Technology StocksDrones, Autonomous Vehicles and Flying Cars

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From: Savant9/26/2017 4:14:14 PM
   of 1841
Drones in archaeology...
60's drone photography found Alexander the Great's lost city

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To: Savant who wrote (1439)9/26/2017 7:18:31 PM
From: Savant
1 Recommendation   of 1841
Turns out a more through article sez>>

Spy satellite footage in '60s, and drone use since then and now

a much better article

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From: Glenn Petersen9/28/2017 11:07:39 PM
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A Field Farmed Only by Drones

By Nicola Twilley
The New Yorker
September 28, 2017

The experience of the Hands Free Hectare team suggests that drone agriculture offers some substantial benefits.
Photograph by Debbie Heeks Courtesy Harper Adams University

Across the United Kingdom, the last of the spring barley has been brought in from the fields, the culmination of an agricultural calendar whose rhythm has remained unchanged for millennia. But when the nineteenth-century poet John Clare wrote, in his month-by-month description of the rural year, that in September “harvest’s busy hum declines,” it seems unlikely that he was imagining the particular buzz—akin to an amplified mosquito—of a drone.

“The drone barley snatch was actually the thing that made it for me,” Jonathan Gill, a robotics engineer at Harper Adams University, told me recently. Gill is one of three self-described “lads” behind a small, underfunded initiative called Hands Free Hectare. Earlier this month, he and his associates became the first people in the world to grow, tend, and harvest a crop without direct human intervention. The “snatch” occurred on a blustery Tuesday, when Gill piloted his heavy-duty octocopter out over the middle of a field, and, as the barley whipped from side to side in the propellers’ downdraft, used a clamshell dangling from the drone to take a grain sample, which would determine whether the crop was ready for harvesting. (It was.) “Essentially, it’s the grab-the-teddy-with-the-claw game on steroids,” Gill’s colleague, the agricultural engineer Kit Franklin, said. “But it had never been done before. And we did it.”

The idea for the project came about over a glass of barley’s best self: beer. Gill and Franklin were down the pub, lamenting the fact that, although big equipment manufacturers such as John Deere likely have all the technology they need to farm completely autonomously, none of them seem to actually be doing it. Gill knew that drones could be programmed, using open-source code, to move over a field on autopilot, changing altitude as needed. What if you could take the same software, he and Franklin wondered, and make it control off-the-shelf agricultural machinery? Together Gill, Franklin, and Martin Abell, a recent Harper Adams graduate, rustled up just over a quarter million dollars in grant money. Then they got hold of some basic equipment—a small Japanese tractor designed for use in rice paddies, a similarly undersized twenty-five-year-old combine harvester, a sprayer boom, and a seed drill—and connected the drone software to a series of motors, which, with a little tinkering, made it capable of turning the tractor’s steering wheel, switching the spray nozzles on and off, raising and lowering the drill, and choreographing the complex mechanized ballet of the combine.

“There were lots of people who thought the project wasn’t going to work,” Gill said. “Lots.” Hands Free Hectare’s budget was so small that the team had no test field or backup machinery; indeed, they didn’t secure the tractor until last December, just a few months before the barley was due to be sown. This left little time for the necessary trial and error; often, Gill and his colleagues would be midway through configuring their setup to perform one task, only to have to take it apart again to accomplish another. When they finally managed to get the crop in the ground, their rows looked wobbly. “It turns out that the autopilots in these drone systems weren’t designed to travel in a very straight line,” Gill said. “There’s no need for it—it’s just designed to get from point A to point B as efficiently as possible.” When the software hit a rock, it would navigate around the obstruction, following the path of least resistance rather than plowing through. Gill adjusted the code for straighter steering, regardless of the terrain, but not in time for the initial planting, which meant that subsequent tractor runs crushed hundreds of precious barley seedlings.

In order to live up to the name Hands Free Hectare, the team had decided that no one would set foot in the field until the harvest was brought in. This posed a problem for Kieran Walsh, its crop-health adviser, who was accustomed to collecting soil and plant samples manually and scrutinizing them for signs of infestation and illness. Walsh was aware that robotic weed detectors were already commercially available, but, to the best of his knowledge, there was nothing that could provide all the information he needed. “My initial thought was, Gosh, this is exciting,” he told me. “And then I thought, Right, actually, this is going to be quite tricky.” In the end, Gill flew drones over the field on a weekly basis, gathering spectral data that Walsh could use to measure the barley’s photosynthetic activity and assess soil moisture. With Abell and Franklin, he also built a robotic sample collector. “Ninety-five per cent of the information I wanted, they got for me,” Walsh said. “But there was that five per cent where I had to make an educated guess.”

