Robotics Education Journal


Veteran Russian AK-47 manufacturer Kalashnikov has introduced a new drone named the KUB. Kalashnikov’s distinguished firearms history suggests that the company would pull out all the stops if it chose to enter the market with a weaponized drone. The KUB is said to be able to precisely deliver a 3-kilogram warhead to a target more than 40 kilometers (25 miles) away. Shown in Abu Dhabi at the February IDEX 2019 arms show, the drone was said to be able to fly for 30 minutes at 80 to 130 kilometers per hour (49.7 to 80.7 mph). Kalashnikov notes that the KUB is low-cost, highly efficient and well-equipped to evade aerial defenses.


The Israeili-built, privately funded Beresheet moon lander failed, today when its handlers lost communication with the robot when it was approximately 489 feet above the lunar surface. "We had a failure in the spacecraft, we unfortunately have not managed to land successfully," Opher Doron, the general manager of IAI said during a live broadcast from mission control. "It's a tremendous achievement up 'til now."


The following story is excerpted from the Beresheet website. The Beresheet (Hebrew for "Genesis") Lunar Lander is a joint venture between the Israeli nonprofit SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries, funded almost entirely by private donations from well-known Jewish philanthropists. SpaceIL was founded in 2011 to compete in the Google Lunar XPrize, a program that planned to award $30 million to the first privately funded team who could build a spacecraft and land it successfully on the moon. Beyond landing, the spacecraft, or a rover, had to travel a distance of 500 meters or more and beam high-definition imagery of the landing environment to Earth. The Google Lunar XPrize contest deadline ended in 2018 without a winner. Undaunted, SpaceIL forged ahead with the development and construction of the spacecraft.
Spaceflight also managed the launch of the two secondary payloads: Beresheet, an Israeli non-profit SpaceIL's lunar lander, and S5, an experimental small satellite of the US Air Force Research Laboratoy (AFRL) with a mass of 180 kg.
"It is a small and smart spacecraft," said SpaceIL CEO, Ido Anteby. "1.5 meters by 2 meters in size, weighing 600 kilograms at the time of the launch. Most of the weight is fuel – upon landing, the spacecraft's weight will have reached 180 kilograms. The spacecraft will be in touch with several ground stations on Earth and throughout its entire journey, we will maintain radio contact with it."
The website explains that] The spacecraft's elliptical orbit will gradually grow, until it encounters the Moon's orbit, where it will activate its motors to slow down and enter orbit around the Moon.


Geek+ (Beijing Geekplus Technology) has raised over $239 million, $150 million in 2018, to continue scaling up. A dynamic company, Geek+ employs more than 600 people. The company has developed logistics robot products working with Alibaba, Suning and China Post. It has installed systems all over China, SE Asia, Japan and the EU.


Announced last week, the first FAA-sanctioned use of a drone for routine “revenue flights” involving contractual medical product delivery was approved for a hospital system in Raleigh, N.C. “The program is taking place at WakeMed’s flagship hospital and campus in the Raleigh, N.C., metropolitan area, with oversight by the Federal Aviation Administration and North Carolina Department of Transportation.”


Melissa Locker of reported on this latest box-handling robot, which to this editor’s eyes resembles a biomimetic extrapolation of a tireless ostrich. Locker notes that it is an updated version of the company’s “Handle” robot. It is said to be able to autonomously seize and stack boxes weighing up to 33 pounds. It can place them on conveyor belts as well, using its vision system.


Commercial UAV Expo Europe reported on PRWeb that the commercial drone market, which currently produces 16 billion euros in revenue, is projected to grow to 38 billion euros by 2024. Energy, construction and agriculture are expected to continue leading the economic sectors benefiting from drone commercialization.


The SARCOS Guardian S snake robot crawls into dangerous, difficult and dirty spaces where humans should never go, and then inspects the environment using the latest multi-spectral sensors and 4K recording gear. The Guardian S is shown scaling a corrugated, pipe-covered metal wall using magnetism to adhere to the surface. Exploring hazardous environments is where this robot is the most comfortable.


