Professional drone racing could become an Olympic sport: DRL CEO

Professional drone racing, where fully manual racing drones are expertly piloted around complex three-dimensional racecourses, could one day become an Olympic sport, according to the CEO of the world’s leading professional drone racing league.

“There’s been a lot of conversations about [drone racing becoming an Olympic sport], and they’ve looked pretty seriously at it for the games coming up in Korea,” said Nicholas Horbaczewski, CEO of the Drone Racing League (DRL), told Factor.

“I don’t think you will see it in the immediate term, but I definitely think there’s discussions around it, there’s excitement about it, so it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see drone racing appear in the Olympics in the future.”

The largest professional drone league in the world, the Drone Racing League completed its second season this week with a final held at Alexandra Palace in London, the UK. The season will begin airing in over 75 countries next week, including the UK on Sky Sports Mix on the 21st June and the US on ESPN on the 20th June.

Using custom racing drones that require fully manual control, the Drone Racing League has turned the formerly underground sport of drone racing into a rigorous and highly professional affair, suitable for events such as the Olympics.

“We had to develop our own racing drone from the ground up that was sort of the ultimate high-performance machine for drones,” explained Horbaczewski.

“Racing drones are very different from the kind of camera drones you’d go out and buy on the high street; these are very specialised craft.

“I would say camera drones that people buy are sort of like lorries: they’re a functional craft with a very specific purpose. These racing drones are like Formula One cars: they’re built for speed, performance and sport.”

An excited crowd watch the Drone Racing League 2017 season final, which was held this week at Alexandra Palace in London, the UK, and will air next month following a season start next week. Images courtesy of the Drone Racing League

The DRL’s professional drone racers are also a rare breed, coming from a mixture of the remote control community, motorcycle and car racing and the professional videogame community. And while the basics of consumer drone piloting can be picked up fairly easily, racing drones are considerably tougher.

“It is extremely hard to race drones,” said Horbaczewski. “These are fully manual drones, so there’s no stabilisation, there’s no computer-assistance in flying.  They’re truly controlling power to the four different motors and controlling all the dimensions of flight that way.

“Learning to fly a racing drone is challenging; to reach the professional levels you really have to be very exceptional at flying drones.”

US wants to use the Moon as a petrol station

US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross has said that the Trump administration aims to turn the Moon into a petrol station, which will allow for the exploration of deeper parts of the solar system. According to Ross, explorers would use ice from the moon's craters to refuel on the way to other destinations.

SpaceX’s first broadband satellites are now in space

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has confirmed the company's first broadband satellites – named Tintin A and Tintin B – have been deployed and are now "communicating to Earth stations". The satellites are being used to test SpaceX's future Starlink broadband service, which aims to provide gigabit broadband worldwide.

Source: Ars Technica

Nissan to trial self-driving taxis in Japan

Nissan and Japanese tech giant DeNA have announced field tests of Easy Ride, the self-driving taxi service they developed together, will begin on March 5 in Yokohama, Japan. The cars will take passengers along a 4.5km route between the Yokohama World Porters shopping centre and Nissan’s corporate complex.

Source: Tech Crunch

Elon Musk quits AI ethics group

Elon Musk has always been quick to urge caution when it comes to AI, but now he has quit the board of the research group he co-founded to look into the tech's ethics. OpenAI said the decision had been taken to avoid any conflict of interest as Mr Musk's electric car company, Tesla, became "more focused on AI".

Source: BBC

Beef companies file petition against lab-grown meat startups

The US beef industry is fighting back against tech startups who are creating meat in a lab using animal cells. The US Cattlemen’s Association has filed a petition arguing that lab-grown meat startups should not be able to call their products "meat," since they do not come from slaughtered animals.

Millions of dollars in Ethereum are vulnerable to hackers

Researchers claim that having analysed almost one million smart contracts stored on the Ethereum blockchain, 34,200 are "critically vulnerable". A sample of roughly 3,000 vulnerable contracts that the team verified could be exploited to steal roughly $6 million worth of Ether, Ethereum’s in-house cryptocurrency.

Source: Motherboard

Stronger in old age: Stem cell research paves way for muscle-building medication

It could in the future be possible to take medication that will allow you to build muscle, even when you are in old age.

This is due to the findings of research at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, which found that large, and wholly unexpected, amounts of mutations in muscle stem cells blocks their ability to regenerate cells.

“What is most surprising is the high number of mutations. We have seen how a healthy 70-year-old has accumulated more than 1,000 mutations in each stem cell in the muscle, and that these mutations are not random but there are certain regions that are better protected,” said Maria Eriksson, professor at the Department of Biosciences and Nutrition at Karolinska Institutet.

With this knowledge, researchers could develop therapies that would encourage such regeneration, and so allow older people to rebuild lost muscle.

“We can demonstrate that this protection diminishes the older you become, indicating an impairment in the cell’s capacity to repair their DNA. And this is something we should be able to influence with new drugs,” explained Eriksson.

The landmark research, which is published today in the journal Nature Communications, involved the use of single stem cells, which were cultivated to provide enough DNA for whole genome sequencing – a medical first for this part of the body.

“We achieved this in the skeletal muscle tissue, which is absolutely unique. We have also found that there is very little overlap of mutations, despite the cells being located close to each other, representing an extremely complex mutational burden,” said study first author Irene Franco, a postdoc in Eriksson’s research group.

While a significant step, the research is now being expanded to look at whether exercise affects the number of mutations – a potentially vital factor in understand why and how these mutations occur.

“We aim to discover whether it is possible to individually influence the burden of mutations. Our results may be beneficial for the development of exercise programmes, particularly those designed for an ageing population,” said Eriksson.

The research is one of a host of projects being conducted across the world that have potential impacts on ageing, an area that was long ignored by much of the scientific community, but is now garnering increased support.

If many – or even a fair minority – of these findings eventually become the basis of therapeutics, it could be transformative for old age in the future, allowing people to remain healthier for far later in life and potentially even leading to longer life expectancies.