Greg Galitzine : Robotics
Greg Galitzine

November 2009

You are browsing the archive for November 2009.

Boeing MATRIX Laser Systems Destroy Unmanned Aerial Vehicles in Tests

November 23, 2009

Ok, so it's not exactly sharks with laser beams on their heads, but I think it's pretty cool nonetheless, and much more practical.


It was announced this week that back in May, the Integrated Defense Systems division of Boeing demonstrated a mobile laser weapon system that was able to track and destroy small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). According to the news, the Boeing-developed Mobile Active Targeting Resource for Integrated eXperiments (MATRIX) used a single, high-brightness laser beam to shoot down five UAVs at various ranges.


The tests were sponsored by the U.S. Air Force and were conducted at the Naval Air Warfare Center in China Lake, California


"The Air Force and Boeing achieved a directed-energy breakthrough with these tests," said Gary Fitzmire, vice president and program director of Boeing Missile Defense Systems' Directed Energy Systems unit.

U.S. Tests Solar-Powered HALE UAS at Naval Air Warfare Center

November 23, 2009

QinetiQ recently announced that the company's solar-powered Zephyr High-Altitude Long-Endurance unmanned aerial system (HALE UAS) has recently resumed flight testing and payload evaluations in Yuma, Arizona, when a joint U.S./U.K. Zephyr team undertook the first operation of the system with a U.S. flight crew.


This installment of an ongoing evaluation campaign focused on reviewing potential payloads as well as advancing the concept of operations (conops) for operating long endurance persistent aircraft in excess of five days.


The Zephyr concept is designed to offer solar-powered, persistent coverage with continuous mission durations of up to three months.

Air Force Awards $302.9 Million UAS Contract to Northrop Grumman

November 23, 2009

Northrop Grumman Corporation has won a $302.9 million fixed price incentive fee contract to produce and deliver five RQ-4 Global Hawk high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to the United States Air Force in a contract that runs through 2011.


The project also includes development of a ground station consisting of a launch and recovery element and a mission control element, plus two additional sensor suites that will be retrofitted into previous production aircraft.


According to the company, Global Hawk can soar at altitudes of more than 60,000 feet for more than 32 hours and send near-real-time reconnaissance imagery and signals intelligence data to air, ground, and sea forces. It can fly three times as long and operates at a fraction of the cost per flight hour of its manned counterpart.


The unmanned aircraft are currently flown in four locations across the globe: Beale Air Force Base, home of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing and the RQ-4's main operating base, in Northern California; Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California; Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland; and a forward operating location in support of Overseas Contingency Operations in the Persian Gulf.

Applied Robotics Announces New Diagnostic Module

November 23, 2009

A new diagnostic module from Applied Robotics is designed to provide communication between simple industrial devices, such as sensors and actuators, and higher-level devices such as robots, programmable controllers, and computers.


The Applied Robotics SmartComm communications module offers support for a variety of communications protocols, including Profinet, Ethernet/IP, Modbus TCP and DeviceNet, and is made to enable tool changers to be linked to a factory communications network to exchange data, as well as provide I/O capabilities, diagnostics reporting, and real time acceleration data.


According to a company press release announcing the innovation, "...the SmartComm Module provides extremely fast tooling network connection times. A connection time from the Robot Side Module to the Tool Side Module of 150ms uses a proprietary subnetwork. The patented SmartCharge feature improves connection times even further by eliminating power-up on the Tool Side. With SmartCharge enabled, connection times are 60ms or less."


Applied Robotics vice president Jim Fitzgerald is excited by the prospects of the new solution. "We feel we have something unique and quite innovative to offer customers," he said.

GeckoSystems CareBot in Home Trials

November 23, 2009

GeckoSystems this week announced limited in home evaluation trials for their fully autonomous personal companion home care robot, the CareBot.


The CareBot is an "assistive care home appliance," a personal companion that features telepresence capabilities. The first recipient of care in the evaluation period is a ninety-three year old widow with short-term memory loss that is very similar to the symptoms of Alzheimers.


According to GeckoSystems' President/CEO Martin Spencer, "In the near future, as we progress with our in home personal companion robot evaluation trials, we will be reporting on the social interaction responses of the care receiver - and the care giver - to this new type of fully autonomous in home medical monitoring system."