Hands Free Hectare’s final yield was a couple of metric tons lower than the average from conventionally farmed land—and the costs in both time and money were, unsurprisingly for a pilot project, stratospherically higher. Nevertheless, the team’s experience suggests that drone agriculture offers some substantial benefits. “For starters,” Abell said, “the opportunity for doing the right thing at the right time is much higher with automated machines.” Many of a farmer’s duties are weather-dependent; an autonomous tractor could, for instance, tap into live forecast data and choose to go out and apply fungicide when conditions are ideal, even if it’s four o’clock in the morning.

More important, once the machinery no longer requires a person to sit on top of it, a farmer could deploy a fleet of small tractors to do the same work that he currently does riding one of today’s state-of-the-art, two-story-tall tractors. “That has massive, massive implications,” Walsh said. For one thing, Abell explained, it would make the application of fertilizers and herbicides far more precise. “All the boom sprayers in this country these days are at least twenty-four metres wide,” he said. “So you’ve essentially got a twenty-four-metre paintbrush to apply chemicals to a field that you’ve surveyed at two- or three- centimetre resolution.” Smaller tractors can spray crops over a smaller area, coming closer to matching the pixel-by-pixel picture of crop health provided by drone imagery. Abell, who comes from a farming family, added that transitioning away from big, heavy machinery would be better for the land, too. “All that weight is knocking the life out of the soil,” he said. “Our yields have plateaued, and that’s a big part of why.”

The Hands Free Hectare team envisions a future in which farmers are fleet managers, programming their vehicles from a central mission control and using the time saved to focus on areas that need extra attention. “The actual driving of a tractor—I didn’t miss that at all,” Abell said. “And, by not spending all your time going in a straight line on auto-steer, it gives you more time to learn about your crop and hopefully manage it better.” So far, he said, the response among farmers has been generally enthusiastic; most of the reticence appears to come from the younger, early-career crowd. “The older guys that have been sat on a tractor for the last thirty years, seeing that it’s not the best use of their time—they appreciate it more,” Abell said.

Self-driving tractors face many of the same safety issues as self-driving cars, in terms of cybersecurity and liability for accidents, so a good deal more work remains to be done before they will enter widespread use. Gill predicted that the first adopters will be in Japan, where the average farmer is seventy years old. Abell expects that commercial farmers in the U.K. will be automating at least some aspects of their operations within the next five years. The team’s focus, however, is on the even shorter term: first, a much needed vacation; then a new crop (winter wheat) in the ground by the end of October; and, finally, a special beer brewed from their hands-free harvest. “I’m hoping for a festive pint,” Gill said. “We’ll probably sell the rest to fund the project.”

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From: Savant9/29/2017 5:53:10 PM
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RT...Outlaw Drones no match for Athena..

also, Spider-Man Drone

*Hmm, no doubt they'll employ it against people, too...

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To: Savant who wrote (1442)9/29/2017 9:01:02 PM
   of 1841
Bold Eagles: Angry Birds Ripping $80,000 Droids Out of Sky...
SYDNEY— Daniel Parfitt thought he’d found the perfect drone for a two-day mapping job in a remote patch of the Australian Outback. The roughly $80,000 machine had a wingspan of 7 feet and resembled a stealth bomber.

There was just one problem. His machine raised the hackles of one prominent local resident: a wedge-tailed eagle.

Wedge-tailed eagle

Swooping down from above, the eagle used its talons to punch a hole in the carbon fiber and Kevlar fuselage of Mr. Parfitt’s drone, which lost control and plummeted to the ground.

“I had 15 minutes to go on my last flight on my last day, and one of these wedge-tailed eagles just dive-bombed the drone and punched it out of the sky,” said Mr. Parfitt, who believed the drone was too big for a bird to damage. “It ended up being a pile of splinters.” ...

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From: Glenn Petersen10/1/2017 4:28:48 PM
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The security threat we’ve been ignoring: Terrorist drones

By David Von Drehle Columnist
Washington Post
September 29 at 7:48 PM

A man watches a drone. (Petros Karadjias/AP)

Terrorist drones.

Two years ago, you would have had a tough time getting a meeting with a junior staffer in Washington to discuss the subject. A year ago, people had begun furrowing brows. Now, this is Topic A for an entire “community of experts that has emerged inside the federal government,” as National Counterterrorism Center chief Nicholas Rasmussen told a panel of senators Wednesday. “It’s a real problem,” he said.

How real? Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria, using off-the-shelf aircraft modified to drop grenades, have repeatedly menaced U.S. Special Operations forces. If they can do it in Raqqa, surely someone will try to do it here.

FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, testifying to the same panel, said the threat is palpable and immediate: “The expectation is it’s coming here imminently.” Drones are “relatively easy to acquire, relatively easy to operate, and quite difficult to disrupt and monitor.”

