Drones: Is there anything they can’t deliver?

It may be little more than 100 years ago that the Wright brothers took to the skies as they pioneered the world’s first aeroplane, but now the race is on to conquer the drone market.

In recent months it’s been claimed that pizzas, shopping, government documents and practically anything else you can think of will be delivered by drones. We soon won’t be able to move for them.

Facebook is the most recently reported company seemingly entering the drone market, as its rumoured purchase of manufacturer Titan Aerospace looks more realistic.

There’s no doubting the potential that drones could offer for delivery services and creative marketing departments in the future, but at present there are a lot of crucial problems that need to be solved before they can take off commercially.

Everything from ensuring the product is delivered to the right person, avoiding interception en-route and navigating adverse weather conditions are some of the hurdles that need to be climbed before drone delivery is a realistic possibility.

We’ve looked at some of the most ‘creative’ claims, or stunts, when it comes to companies utilising drones.

Beer

Ice fishers in Minnesota, US, were left disappointed when the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grounded a local brewery’s beer delivering drone as it was outside the rules. Flying drones above 400 feet is not permitted in the country and commercial organisations are not allowed to use them either. The thirsty fishermen will have to return to shore for ice cold beers until the FAA announces legislation in 2015.

Pizza

The ‘DomiCopter’, by pizza giants Domino’s, flies over UK fields and rivers directed by a member of staff to deliver not one but two pizzas to a customer (or a lucky passerby) who happens to be outside waiting for the drone to arrive.

Official documents

In a move that can’t go wrong at all, the United Arab Emirates is set to launch a drone service that delivers government documents, packages and licences to officials. The unmanned aerial vehicles will be equipped with fingerprint and eye-recognition technology to try and prevent theft. The scheme is set to undergo a six month trial period in Dubai and then roll out to other parts of the country if the nation’s secrets haven’t been disclosed.

Parcels

The most high profile of the drone testing/stunts was by online shopping company Amazon who ambitiously stated customers could receive products 30 minutes after ordering them. Unlike the Minnesota brewery the company tested its drones outside of the US to get around the laws.

Finding bigfoot

It technically isn’t a company trying to make money from drones, but one ambitious group, The Falcon Project, are trying to launch a quiet, remote-controlled airship to find the large ape which has reportedly been spotted in the US. It sees the drone approach as being one of the best ways to hunt for the legendary creature over large areas.

credit-falconproject

Netflix

In many ways the video streaming company have hit the nail on the head when it comes to using drones. In their parody advert, which mocks many of the above, the company say that its ‘Drone-to-home’ project will deliver your disc to you within seconds of it being ordered.


Update

– It might not be all bad for the thirsty ice fishers as a judge in the US has ruled that commercially using drones is now legal. The ruling has effectively made the FAA’s current ban on drone use for commercial purposes not stand any longer. But if the FAA decides to appeal then the case could go to US Court of Appeals in Washington.



Image of ‘bigfoot’ drone courtesy of The Falcon Project.


Robot takes first steps towards building artificial lifeforms

A robot equipped with sophisticated AI has successfully simulated the creation of artificial lifeforms, in a key first step towards the eventual goal of creating true artificial life.

The robot, which was developed by scientists at the University of Glasgow, was able to model the creation of artificial lifeforms using unstable oil-in-water droplets. These droplets effectively played the role of living cells, demonstrating the potential of future research to develop living cells based on building blocks that cannot be found in nature.

Significantly, the robot also successfully predicted their properties before they were created, even though this could not be achieved using conventional physical models.

The robot, which was designed by Glasgow University’s Regius Chair of Chemistry, Professor Lee Cronin, is driven by machine learning and the principles of evolution.

It has been developed to autonomously create oil-in-water droplets with a host of different chemical makeups and then use image recognition to assess their behaviour.

Using this information, the robot was able to engineer droplets to have different properties­. Those which were found to be desirable could then be recreated at any time, using a specific digital code.

“This work is exciting as it shows that we are able to use machine learning and a novel robotic platform to understand the system in ways that cannot be done using conventional laboratory methods, including the discovery of ‘swarm’ like group behaviour of the droplets, akin to flocking birds,” said Cronin.

“Achieving lifelike behaviours such as this are important in our mission to make new lifeforms, and these droplets may be considered ‘protocells’ – simplified models of living cells.”

One of the oil droplets created by the robot

The research, which is published today in the journal PNAS, is one of several research projects being undertaken by Cronin and his team within the field of artificial lifeforms.

While the overarching goal is moving towards the creation of lifeforms using new and unprecedented building blocks, the research may also have more immediate potential applications.

The team believes that their work could also have applications in several practical areas, including the development of new methods for drug delivery or even innovative materials with functional properties.

Mac spyware stole millions of user images

A criminal case brought against a man from Ohio, US has shed more light on a piece of Mac malware, dubbed Fruitfly, that was used to surreptitiously turn on cameras and microphones, take and download screenshots, log keystrokes, and steal tax and medical records, photographs, internet searches, and bank transactions from users.

Source: Ars Technica

Drone swarm attack strikes Russian military bases

Russia's Ministry of Defence claims its forces in Syria were attacked a week ago by a swarm of home-made drones. According to Russia's MoD Russian forces at the Khmeimim air base and Tartus naval facility "successfully warded off a terrorist attack with massive application of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)"

Source: Science Alert

Las Vegas strip club employs robot strippers

A Las Vegas strip club has flown in robot strippers from London to 'perform' at the club during CES. Sapphire Las Vegas strip club managing partner Peter Feinstein said that he employed the robots because the demographics of CES have changed and the traditional female strippers aren’t enough to lure a crowd to the club anymore.

Source: Daily Beast

GM to make driverless cars without steering wheels or pedals by 2019

General Motors has announced it plans to mass-produce self-driving cars without traditional controls like steering wheels and pedals by 2019. “It’s a pretty exciting moment in the history of the path to wide scale [autonomous vehicle] deployment and having the first production car with no driver controls,” GM President Dan Ammann told The Verge.

Source: The Verge

Russia-linked hackers "Fancy Bears" target the IOC

Following Russia's ban from the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics, the Russia-linked hacking group "Fancy Bears" has published a set of apparently stolen emails, which purportedly belong to officials from the International Olympic Committee, the United States Olympic Committee, and third-party groups associated with the organisations.

Source: Wired

Scientists discover ice cliffs on Mars

Using images provided by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, scientists have described how steep cliffs, up to 100 meters tall, made of what appears to be nearly pure ice indicate that large deposits of ice may also be located in nearby underground deposits. The discovery has been described as “very exciting” for potential human bases.

Source: Science Mag