Robotics Education Journal


The president’s executive order on AI, signed Monday February 11, is intended to preserve America’s technology leadership. It also asks for the development of regulatory standards to, among other things, preserve citizen privacy in the face of this technology, which standards don’t currently exist. Importantly, the order directs that the National Council for the American Worker and AI select committee set up "fellowship and training programs" to help U.S. workers learn the skills needed to work with and develop AI technologies. That is a key component.


CB Insight’s recommended “most promising 100 AI startups working across the artificial intelligence value chain, from hardware and data infrastructure to industrial applications,” is a fascinating compilation. These companies are listed and linked to, here.


David Place’s unmanned systems blog recently reported that an image of an apparent prototype of Russia's Okhotnik (Hunter) heavy unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) has begun to circulate in Russian social media. Design and development of the Okhotnik Udarno-Razvedivatelnyi Bespilotnyi Kompleks (Unmanned Strike-Reconnaissance System) by Sukhoi is thought to have commenced in 2011. Also designated as the S-70, its take-off weight is reported to be about 20 tonnes, with, some sources say, a top speed of 1,000 km/h.


Progress toward the elusive Holy Grail of machine sentience may finally be on the horizon. If robots are to adapt to unforeseen circumstances, they must learn to simulate themselves, reports Hod Lipson, director of CMU’s Creative Machines Lab. In a study, Lipson and his PhD student Robert Kwiatkowski used a 4 DoF robot arm that used “deep learning” to create a model of itself. “…after less than 35 hours of training, the self-model became consistent with the physical robot to within about four centimeters …the robot was able to grasp objects at specific locations on the ground and deposit them into a receptacle with 100 percent success.”

01/25/2019 reported that Starship Technologies, in a collaboration with food-and-facilities-management company Sodexo, has begun using a fleet of mobile robots to deliver food to 40,000 students and faculty at George Mason University’s Fairfax campus, in Fairfax, Virginia. “Students and teachers have little free time as it is, so there is a convenience for them to have their food, groceries and packages delivered to them,” said Ryan Tuohy, Starship Technology’s senior vice president of business development. “Our goal is to make life easier, whether that means skipping the line, eating lunch on the lawn rather than in the cafe, or finding the time to eat better when studying for exams.”


The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has published a solicitation for simplified artificial intelligence (AI) computers modeled on insect brains, some of which include less than 1,000 neurons. DARPA seeks AI systems that require less power, data and complexity than conventional approaches to AI.


Byron Spice reported from Carnegie Mellon University’s National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC) that NREC is building the largest robot in its 22-year history. “Its 45-foot-tall gantry, visible from Pittsburgh’s 40th Street Bridge, was built as part of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers prototyping project to automate its annual mat-sinking operations on the Mississippi River. The massive mats, which consist of concrete blocks wired together, shield riverbanks from erosion, helping to protect levees and ensure safe river navigation.
“As big as it is, the prototype robot being built on NREC’s front lawn will serve only to test and further develop systems that will become part of the final, much larger robot – a floating factory called ARMOR 1 – that eventually will be deployed on barges on the Mississippi.”


The new Guinness World Record for the heaviest payload lifted by a drone is now held by the Forvola Mega Drone. This very impressive machine is the result of a collaborative effort by FPT Industrial and Forvola, and was recently shown during FPT Industrial’s Tech day.


Jon Bornstein, president and chief operating officer of Amprius, the Sunnyvale, California-based company that provided high energy-density lithium-ion cells for the Airbus’ record-breaking Zephyr solar-powered stratospheric unmanned aircraft, says Amprius is working with electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing (eVTOL) developers. Their new cells have a specific energy of 435 Wh/kg, compared to the 300-325 Wh/kg of conventional lithium-ion batteries. The secret is in the new silicon nanowire anode.


As reported by, DARPA has successfully controlled drone swarms in the face of intensive jamming in what is characterized as denied or contested airspace. Interestingly, the goal of DARPA’s Collaborative Operations in Denied Environment (CODE) program the test was “for CODE’s human operator to monitor the swarm without micromanaging it, and instead to allow the autonomous drones to improvise and adjust as they pursue their mission.”


A completely silent fixed wing aircraft with a roughly 5-meter wingspan recently flew for 16 seconds across a distance of 60 meters just feet above the wooden floor in a spacious sports gym at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Ion wind propulsion technology (aka “electroaerodynamic thrust”) has been discussed since the 1920s—but only now have converging technologies permitted a practical test.


As reported by the AUVSI daily ebrief, Belarus’ Belspetsvneshtekhnika (BSVT) has developed an unmanned combat ground vehicle (UCGV) for export. The robot is named the Self-Propelled Robotized System (SPRS) “Berserk” and can operate singly, or in a team. Jane’s notes it can undertake a 24-hour patrol along pre-programmed routes while tracking objects of interest. It is equipped with (2) color cameras and (2) thermal imagers for day/night operations, and has a top speed of 5 km/h. It carries (2) 4-barrelled 7.62mm GShG Miniguns that are said to be able to hit airborne targets moving at up to 300 Km/h at 1 km distance.


