Photokina 2014 highlights

Autonomous

Just a few of the Kilobots that were part of the swarm

Ants, schooling fish and flocking birds all have something in common – they can achieve things by working together that they could never do on their own. With that in mind, researchers are now looking into ways of allowing "swarms" of communicating robots to accomplish tasks that are difficult or even impossible for single robots. Harvard University recently performed an unprecedented demonstration of that behavior, in which a batch of over 1,000 tiny Kilobots arranged themselves into a variety of pre-assigned two-dimensional shapes.  Read More

ATV-5 docks under autonomous control (Image: ESA/NASA)

ESA’s last Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV)-5, Georges Lemaître, has arrived at the International Space Station. In what the space agency describes as a "flawless demonstration of technology and skill," the unmanned cargo ship autonomously docked itself while supervised by mission control in Toulouse, France and by ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov inside the space station.  Read More

An autonomous car being tested in the UK

Driverless cars are an exciting glimpse of the future, with great potential to improve road safety. It seems the UK has caught on to this, announcing a £10 million (US$17 million) scheme to test driverless cars on public roads from January 2015.  Read More

The US Marines' autonomous vehicle has successfully demonstrated the ability to follow a p...

In a small taste of things to come in military operations, the US Marine Corps has tested a self-driving mini-truck as part of the 2014 RIMPAC international naval exercise.  Read More

Belize has begun using drones to monitor its coastline for illegal fishing operations

Unsustainable fishing in Belize has placed growing pressure on local anglers and the country's celebrated coral reef systems. Decades of decline has led to the introduction of catch limits and even the European Union blacklisting seafood imports from Belize for a perceived lack of action against illegal fishing. In an effort to better regulate the industry, the Belize Fisheries Department has begun using drones to monitor coastal areas for unlicensed and unlawful activity.  Read More

Three free-flying, bowling ball-sized robots aboard the ISS will use a 3D map to provide s...

Last week, Orbital Sciences' second commercial resupply mission delivered two Project Tango Google smartphones to the International Space Station. The sensor-filled phones will be used to create a detailed 3D map of the spacecraft, which will then help two soccer ball-sized, free-flying satellites autonomously navigate through some very tight spots.  Read More

The Leidos ACTUV is part of DARPA's submarine tracking program (Image: DARPA)

As part of DARPA's Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) program, Reston Virginia-based company Leidos is building the first robotic autonomous vessel designed to locate and track the extremely quiet diesel submarines that are finding their way into the navy fleets around the world.  Read More

A light-equipped UAV moves to maintain the desired lighting on the model

As any professional photographer knows, setting up lights can be a hassle. This is often the case in the studio, but especially when shooting on location. Before too long, however, it may be possible to use hovering autonomous drones as light sources. In fact, that's just what a team from MIT and Cornell University has already done. Their system not only does away with light stands, but the light-equipped aircraft automatically moves to compensate for movements of the model or photographer.  Read More

The Daimler autonomous truck may enter service by 2025

Self-driving cars are the next big thing, but with all the talk of sipping latte and reading the morning paper while our cars drive us to work, it's easy to forget about the huge impact this technology will have on other road transport segments such as freight distribution. As part of the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 program, Daimler Trucks has taken the most advanced of its autonomous trucks for a spin in "completely realistic driving situations" on a section of the A14 autobahn near Magdeburg, Germany.  Read More

ESA's prototype dropship attached to a mock lander (Photo: Airbus Defence & Space)

The ESA has tested a novel system that may allow the agency to safely land rovers on Mars using a quadcopter-like dropship. A fully automated, proof of concept Skycrane prototype was created over the course of eight months under the ESA's StarTiger program, with the system's hardware largely derived from commercially available quadcopter components.  Read More

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