Robotics Education Journal


In an October 30 newsbrief, the AUVSI reported that retail giant Walmart will soon deploy shelf-scanning robots in 50 stores. The robots have already been tested in Walmart outlets in Arkansas, Pennsylvania and California. The bots will cut down on employee time when restocking shelves as products run out.


A highly recommended conference panel on artificial intelligence titled “WE COME IN PEACE” was held September 14, 2017 at the Youngstown State University’s McDonough Auditorium in Youngstown, Ohio, and video recordings of presentations by the leading experts who presented at the event are now available online. You don’t want to miss these enlightening presentations!


Earlier this month, Aerovel’s Flexrotor, a long-endurance vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) unmanned aircraft, flew a 32-hour, 8-minute flight and landed with over 3 hours of fuel remaining on board, reports Aviation Week magazine. The aircraft, named Actea, took flight with 7.5 Kg of gasoline and a payload of 1.5 kg. Aerovel is refining the design to achieve a greater mean time between failures before launching production. Note that the VTOL landing gear collapse into the aft fuse during forward flight.


HitecRCD (Hitec) has been a world leader in RC model servos for over three decades, and, today, it offers a mature line of industrial actuators, as well. Since 1983, Hitec has introduced uncounted new servo features, ranging from micro-form factors that accelerated the electric flight revolution in the 1990s to fully digital magnetic position sensor technology, brushless servo motors and water-tight cases, among many other enhancements.

Hitec is also well-known for its telemetry systems and a diverse range of chargers and power system accessories. It’s 2003 acquisition of Germany’s Multiplex, given that company's sophisticated and diverse product line of RC radios and accessories, enabled the best technologies of both firms to be combined. This led to new and powerful solutions for hobby and research markets, not to mention diverse industries, worldwide.

Hitec continues to break new ground in servo technology and is leading the development of new business markets by offering innovative actuator solutions spanning agriculture, construction, military applications, municipal traffic management and planning, terrain mapping and much more. HitecRCD is a world leader in providing servos and actuators for hobby and industrial markets, and, today, offers more innovative technology in this arena than any other company we are aware of.

Consider the range in Hitec actuator capabilities, from analog to digital, with many being fully programmable. The Hitec HS-35HD UltraNano Servo for RC modelers weighs only 4.5 grams, and at a nominal operating voltage of 4.8 ~ 6.0 Volts DC, offers a maximum torque of 0.08 kg. / cm., or 11.0 oz- in. However, the Hitecnology SG29Bl industrial actuator, at 9.0 – 15Volts DC, offers a peak torque of 67.3 ~ 82.08 kg-cm, or 935 ~ 1140 oz-in.! The Hitecnology SG33BL industrial actuator, at 9.0 – 15Volts DC, offers an amazing peak torque of 110 ~ 146 kg-cm, or 1527 ~ 2027 oz-in.!


6th grade teacher Brian Cook incorporates both literature and media reports into his aeronautics curricula, all to impart a better comprehension of flight and its intellectual dimensions. Brian notes that the best learning outcomes for his students happen: “when we give kids the opportunity to become creators – bringing to life something they’ve read about in fiction or informational texts but haven’t yet experienced themselves.”

In his mission to open new horizons for his students, Brian adds, “Students were curious about these operators who were actually being paid to fly ‘toys.’ This 21st century occupation fell outside the traditional Maryland College and Career Readiness (CCR) standards, and I wanted my students prepared to consider this new career option.”


Using GPS waypoint navigation, drones in the U.K. have completed a full season farming agricultural cycle, including sowing, fertilizing, sampling and harvesting, reported This pioneering work appears to be a harbinger of the future of agriculture.


Furhat Robotics, a Swedish startup, is developing a socially interactive robot that speaks from its fur-capped animatronic head. Interacting in real-time with humans, it also projects human expressions onto its face, with a demeanor appropriate to its remarks. The team has high hopes this technology will revolutionize human-machine interface development.


Microsoft is investing in quantum computing hardware and software R&D. Microsoft plans to provide developers with tools that will allow them to experiment with the new quantum computing paradigm on their existing machines. It looks like quantum computing, decades after it was conceived, will finally be available to usher in a new era in computing that will enable researchers to address a vast new arena of potential solutions for problems in materials science, artificial intelligence, and much more.


Toronto native Garth Gibson, who has taught and researched extensively at Carnegie Mellon University, has been selected to run the Vector Institute, which specializes in artificial intelligence (AI) research. Vector’s members include Canada’s largest banks as well as Silicon Valley technology firms Alphabet Inc’s Google and Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL].


Milrem’s unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) have been newly equipped to vastly expand the situational awareness of ground troops. The Titan Sentry application brings together input from diverse sensor systems to better identify enemy locations. Additionally, the new Threod Systems unmanned system adds aerial drone capabilities to the newly expanded suite of capabilities of the TheMIS UGV.


Tuesday the 13th, ABB’s robot YuMi conducted the Lucca Philharmonic orchestra while Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli performed. The event was a highlight at the First International Festival of Robotics in the Tuscan city of PISA. “We basically had to find time to understand his movements. When we found the way, everything was pretty easy,” said the orchestra’s resident conductor, Andrea Colombini.


The AUVSI Foundation's RoboNation and the Office of Naval Research held the 2017 International RoboBoat Competition from June 20-25 at Reed Canal Park in South Daytona, FL. The National Robotics Education Foundation covered the event!


MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) has developed “interactive Robogami” that lets users create a robot design in minutes, then 3D print and assemble it in less than 4 hours. Designers plan both gait and geometry in a single design process. “Designing robots usually requires expertise that only mechanical engineers and roboticists have,” says PhD student Adriana Schulz. “What’s exciting here is that we’ve created a tool that allows a casual user to design their own robot by giving them this expert knowledge.”