Tom Green is a consultant, author, and leading commentator in the robotics, AI and automation industries. He founded to report on the remarkable efflorescence of technology now bursting forth in Asia. In his words, chronicles “two simple yet powerful Asian-centric transformations: 1. The rapid transformation of Asia’s industry and economy driven by exponential advances in robotics and robot-driven automation; and 2. The Fourth Industrial Revolution, with Asia as its epicenter.” Tom’s interviews with robotics luminaries are not to be missed, and we highly recommend his report on his recent conversation with Dr. Djitt Laowattana (The Godfather).


DroneCare is a subscription service offered by San Francisco-based Aero Systems West (ASW). The service offers industrial grade multi-rotor and fixed-wing UAS, training, long-term support, maintenance, upgrades and accident protection. Aero Systems West will provide end-to-end drone package delivery working with Drone Delivery Systems and Air Box Technology.


Chloe Taylor of CNBC reported this week that Britain’s army will invest $44 million by year’s end in a fleet of tiny drones that can fit in your hand. The investment is an initiative to increase the robotics capabilities of the British military. Funding will come from a £66 million cash injection from the U.K.’s Ministry of Defence.


In a report by Paulina Glass and contributing editor Patrick Tucker, it was noted that the pistol-packing Russian humanoid robot, FEDOR, has been abandoned by Western parts suppliers following a YouTube video that went viral.


Our satellites are among the most sophisticated of the robotics systems created by humanity. Countless commercial and military organizations depend on satellite constellations that orbit Earth. What if all of our satellites, and those of allied countries, were targeted for destruction in a future war? Conservative journalist Mark Levin, whose programs on Blaze TV we highly recommend, has dedicated a sobering episode to the topic of space war. Mark highlights China’s aggressive posture in this context and the current lack of preparedness of the U.S. and its allies. This is a must-see presentation.


Kongsberg Geospatial’s IRIS UAS software is being used to safely pilot a large drone at long distances for beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) night time gas pipeline inspection in Nigeria. Kongsberg Geospatial provided the airspace visualization software that allowed the aircraft to be safely piloted at ranges of up to 200Km BVLOS.


Underscoring an eventful week in robotic space exploration, the Japanese Hayabusa-2 spacecraft successfully completed a key part of its sample capture mission on carbonaceous asteroid Ryugu. Managed by JAXA (the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), the Hayabusa spacecraft shot a specially engineered 5-gram metallic “bullet” into Ryugu’s surface rock and collected sample particles rebounding from the bullet’s impact. This was just one of several sample gathering activities in this phase of the multifaceted Hayabusa-2 mission. The collected rock particles will be brought back to the Earth in 2020 for analysis. NREF has compiled a series of images from across the web to illustrate the current phase of this remarkable robotic mission.


The Haidilao restaurant chain in China is the largest chain specializing in Szechuan-style hot pot cuisine. Teaming with Panasonic, Haidilao recently upgraded its restaurants with AI-driven robot kitchen assistants, cooks and food servers. Mobile robots teaming with humans serve customized dishes prepared according to customer preferences. The kitchen is driven with artificial intelligence (AI) in Haidilao's new “smart store” approach to doing business.


The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) posted a rule in the Federal Register requiring small drone owners to display the FAA-issued registration number on an outside surface of the aircraft. This rule applies to pilots of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) as well as pilots of traditional model RC aircraft flown at radio control club fields sanctioned by the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA). Owners and operators may no longer place or write registration numbers in an interior compartment. The rule is effective on February 25. The markings must be in place for any flight after that date. This new requirement will facilitate identification of drone pilots and their aircraft should the need arise.


SAN DIEGO, CA, January 30, 2019 – Planck Aerosystems (Planck Aero) recently received authorization from Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar, Air Traffic Control (ATC) to test the Shearwater sUAS in controlled airspace and at night. Planck’s Shearwater sUAS repeatedly preformed successful autonomous takeoffs and precision landings onto a moving, off-road ground vehicle with centimeter-level accuracy in complete darkness without the need for GPS or a pilot in the loop. Nighttime operations from moving vehicles represents a major step forward in the demonstrating the maturity of Planck’s vision-based navigation solution.


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.”


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