Robotics Education Journal


The DOD is, by all accounts, moving quickly in the unmanned ground combat systems arena. According to DefenseNews[dot]com, the U.S. Army has picked QinetiQ North America to build 4 “light” robot combat vehicle (RCV) prototypes, and Textron to build 4 “medium” scale RCV prototypes, pending completion of contract negotiations. DefenseNews[dot]com further announced that “Through a rapid contracting mechanism, the National Advanced Mobility Consortium is coordinating the Army’s awards to industry, and the service expects to be officially under contract with both companies by mid-February, according to the statement.”


In the rapidly advancing era of automated cars, it’s no surprise that there has been a worldwide explosion in semi-autonomous and autonomous Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs). These “robot mules” span military, commercial and research markets. Notably, in late 2019, the U.S. Army selected General Dynamics to produce UGVs under its Small Multipurpose Equipment Transports (SMET) program. Defense Blog reported that an Army contract worth $162.4 million “for up to 624 robotic mules was awarded in October to GDLS, a business unit of General Dynamics. Delivery to Soldiers begins in the second quarter of Fiscal Year 2021.” See SMET details, below, and a photo gallery of a representative sample of commercial, research and military UGVs illustrating the latest generation of robotic mules. This update starts with the pioneering German UGVs of WW2, and the circa-2006 CMU Crusher.


“STEAM” is an expanded version of STEM, and stands for “science, technology, engineering, arts and math”. The "RoboGuts™ S.T.E.A.M. Education Program", which uses the RoboGuts™ circuit board, is an education program that is positioned to be competitive with VEX, LEGO MindStorms, and Arduino STEM learning systems. In its favor, the RoboGuts™ STEAM Education teaches the whole manufacturing process, and includes a beginner’s section using BASIC language to teach structured programming style. The system will be exhibited at the upcoming CES show in Las Vegas.


“Deep learning” is a machine learning method in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) that processes several layers of data in artificial neural networks to deliver an output. MIT has provided a fascinating collection of free courses and lectures on Deep Learning that are hosted by MIT's Lex Fridman, and MIT will be supplementing this library with additional lectures in January 2020.


The U.S. Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command, a DOD group, recently released a study noting that eye, ear, muscular and brain enhancement is “technically feasible by 2050 or earlier.” It is expected that the civilian healthcare market will be a strong driver in the development of new cyborg military technologies.


The BBC is getting its toes wet in the virtual news pond, having announced in the last week that it has begun posting automated news updates. In presenting the majority victory by Boris Johnson and the Conservatives, the BBC commented on how computers wrote initial election results, and were uniquely needed. "This is about doing journalism that we cannot do with human beings at the moment," said Robert McKenzie, editor of BBC News Labs. Other leaps forward in automated journalism are taking place in China.


On 14 September 2019, relatively inexpensive drones were used to temporarily disable 5% of the world’s oil supply in an attack on the state-owned Saudi Aramco oil processing facilities in eastern Saudi Arabia. A new form of low-cost but technically sophisticated drone warfare was upon us. In a study released today, the National Robotics Education Foundation (NREF) reviews major players developing counter-unmanned aerial systems (C-UAS) weapons. C-UAS systems are being urgently deployed to protect our municipal buildings, stadiums, airports, universities and commercial businesses from drone attacks whether by individual machines or massive drone swarms.


In a significant consolidation of robotics and AI media on December 5th, Robotics Business Review (RBR) and RoboBusiness were acquired by B2B online publisher WTWH Media. RBR is a major online outlet in the robotics and AI arena with a significant readership comprised of industry marketing executives, robotics professionals, educators, researchers, military and law enforcement, and dedicated hobbyists. RoboBusiness is a major annual trade show event that has been held by RBR for many years.


Boston Dynamics just announced, yesterday, Spot Release 1.1! This dog-like robot performs data collection, infrastructure monitoring, hazmat inspections and can be used in dangerous missions such as disposal of IEDs. Other applications include security and even package delivery. Boston Dynamics states it is prioritizing business customers, so hobbyists note, Spot is not at this time being marketed to consumers as a robot pet.


Benjamin Minick of the International Business Times (IBT) reported earlier this month that Boeing plans to fly an unmanned fighter jet in 2020 that is piloted by artificial intelligence (AI). His headline included the statement: “Battle For The Skies Set To Change Forever”. Plans are underway to adopt the new platform to fly as a wingman. It, reportedly, also may be used to fly solo in independent missions.


The Army Research Laboratory on May 29 published footage of soldiers scrambling through an urban training exercise site at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland with 22-pound M249 and 25-pound M240B machine guns affixed to the end of their harnesses. This was a step up from the 20-lb defensive shield tested last year. One sergeant using the third arm with a carbine "dove into a prone fighting position from a sprint ... [and] the Third Arm provided immediate stabilization to improve marksmanship for the soldier."


This comprehensive Aviation / Aerospace update by lists 93 UAS designs along with countries of origin. Images of active and conceptual designs in development are shown. Entries are listed by service year, with expandable thumbnails and brief descriptions of different battlefield roles.


Steve Trimble of reported November 18 from the Dubai Airshow that the Chinese exhibited a prototype ornithopter drone dubbed the “Orthopaedist’s Ornithopter,” as branded on the founding company’s business cards. Beijing-based Implant Aircraft Co. Ltd. is testing multiple versions of the machine, which is privately developed but intended for the Chinese military. The goal is a noiseless, tactical drone with a 2-hour endurance.


