Robotics Education Journal


Think Tech Hawaii, hosted by Ted Ralston, offers particularly good online video programming covering all things drones and UAS. His show, Where the Drone Leads, is particularly relevant, today. In this recent show on the use of drones to facilitate public safety, Ted interviews George Purdy, of Drone Services Hawaii, UAS Lanai.


The new educational table-top ‘Jet’ robot kits from NVIDIA, shipping from ServoCity, are among the most advanced such kits we have seen, and appear to mark a watershed moment in educational robotics. Two versions are available, based either on the Jetson TX1 or TK1 board, to better match your budget. Utilizing the ROS operating system, they come with new, sophisticated graphics processing units (GPUs) that are blindingly fast and that support powerful onboard CPUs to provide these robots with remarkable deep learning AI capabilities.

Moreover, the new kits are fully supported by curricula, forums and a variety of resources for educators ranging from webinars to resource libraries. The robotics teaching kit covers introductory and advanced topics including ROS, sensors, computer vision, machine learning, dead reckoning, path planning and more.


An MIT student team has designed and tested a disaster response drone with the ability to stay aloft for 5 days. This is a solution for challenging situations in which the normal communications infrastructure is disabled, which often happens in disaster scenarios. This under-150 pound, 24-foot wingspan UAV is designed to bolster telecommunications systems in disaster scenarios. But it’s not yet a perfect solution and is being modified to meet FAA requirements.


Byron Spice of Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) reported that CMU researchers have enabled a computer to understand body poses and movements of multiple people, and this includes resolving the positions of limbs and even fingers of hands in various poses and while grasping and using objects. The technology was developed using a Panoptic Studio, which is a dome embedded with 500 video cameras, but the resultant CMU-developed software can run on a laptop.


According to The Bakersfield Californian, the Bakersfield Fire Department has a new drone named LOIS, short for Low Orbiting Incident Satellite. This July 4th, the drone assisted the fire department in “sniffing out” illegal fireworks set off in prohibited areas. Crews patrolling the city were pointed directly to the scofflaws, who were given citations for $1,000 in the city, and $1,500 in unincorporated Kern county.


Technology Training Corporation (TTC) has announced another of its highly respected symposiums. As reported by David Place, it will be a valuable opportunity for learning about the latest developments in the UAS / drone industry, and for networking. The Unmanned Aircraft Systems West Symposium will be held August 29 and 30 in San Diego.


Fat Shark says a new standard has been set with its new digital drone goggles. Known for its consumer-grade analog goggles, Fat Shark has introduced a Base HD all-digital goggle set at a retail price of $350. The goggles offer a liquid crystal 720p display that Fat Shark suggests will mark an advance in goggle display brightness, clarity and contrast.


The BBC reported on a humanoid robot named Teo that has been developed at Madrid’s Charles III University. Teo is shown ironing clothes, albeit very slowly, and according to its lead developer, Professor Juan g. Victores, the goal is to eventually make it capable of performing any of myriad common household tasks typically carried out by humans.


Frank Tobe of has produced another fascinating report on the latest robotics shows, worldwide, and he’s got insights, photos and more, that you don’t want to miss! Check out Frank’s take on “Xponential, the mostly defense-related unmanned land, sea and air show, held in Dallas; Innorobo, focused on service robotics, in Paris; and ICRA, the IEEE's premier robotics conference, in Singapore.”


One of the leading bloggers on the future of robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) whom we have looked to for some years for insight and education, is “Socrates” (aka Nikola Danaylov). Nikola Danaylov has interviewed AI scholars, researchers and entrepreneurs worldwide on his long-running and highly respected webcast, Singularity.FM. We now have a treat as Turkish website Her-An turns the tables and interviews Socrates on the deepest questions of AI and the Singularity.


Tom Green, who blogs on Asian Robotics Review (ARR), a great site that offers top-shelf journalism on AI, humanoids and the future of all types of robotics in Asia, has opened up a new online program called Great Ideas in Robotics. In his first show, Tom interviews David Hanson of Hanson Robotics, and reveals, in an industry scoop, that Hanson Robotics and Walt Disney are collaborating on a new project that will bring humanoid robots into the home – in a couple of size categories!

06/16/2017 reports that Nvidia is experimenting with navigation technology based on artificial intelligence (AI) coupled with GoPro cameras in a package that provides autonomous flight capability for drones that is not GPS based. GoPro cameras feed visual information to Nvidia’s Jetson TX1 machine learning module. That module learns about and maps the environment.