Most drones on sale in the United States are small, short-range birds aimed at the hobbyist market and unsuited to carrying cargo. But for the price of a flat-screen TV, a would-be terrorist can go online and purchase a commercial model heavy enough to deliver a small package. You don’t need to be a Hollywood screenwriter to imagine what might come next: A nearly silent, low-altitude little helicopter bearing a small bomb or supply of toxic material hums over metal detectors and barriers and bodyguards to strike a public gathering or senior official or hallowed landmark. In 2015, a hobbyist’s drone landed on the White House lawn.

Awakening to the threat, the Trump administration drafted legislation this year to enhance police powers in tracking civilian drones and their payloads — including by codifying the authority to destroy drones in flight that appear menacing. Among the fast-growing number of hobbyists and entrepreneurs who fly drones for fun or profit, many have expressed alarm at the proposed legislation. But perhaps they should take their complaints to al-Qaeda.

The hard fact is that today’s danger will soon be followed by a much larger threat. While Rasmussen and Wray were on Capitol Hill testifying about the problem of radio-controlled and GPS-directed drones of relatively small size, many of the top scientists in the field of autonomous flight were gathering in Vancouver, B.C., to share details of their progress on building entirely self-guided aircraft.

One such scientist shared his concerns with me about where this is headed. He says with confidence that off-the-shelf drone technology will move rapidly from grenade-size payloads to cargoes of 10 or 12 pounds. As belt-wearing suicide bombers have shown, a tremendous amount of destruction can be packed into a vessel about that size.

More important, though, is the rapid progress being made toward truly autonomous navigation. Encouraged by Pentagon planners who envision helicopter rescues and resupply missions in combat zones that don’t put human crews at risk, the scientists at the Vancouver meeting are well on their way to building drones that fly independently of radio guidance or GPS. These aircraft can “see” and survey terrain to know exactly where they are and steer themselves accordingly to avoid traffic, trees and power lines on the way to their destinations.

Or their targets.

If you’re excited by the idea of one day stepping into a personal aircraft, tapping an endpoint into the control panel and whisking to work high above snarled traffic, the promise of truly autonomous flight is exciting. Deep-pocketed innovators such as Google founder Larry Page and Airbus are pursuing the idea of self-flying personal aircraft.

But if you are a counterterrorism expert, this stuff worries you. Our best defenses against terrorist drones fit into three categories. The first is radar, but radar performs poorly against small, low-flying craft. Alternatively, we can jam radio signals, but the autonomous drones now in development won’t need a radio controller. Our third defense is to interrupt GPS. But a drone that can “read” terrain and react to obstacles will be able to fly without such guidance.

“The vehicles we are developing [for the Pentagon] are specifically designed to foil all three prevention systems,” the worried scientist told me.

One thing we know about technology: Today’s improbable experiment is tomorrow’s inexpensive gadget. You likely have more computing power in your car than NASA had on the space shuttle. If autonomous drones are able to execute complex simulated combat missions today — and they are — you can bet that technology will eventually be widely and cheaply available in smaller forms to ordinary buyers.

And one thing we know about terrorists: They love gadgets. They’ve learned to detonate bombs using cellphones, toy cars, garage door openers and so on. Once they have access to nearly undetectable flying machines big enough to carry substantial payloads, we can be confident they will try to use them to wreak havoc. Which is a threat worth all the attention the community of experts can give to it.

Perhaps Washington has been slow to see this new threat. But it’s not too late. Yet.

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To: Glenn Petersen who wrote (1444)10/1/2017 10:30:49 PM
From: Savant
   of 1841
They neglect to mention the obvious....Self Driving cars or semis carrying devastating payloads.

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From: Savant10/2/2017 12:29:22 AM
   of 1841
This drone may look like a drone now, but it is actually shot out of a moving aircraft. It is more or less a combination drone-missile. It is designed to be fired from the underwing of a rotor or fixed wing aircraft, unfold in mid-air, and then fly around until the operator finds a suitable target. The UAV can be used for a variety of purposes, from radar and electronics jamming to being able to deliver a 10 pound warhead into a specific area.

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From: Savant10/2/2017 12:31:13 AM
   of 1841
This dual rotor unmanned aerial vehicle is equipped with two laser guided air to ground missiles. Designed to be a cheap weapon, this drone can be quickly deployed by Chinese ground forces and be used to take out enemies behind front lines, in hills and valleys, or even in urban environments, being able to shoot through windows if the need arises. They can also take out enemy tanks with ease.

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To: Savant who wrote (1447)10/2/2017 12:33:09 AM
From: Savant
   of 1841
This flying wing designed drone is officially only going to be used to test Chinese radar and air defenses along with radar systems inside China’s new indigenous fifth generation fighter planes. The drone can reach near supersonic speeds, and provides a difficult target to track. However, due to this low radar signature, there is a worry that this drone may in the end be used operationally, posing a challenge to enemy forces.

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