this week

Airbus' Drone Taxi Takes Maiden Flight

Vahana, the autonomous vertical take-off and landing craft developed by Airbus has flown for the first time. A prototype of the flying taxi flew for just under a minute at a height of 16ft, at a test site in Silicon Valley, California. Airbus plans for the drone taxi to eventually be in operation in cities, where it will allow passengers to avoid traffic.

Source: TechCrunch

BP to Install Electric Chargers at UK Petrol Stations

BP has announced that it will install electrical vehicle charging points at a selection of UK petrol stations this year. The plan is part of a trial to see how conventional fuel forecourts can be expanded to host the growing number of electric vehicles in the country. If successful, it may lead to a rollout of charging points at all of BP's 1,300 UK locations.

Source: Auto Express

3D Printed Implant Can Turn Into Bone

Scientists have developed a ceramic 3D printed implant that can be used to hold broken bones together before turning into natural bone during the healing process. The technology, which has already been used to heal bones in rabbits, could prove to be a key breakthrough in treating of complex breaks, which currently require the implantation of screws and pins.

Mole Rats Don't Age, Scientists Discover

Scientists have discovered that naked mole rats don't age. An exhaustive study of the animal found that they don't have an increased risk of death with age, making them unique among mammals. The discovery could have significant impact on ageing research, much of which is focused on preventing the ageing process in humans.

Source: Science

Self-Driving Companies Push for Ownership Ban in Cities

A selection of car hire and hailing services, including Uber, have signed a document calling for the ban of privately owned self-driving vehicles in cities. The document, Shared Mobility Principles for Sustainable Cities, is aimed at improve the quality of life in urban areas, but has attracted criticism from some who consider it an attack on freedoms.

Source: Reuters

Cancer-Killing 'Vaccine' Successful in Mice

Scientists have developed an injection that has successfully eliminated all traces of cancer in animal trials. The highly targeted treatment is injected into a tumor site, which it destroys, along with any other tumors in the body. If can be made to work in humans, it would be a huge moment for cancer treatments, improving outcomes while reducing side-effects.

Crypto-currency mining is hindering the search for alien life

Researchers searching for extraterrestrial life are struggling to get the computer hardware they need, due to crypto-currency mining. "We'd like to use the latest GPUs...and we can't get 'em," said Dan Werthimer. Demand for GPUs has soared recently thanks to crypto-currency mining.

Source: BBC

Genetic study of soil reveals new family of antibiotics

Researchers have discovered a new family of antibiotics in samples of soil. In their paper, published in the journal Nature Microbiology, the group describe how the antibiotics, named malacidins, have been shown to kill superbugs such as MRSA, which are resistant to current antibiotics.

Source: Phys.org

UK police are identifying suspects using fingerprint scanners

UK police have begun using a mobile fingerprinting system to identify people in less than a minute. Fingerprints are compared against 12 million records stored in the national criminal and immigration fingerprint databases and, if a match is found, return info like the individual’s name and date of birth.

Source: Wired

Robots 1,000 times smaller than a human hair could treat cancer

Scientists from Arizona State University and The Chinese Academy of Sciences just figured out how to build tiny robots that travel through the body's blood stream, hunting for tumors, without doing any harm to healthy cells along the way. In tests on mice, average survival times doubled.

NASA is bringing back Cold War-era rockets to get to Mars

NASA is planning to use atomic rockets to help get humans to Mars. Unlike conventional rockets that burn fuel to create thrust, the atomic system uses the reactor to heat a propellant like liquid hydrogen, which then expands through a nozzle to power the craft, doubling the efficiency at which the rocket uses fuel.

Source: Bloomberg

Facial recognition systems have gender and racial biases

Research conducted by Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stamford University has found that AI-powered facial recognition systems have gender and racial biases, which means because they have been trained using large data sets of white males they are better at picking out that group than any other.

Source: The Inquirer

Skydio unveils its obstacle-dodging, thrill-seeking, AI-powered drone

An autonomous drone startup founded by former MIT researchers has today launched its R1, a fully autonomous flying camera that follows its subjects through dense and challenging environments.

In a promotional video, launched to introduce the autonomous camera, R1 can be seen following an athlete as she parkours her way through dense woodland.

The drone’s makers Skydio have explained that the camera combines artificial intelligence, computer vision, and advanced robotics and works by anticipating how people move, so R1 can make intelligent decisions about how to get the smoothest, most cinematic footage in real-time.

“The promise of the self-flying camera has captured people’s imaginations, but today’s drones still need to be flown manually for them to be useful,” said Adam Bry, CEO and co-founder of Skydio.

“We’ve spent the last four years solving the hard problems in robotics and AI necessary to make fully autonomous flight possible. We’re incredibly excited about the creative possibilities with R1, and we also believe that this technology will enable many of the most valuable drone applications for consumers and businesses over the coming years.”

Launching today is the Frontier Edition of R1, which is aimed at athletes, adventurers, and creators.

This version of R1 is powered by the Skydio Autonomy Engine, enabling it to see and understand the world around it so that it can fly safely at speeds of upto 25mph while avoiding obstacles.

The autonomous drone is fitted with 13 cameras, which gives it the ability to map and understand the world in real-time, allowing it to be fully autonomous and independently capture footage that in Skydio’s words “once required a Hollywood film crew” and will “enable a new type of visual storytelling”.

The R1 “Frontier Edition” is available for order now on Skydio’s website for $2,499.