The latest engines used in the most sophisticated RC aircraft on the planet were out in force at the recent Xponential 2017 national conference, held May 8-11 by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) in the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, TX.

The unmanned flying machines these power are used by the military, for traffic control, in support of agriculture and mining, for infrastructure inspection, by cruise ships and in a variety of additional industries.  Although electric flight rules in the hobby world, the engines shown here power larger, very sophisticated aircraft that must stay aloft for longer periods.


Last summer, the FAA relaxed the regulations for becoming a drone pilot, making it much easier for hobbyists and enthusiast to get into the game. At the same time, the opportunity to fly drones professionally is growing rapidly, as more and more industries are using drones to collect data than ever before. According to Glassdoor, drone operators earn about $33,500 a year nationally, and more than $60,000 in metropolitan areas like DC -- making drone flying a new and attractive employment option. Since much of the work is contractual or seasonal, becoming a drone pilot can provide good supplemental income and work schedule flexibility -- with little training. But before you sign up for online drone piloting classes, here are a few things you should know about the industry according to Jonathan Rupprecht, Esq., an aviation attorney and FAA certificated commercial pilot & flight instructor at Rupprecht Law -- a firm that specializes in "helping individuals and businesses navigate drone law."


The new AMAZON ROBOTICS CHALLENGE (ARC) 2017 will be held in conjunction with RoboCup 2017 and will task robots with enhanced pick & stow tasks.  This challenge was formerly titled the Amazon Picking Challenge, held at ICRA 2015 and RoboCup 2016.

Amazon notes that notwithstanding advances in warehouse robots “…commercially viable automated picking in unstructured environments still remains a difficult challenge. It is our goal to strengthen the ties between the industrial and academic robotic communities and promote shared and open solutions to some of the big problems in unstructured automation.”


Paul Mozur and John Markoff of the NY Times reported late last month that China appears to be close to taking a lead in artificial intelligence (AI) research. Their outstanding report bears a revisit only two weeks into June, as the implications will reach many years into the future. Noted there: “It’s a race in the new generation of computing,” said James Lewis, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “The difference is that China seems to think it’s a race and America doesn’t.”


A recent poll conducted by Lockheed Martin suggests that few students show interest in space science that would point them toward a STEM-based career (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) in space exploration. Only 23% of teachers polled agreed that current school curriculum are sufficiently preparing students for a career in space exploration.


Able to dive to 196 feet, BIKI, the robot fish is programmable and returns to a previously determined GPS point on the surface.  This exploratory robot has a 4K-capable sensor and 150 degree wide angle lens. 


A Russian drone flew to the top of Mount Everest. The unmanned aircraft achieved a world altitude record of 9333 meters, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Russian company “Sistema Ramp” took credit for the achievement. The unmanned aircraft, named SKAT 640 4G TERRA, flew over the Himalayas in unforgiving, harsh climatic conditions. The drone was a flying wing, one of our favorite planforms.


Robot density per 10,000 people in some of the better-known countries is shown here in a graphic recently published by Asian Robotics Review.


The NY Times published a story titled “What Self-Driving Cars See,” today, that includes a captivating video from which this image derives.  Such systems see in near-infrared light.  Intense development of the technology is underway, not to mention litigation in California between Uber and Waymo (run by Alphabet, Google’s parent).


Over 650 robotics companies exhibited at the largest robotics show in history!


Echodyne announced a $29M Series B round to scale its technology for drones, autonomous vehicles, on-the-ground detection and more. To date, the best radar technology has been used almost exclusively in the military (phased array radars) because it costs hundreds-of-thousands of dollars. Echodyne has developed metamaterials to build high performance, high resolution radar at low cost. The small UAV shown is a suitable vehicle for the new radar and underscores the small size of Echodyne’s units.


Sandra Helsel of RoboUniverse News has reported that the Softbank-Saudi tech fund backed by Japan’s Softbank Group and the Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund has more than $93 billion in investment funding for development of key emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics.


The annual AUVSI (Association for Unmanned Systems International) conference, titled Xponential 2017, with 600+ exhibitors from the U.S. and abroad, was the largest gathering of robotics businesses in U.S. history.  Exhibitors included programmers, hardware manufacturers, consultants, academic institutions, application specialists, military providers and more.  NREF will bring you our take on the most interesting exhibits in an upcoming report. As a teaser, check out three exciting new offerings: HitecRCD’s new industrial actuators, Rajant’s free-forming “kinetic Mesch” UAV network, and several views of a new Boeing unmanned helicopter.