In a move destined to improve the quality of healthcare, Swisslog Healthcare, a major provider of medication and supply chain management solutions, announced an investment in Savioke, developer of the Relay autonomous mobile service robot. Relay provides “fast, secure delivery with a responsive, friendly human interface for more reliable and personalized patient services.”


Tom Walker had an epiphany one day, a vision of how drones could be aggregated locally for search & rescue (SAR) purposes, to help authorities locate missing people. Walker built an application named “DroneUp” that once installed on your smartphone, allows law enforcement to notify nearby drone operators, who then make a quick decision to participate or not. DroneUp offers training to drone operators so that they can obtain commercial remote pilot certification from the FAA, which certification is required to participate as a DroneUp pilot.


The Commercial UAV Expo Americas will take place at the Westgate Resort in Las Vegas, October 24 – 26, 2017. All major market segments will be addressed in industrial robotics, including Surveying & Mapping; Civil Infrastructure; Process, Power & Utilities; Aggregates & Mining; Construction; Law Enforcement; Emergency Response & Search and Rescue (SAR); and Precision Agriculture. Over 100 exhibitors have registered as we go to press. The second of these conferences, the Commercial UAV Expo held in 2016, had 1,720 attendees from every state in the U.S., and from 46 countries worldwide. This is a rapidly growing market, and a free report assessing its growth is being given away by The Commercial UAV Expo.


Skylift is a pioneering company developing multirotor vehicles that can perform heavy lift services. Skylift’s website explains: “The global market for logistics surpassed $4 trillion in 2015. The goods we use each day are part of a complex global supply chain. The most critical part of this supply chain is the 'last mile,' comprising roughly one-quarter of the cost of everything we consume. The largest growth in logistics has come from on-demand direct delivery …over $300 billion has been earmarked for helicopter procurements over the next decade. [Until now,] no vehicle has been able to meet the primary requirements of these rising market demands.“


DJI quadcopters and hexcopters, sold globally, have been a dominant industry brand for years. Although the first to massively penetrate the worldwide drone market, DJI products have recently been banned by the Army and NAVY. It is known that Chinese manufacturers can embed spyware in every fold of such equipment, which can then be used to remotely surveil or disable the gear. Such spyware can be hidden in the most unlikely places, including battery cells and in parts of the devices that apparently are not electronically active.


SPAR, a leading source on 3D technology from sensing to 3D processing and visualization tools, reported that The Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, Inc., (Draper) plans to bring to market a price-leading lidar chip that will not only be used on self-driving automobiles, but in a variety of other applications, as well. It is possible that this ultra-micro lidar could end up as a feature on cell phones.

08/02/2017 reported that Berkeley, CA-based 3D Robotics (3DR) and China-based, global drone maker DJI have partnered to launch a new drone operations platform that makes 3DR’s Site Scan surveying technology compatible with DJI drones. The Tuesday announcement by 3DR noted that DJI drones will now be able use the Site Scan Field mobile app.


In late August Russian company Kalashnikov, famous for the AK47 combat rifle, will reveal a mobile, weaponized robot that ostensibly will be run by a neural network. While exact details are unknown, the general concept edges close to what has been considered a taboo zone—weaponizing a lethal robot without human oversight that can take decisions to kill human adversaries in a combat environment.


Tom Simonite of has posted a fascinating article on an imminent technological upgrade in robotics manufacturing that will both boost efficiency and eliminate untold numbers of jobs for human workers. In the next wave of warehouse automation, robots will handle products much as humans do today—they will pick, place and box products of all types.
Amazon currently operates 45,000 robots that move palates of boxed products through its large warehouses as product arrives, is sorted, stocked, sold and then picked for shipment to customers. Next generation robots will use arms with dexterous grippers that substitute for human hands. When this global army of robots is equipped with the ability to pick and place objects with adroit robotic hands, Amazon will become far less reliant on human workers.
Finding the best gripper technology for handling objects of different types (e.g., towels vs. hair brushes) is a complex challenge.


For about two decades, now, U.S. scientists have been directly involved in Mars exploration through their robot proxies roaming or orbiting the red planet. This impressive work has been complicated by the extreme distances involved and the physical positioning of Mars and Earth with respect to each other and the Sun. About every two years, a phenomenon called “solar conjunction” places a several-day moratorium on communications with the robots roaming or orbiting Mars. This happens when Mars and Earth are on opposite sides of the blazing star around which we orbit. The phenomenon lasts several days and this year will span July 22 to August 1, 2017. To make the best use of time when we are out of contact with our Martian robots, NASA and its partners send a long list of commands to the Martian robots, including, for example, the Opportunity Rover. These commands may entail continued travel, as well as collection of meteorological data for later transmission back to Earth.


In recent years, Walt Perko created a robotics education program for kids, the RoboGuts STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Math) program.  Starting with a new, low-cost RoboGuts circuit board, it is an entry level system that targets youngsters in the 5 to 10-year-old range.  Kids not only learn about electronic components, structured programing, but also how to build a working robot from the parts they print on a 3D printer.
Walt has been teaching beginner robot classes since 2011, and 3D CAD for beginners since 2012, and brings that experience to this offering.  RoboGuts includes a custom designed beginner µController circuit board that is compatible with a wide range of microprocessors used in robotics education.


New Enterprise Associates (NEA), a large Silicon Valley venture capital firm, sees the future and it’s in freight load hauling. Bernadette Tansey reported on Xconomy IT that NEA played a leading role in a $42m Series C financing round announced by Transfix, which was directed at a traditional industry not necessarily seen as a likely candidate for disruptive investment in artificial intelligence (AI). Robotics is coming to the interstate highway system on board semi-tractor trailer hauling rigs, and it’s much more than GPS.