from simulation to reality turned out to be much larger than the research team originally envisioned," a CBP spokesperson says. This year, America's border police will test automated drones from Skydio, the Redwood City, Calif.-based startup that on Monday announced it had raised an additional $170 million in venture funding at a valuation of $1 billion. That brings the total raised for Skydio to $340 million.



Drones With 'Most Advanced AI Ever' Coming Soon To Your Local Police Department

#artificialintelligence

Three years ago, Customs and Border Protection placed an order for self-flying aircraft that could launch on their own, rendezvous, locate and monitor multiple targets on the ground without any human intervention. In its reasoning for the order, CBP said the level of monitoring required to secure America's long land borders from the sky was too cumbersome for people alone. To research and build the drones, CBP handed $500,000 to Mitre Corp., a trusted nonprofit Skunk Works that was already furnishing border police with prototype rapid DNA testing and smartwatch hacking technology. They were "tested but not fielded operationally" as "the gap from simulation to reality turned out to be much larger than the research team originally envisioned," a CBP spokesperson says. This year, America's border police will test automated drones from Skydio, the Redwood City, Calif.-based startup that on Monday announced it had raised an additional $170 million in venture funding at a valuation of $1 billion. That brings the total raised for Skydio to $340 million.


Drones With 'Most Advanced AI Ever' Coming Soon To Your Local Police Department

#artificialintelligence

Three years ago, Customs and Border Protection placed an order for self-flying aircraft that could launch on their own, rendezvous, locate and monitor multiple targets on the ground without any human intervention. In its reasoning for the order, CBP said the level of monitoring required to secure America's long land borders from the sky was too cumbersome for people alone. To research and build the drones, CBP handed $500,000 to Mitre Corp., a trusted nonprofit Skunk Works that was already furnishing border police with prototype rapid DNA testing and smartwatch hacking technology. They were "tested but not fielded operationally" as "the gap from simulation to reality turned out to be much larger than the research team originally envisioned," a CBP spokesperson says. This year, America's border police will test automated drones from Skydio, the Redwood City, Calif.-based startup that on Monday announced it had raised an additional $170 million in venture funding at a valuation of $1 billion.


Machine Learning-Based Automated Design Space Exploration for Autonomous Aerial Robots

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

Building domain-specific architectures for autonomous aerial robots is challenging due to a lack of systematic methodology for designing onboard compute. We introduce a novel performance model called the F-1 roofline to help architects understand how to build a balanced computing system for autonomous aerial robots considering both its cyber (sensor rate, compute performance) and physical components (body-dynamics) that affect the performance of the machine. We use F-1 to characterize commonly used learning-based autonomy algorithms with onboard platforms to demonstrate the need for cyber-physical co-design. To navigate the cyber-physical design space automatically, we subsequently introduce AutoPilot. This push-button framework automates the co-design of cyber-physical components for aerial robots from a high-level specification guided by the F-1 model. AutoPilot uses Bayesian optimization to automatically co-design the autonomy algorithm and hardware accelerator while considering various cyber-physical parameters to generate an optimal design under different task level complexities for different robots and sensor framerates. As a result, designs generated by AutoPilot, on average, lower mission time up to 2x over baseline approaches, conserving battery energy.


DARPA CODE Autonomy Engine Demonstrated on Avenger UAS

#artificialintelligence

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) has demonstrated the DARPA-developed Collaborative Operations in Denied Environment (CODE) autonomy engine on the company's Avenger Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS). CODE was used in order to gain further understanding of cognitive Artificial Intelligence (AI) processing on larger UAS platforms for air-to-air targeting. Using a network-enabled Tactical Targeting Network Technology (TTNT) radio for mesh network mission communications, GA-ASI was able to demonstrate integration of emerging Advanced Tactical Data Links (ATDL), as well as separation between flight and mission critical systems. During the autonomous flight, CODE software controlled the manoeuvring of the Avenger UAS for over two hours without human pilot input. GA-ASI extended the base software behavioural functions for a coordinated air-to-air search with up to six aircraft, using five virtual aircraft for the purposes of the demonstration.


Deep Learning based Multi-Modal Sensing for Tracking and State Extraction of Small Quadcopters

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

This paper proposes a multi-sensor based approach to detect, track, and localize a quadcopter unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). Specifically, a pipeline is developed to process monocular RGB and thermal video (captured from a fixed platform) to detect and track the UAV in our FoV. Subsequently, a 2D planar lidar is used to allow conversion of pixel data to actual distance measurements, and thereby enable localization of the UAV in global coordinates. The monocular data is processed through a deep learning-based object detection method that computes an initial bounding box for the UAV. The thermal data is processed through a thresholding and Kalman filter approach to detect and track the bounding box. Training and testing data are prepared by combining a set of original experiments conducted in a motion capture environment and publicly available UAV image data. The new pipeline compares favorably to existing methods and demonstrates promising tracking and localization capacity of sample experiments.


Amazon reduces the size of its delivery drone team

Engadget

Amazon has confirmed that it is laying off a number of people working on its internal drone delivery project. The Financial Times reported that the mega-retailer had opted to shrink its internal team in favor of using external contractors to complete the work. The report's anonymous sources said that executives were frustrated at the speed of progress, leading to the change in strategy. The first two companies to sign up are FACC Aerospace from Austria and Aernnova Aerospace from Spain, which are both component manufacturers. Reportedly, other businesses are expected to sign up in the near future, as Amazon tries to push Prime Air closer to reality.