From leaked photos of the much-anticipated DJI Mavic Mini to an up-close view of the new Jupiter Tricopter, a “game changing UAS”, the latest edition of David Place’s Unmanned Systems News (USN) is a must-read packed with these stories and much more. Btw, in this release, David noted in his intro: "ALCON - A SPECIAL THANK YOU to all of you Veterans who have served, or are currently serving, our great country! I sincerely hope that each of you enjoy a terrific Veterans Day and thanks again for your service! Please find attached the current edition of my Unmanned Systems News which includes the title of the original article, a couple of relevant sentences to pique your interest and a hyperlink to the original article. I hope that you find this compilation useful. This is my THIRTY-FOURTH newsletter for calendar year 2019, hence the designation # 19 - 34." We echo David's Veterans Day wishes to our servicemembers! Given the rich content in this edition of USN, NREF is posting David's entire USN#19-34 edition, below. You can subscribe to the free USN newsletter simply by emailing David Place—and we highly recommend it!


November 8, 2019 SOUTHFIELD, MI – Five Lawrence Technological University students and LTU computer science professor CJ Chung will work with a Korean auto parts company and a Russian tech giant to create a taxi service from Detroit’s TCF Center to downtown Detroit hotels for the 2020 North American International Auto Show in June.

LTU will assist Hyundai Mobis, the parts and service arm of the Korean automaker, and the Russian technology company Yandex, in the development of 10 four-passenger sedans in the largest demonstration to date of Yandex’s robotic taxis in the United States. The vehicles will be programmed to take passengers to their destinations, although there will be a driver who could take control if needed.


A new robot is showing promise to control lionfish, an invasive species that is in the water of the Bahamas and spreading south. The Guardian can dive hundreds of feet below the surface and stun lionfish with electrodes, then suck them into a holding tank. As it happens, the lionfish is a big hit on restaurant menus. The Guardian was developed by renowned roboticist inventor Colin Angle, who also developed the Roomba. Angle launched the “Robots in Service of the Environment” nonprofit to support the project. With no natural predators and with potent venom, lionfish can reduce the fish population around a coral reef by as much as 79%.


The shape of things to come may include self-assembling bridges that then disassemble into interchangeable pieces termed “smarticles”. Swarms of smarticles might then move on to reassemble at another time and place into a building or other structure of utilitarian use for the military in the field. As sci-fi as this sounds, smarticles R&D is well underway.


Renowned RC blogger and enthusiast Jim T. Graham recently interviewed Lucien Miller of Innov8tive Designs, on, a great website for drone and RC hobbyists that we heartily recommend. Jim T. has also posted an article on BADASS Power Systems to the site that you’ll want to read. Below, we’ve provided relevant links and fascinating highlights of the interview. These suggest that the electric motor market is vaulting forward in fascinating ways—for that reason, we believe this technical summary is a must read!


HitecRCD began engineering servos for non-hobby applications in the last several years and accumulated the experience and expertise to enter the drone market. As reported by, Shawn Spiker, drone services sales and training manager at Hitec said: “We were already supplying servos, supplying foam aircraft and making transmitters, and we had all the engineering attributes to make our own complete drone—so there was nothing we had to reach outside for. The company decided to create a more competitive offering and developed a new product line from scratch.”


Piaggio Fast Forward (PFF) debuted its “gita” robot this week, which can follow people around carrying up to 40 pounds of stuff, from gym bags to computer tablets to groceries. The gita is operated with simple push-button controls. It senses its operator and follows in sync with the operator up to six mph. The gita can scale inclines of up to 16%, and operates on hard paths, floors and sidewalks (not snow, sand, mud or tall grass).


DRONERESPONDERS is a non-profit program created to unite aerial first responders, emergency managers, and search and rescue specialists under a unified organization to help learn, train, and test with one another with the ultimate objective of maximizing drone operations for public safety.


An anonymous tipster notified us that two full-scale electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing (eVTOL) prototypes were spotted in a test environment. The nearly all-black airframe in one photo shows a freighter design with no wheels but skids as fixed landing gear. This appears to be an unmanned cargo hauler with six hover rotors and one cruise prop.


The new hydrone Griflion H features a record-breaking 15-hour maximum flight time. Powered by a Micromulticopter (MMC)-developed hydrogen fuel cell with a max hydrogen storage capacity of 27L, the vehicle can fly for 10 hours with a 3 kg payload.


On Wednesday, September 11, 2019, Major General Poss (ret), USAF, published an open letter to the new FAA Administrator with suggestions for optimizing the business growth of the Drone industry. General Poss is a leading expert on UAS and is CEO of ISR Ideas, an intelligence, unmanned systems and cyber warfare consulting company. Owing to the letter’s length, portions are excerpted, here.


Different radio frequencies used in encrypted military communications require very different, custom-configured antenna shapes and sizes to optimize signal transmission and reception. The U.S. Military is testing morphing liquid metal antenna designs in order to create a system that can custom-configure antenna sizes and shapes onboard the aircraft during a mission. The goal is to reduce the total weight of a multi-frequency-capable flight system, which would otherwise have to carry the weight of several different antennas of varying sizes and shapes.


We hope you found this content both helpful and informative.

If you did, please consider a donation to the NREF. We are an educational non-profit that relies on readers like you to continue producing quality content like this.