The tech is developed by Chinese search engine Sogou and the Xinhua News Agency.


The Marines want an unmanned vehicle capable of keeping up with its rifle squad and conducting squad resupply to unburden the grunt. A Request For Information recently posted on the Federal Business Opportunities website keeps options open, telling interested industry partners that the mode could be a “robotic applique” on existing systems, a remote-controlled vehicle or a fully autonomous transport.


Are you ready to discover the future of technology? Harbour.Space University and Remy Robotics are collaborating to offer 20 graduate students from anywhere in the world a once in a lifetime opportunity: a fully funded scholarship for Harbour.Space University’s progressive Master’s program in Robotics! Students, everywhere, take note!


DARPA’s research into brain-computer interfaces has moved to new horizons, with a human subject now able to mentally control multiple vehicles, and astoundingly, receive intelligible sensor feedback directly into his brain, apparently sidestepping gazing at a screen or haptic feedback.
“As of today, signals from the brain can be used to command and control … not just one aircraft but three simultaneous types of aircraft,” said Justin Sanchez, who directs DARPA’s biological technology office, at the Agency’s 60th-anniversary event in Maryland. …DARPA was able to improve the interaction between pilot and the simulated jet to allow the operator, a paralyzed man named Nathan, to not just send but receive signals from the craft.


The next war might include mind-controlled drones. DARPA has overseen trials using mind-controlled drones for use by the military. According to The Daily Beast, these trials were computer simulations that are the precursor to what could lead to robotics that are controlled by the mind of a human operator.


As the Army integrates robots into its formations, from mule-like transports to single-soldier controlled drone swarms, it’s reaching out to industry and coming up with some novel solutions. This Venus Flytrap-like system has caught its eye.


This new dexterous extension to your smart phone seems to be creepy, cool and weird, all at once. But when you think about it, doesn’t it make sense to equip your smart phone with some form of ambulation?


The closing of Rethink Robotics is sad news, as this company was a pioneer in the development of robots that were emotionally sympathetic. One gravitated to Baxter at a trade show because the robot smiled back and looked at you, and its intelligently controlled end effectors appeared to be easily trainable working next to a human partner--breaking down the barriers between human and robot and helping establish the cobot concept. It seemed a remarkable step forward.


The ORION tethered drone aerial surveillance system was successfully deployed for 6 days at the Ryder Cup 2018, held September 25-30 in Paris. Every 2 years, the Ryder Cup gathers 24 of the world's top golfers from the U.S. and Europe for this packed event. It is viewed by an estimated billion+ television spectators in 200 countries! The 42nd edition -- held this year in Paris at Le Golf National, next to Versailles -- is estimated to have reached 300,000 TV viewers in the last 6 days of September. The tethered drone system is a key asset because it enables the authorities to efficiently monitor crowd flow and better ensure event safety. This drone assignment came soon after other recent deployments of the tethered drone system at the French national air show, Ferté Alais, and the 2018 World Motorbike Championship.


$2Million 1st Prize!
Underground settings are becoming increasingly relevant to global security and safety. Rising populations and urbanization are requiring military and civilian first responders to perform their duties below ground in human-made tunnels, underground urban spaces, and natural cave networks. Current technologies fail to provide first responders with persistent situational awareness of the subterranean operating environments in which they must operate.
Beginning in the fall of 2019, DARPA will conduct a series of challenges in which teams will compete in underground robotics challenges for substantial cash prizes. The purpose is to develop novel approaches and technologies that will allow warfighters and first responders to rapidly map, navigate, and search underground environments. These diverse environments include
 tunnels,
 urban underground, and
 cave networks


In 1982, the DC-2 robot was making headlines for everything from participating in legal protests, to serving drinks in the Playboy Mansion, to being apprehended by the Beverly Hills Police Department in what was likely the first robot “arrest” ever. What happened?


DroneDJ reported that Flirtey, a provider of drones and related technology, have worked with the city of Reno, NV to complete testing in a UAS Integration Pilot Program (IPP) that will save lives. In the test, a lone Flirtey pilot controlled multiple Flirtey drones in the delivery of automated external defibrillators (see white package floating downward). The FAA had granted a private waiver to allow operation of multiple drones by a single pilot. President Trump had earlier endorsed the IPP program (see photo).


Thanks to CAPT Matt Scassero, University of Maryland UAS Test Team Director, and Fred McKee, both via CDR David Place (USN/Ret) davidplace47[at]gmail[dot]com for alerting us to this UAS faculty opening at the United States Naval Academy (USNA). This is a “dream job” for the right candidate—if you have the qualifications and interest, this may be for you!