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Unmanned

The CRS-5 mission lifted off today in a pre-dawn launch from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. As the unmanned spacecraft rose into orbit to resupply the International Space Station, the first stage of its Falcon 9 booster made an historic attempt at a powered landing on a drone barge positioned in the Atlantic Ocean, which did not come off successfully. Read More
In the 1960s, engineers predicted that manned outposts would be built on the bottom of the sea housing hundreds of workers to handle complex tasks like exploiting deep sea oil and natural gas fields. In the 21st century, those outposts are becoming a reality, but as unmanned robotic platforms that are rarely visited by humans. To show how these will be built and operated, GE has created a 3D virtual exhibit for its new research center in Rio de Janeiro. Read More

If you were gifted a drone for Christmas, then the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has you in its sights. It may not be in the form of long-awaited laws for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that are due later this year, but is a campaign directed at rookie pilots whose expertise may be outstripped by their unbridled enthusiasm. Read More

Like the end of a very long and eventful road trip, NASA's Dawn spacecraft has its main goal in sight. The space agency says that the unmanned probe has emerged from behind the Sun as it uses its ion propulsion to catch up with the dwarf planet Ceres in the asteroid belt and that mission control was able to re-establish contact. The craft has received instructions for executing a series of maneuvers that will take it on its final approach phase, which will end with it going into orbit around Ceres. Read More
A helicopter landing on the flightdeck of a destroyer is hardly news – unless it's the US Navy's latest Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. Northrop Grumman's MQ-8C Fire Scout became the first unmanned helicopter to operate from a US destroyer on December 16. Under guidance of the ship's ground control station, the MQ-8C made 22 takeoffs and 22 precision landings on the guided missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham (DDG 109) off the coast of Virginia. Read More
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) are the eyes in the skies for soldiers and disaster relief crews, but despite over a century of aviation progress, they still leave a lot to be desired and close quarters are very difficult for them to navigate on their own. To make UAVs more practical in debris-strewn areas, DARPA's Fast Lightweight Autonomy (FLA) program aims to develop algorithms that will allow autonomous fliers to negotiate obstacles as easily as a bird of prey. Read More
Proving that not all the space spectaculars are on the big screen at Christmas, NASA has released video taken from inside the Orion spacecraft during its re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere earlier this month. The ten-minute video shows the final minutes before its December 10 splashdown as it made a fiery descent ahead of a parachute landing in the Pacific ocean. Read More
NASA's Kepler space telescope shows that it still has life in it as its extended mission begins to bear fruit. This week, the space agency announced that the spacecraft detected a new exoplanet, demonstrating that its K2 life extension mission is working. The planet, called, HIP 116454b, is 2.5 times larger in diameter than the Earth and orbits a star 180 light years from Earth in the constellation of Pisces every nine days at a distance that makes it much too hot for it to sustain life. Read More
Should you be swimming in the ocean sometime soon and spot a shark-like dorsal fin cutting through the water towards you, just relax – it might simply be a military robot, that's made to look like a shark. A US Navy team has recently been testing just such a device at its Joint Expeditionary Base East, in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Known as the GhostSwimmer, the robot was developed by Boston Engineering as part of the Navy's Silent NEMO project, which is aimed at creating nature-inspired unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs). Read More
On Friday, the Dragon CRS-5 mission lifts off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station atop a Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket. If the launch is successful, the unmanned Dragon spacecraft will carry supplies and experiments to the ISS, but that part is almost routine. What is unusual is that SpaceX has confirmed that it will not only attempt a powered landing of the Falcon 9 booster, but will do so as a precision landing on a robotic sea barge. Read More
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