The CareBot is designed to enable Cost Effective Monitoring of the care receiver, as well as to enable virtual visits from family members who might otherwise be unable to spend time with the care receiver. If they have access to the Internet, then family members will have the ability to visit their elderly relatives virtually, from afar.  

New Zealand Robot Researchers Seek Input From Elderly

November 23, 2009

When it came to developing robotic healthcare assistants for New Zealand's elderly population, researchers at The University of Auckland saw fit to include that demographic in a study to gauge the attitude of those who would be on the receiving end of a robot's care.


According to Dr Bruce MacDonald, head of the research group, "designers must first understand older people's attitudes and expectations of robots before they can be accepted."


The study, which was conducted at Selwyn Retirement Village in Pt. Chevalier asked residents, their families and staff for their input on what robots should be expected to do and even what they thought the mechanized assistants should look like.


The responses from each group reflected their perceived needs and expectations.


According to a release from The University of Auckland, residents would most like robots to assist with detecting falls, calling for help, switching on and off appliances, cleaning, making phone calls to a doctor or nurse, and reminding them to take their medications.


Residence staff ranked such tasks as measuring vital signs, general reminders, and locking the house at night as useful for robotic assistants.


As for how the healthcare robot should look? The preference was for a middle-aged robot with a clear voice, but the robot should not be too human-like. There was no preference for either a male or female form.

Boeing to Develop Weapons for UAVs

November 13, 2009

Boeing announced the company had received a $500,000 U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory contract for the first phase of a program to demonstrate miniature weapon technology for use on unmanned airborne vehicles (UAV).


"UAVs are increasingly called upon to perform strike operations, and this weapon technology is designed specifically for those missions," said Carl Avila, director of Boeing Phantom Works' Advanced Weapons and Missiles. "The concept behind this technology is designed to generate very low collateral damage and allows warfighters to engage a variety of targets, including those in a suburban terrain environment."


According to a news release announcing the contract award, Boeing will develop the system integration, seeker, avionics, guidance and control, and mission planning systems. Other key contractors and suppliers include KaZaK Composites Inc., Ensign Bickford Aerospace & Defense Company, Systima Technologies Inc. and Science Applications International Corporation SAIC).

NSF Funds Scripps' Ocean Probe Research

November 13, 2009

Earlier this week, the National Science Foundation (NSF)'s division of ocean sciences announced it had awarded nearly $1 million to scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California to develop a new breed of ocean-probing instruments.


Oceanographers Jules Jaffe and Peter Franks will lead a team to design and deploy autonomous underwater explorers, or AUEs to study the details of oceanographic processes vital to tiny marine inhabitants. The study will look at defining localized currents, as well as temperature, salinity, pressure and other factors to help researchers gain a better understanding about the effects on diminutive marine life.


According to Phillip Taylor of NSF's division of ocean sciences, "We're seeing great success in the global use of ocean profiling floats to document large-scale circulation patterns and other physical and chemical attributes of the deep and open seas.

Fly Eye Inspires Vision System

November 13, 2009

A recent Wired article described the work that researchers are doing whereby they are turning the brain cell activity that enables a fly's eyesight into mathematical equations in order to someday program vision systems for a wide variety of robotic applications


Apparently, however, the scientists who built the system don't have a firm grip on how it all works.


The article quotes David O'Carroll, a computational neuroscientist who studies insect vision at Australia's University of Adelaide, "We can build a system that works perfectly well, inspired by biology, without having a complete understanding of how the components interact. It's a non-linear system."


Ultimately, success would enable future generations of battle drones, search and rescue robots, and automobile navigation systems. For a more thorough understanding of the principles involved in the project, check out the article.

Are Shape Shifting Robots on the Horizon?

November 13, 2009

Last week, Computerworld featured a piece on shape shifting robots that are getting ever closer to reality.


According to the article, researchers at both Intel and Carnegie Mellon University are utilizing large swarms of millimeter size robots and -- through the application of electromagnetic forces -- are enabling them to form up into various shapes and sizes.


As described in the article:


"the programmable matter is called claytronics and the tiny robots are called catoms. Each catom will have its own processor. Think of each catom as a tiny robot or computer that has computational power, memory and the ability to store and share power."


The technology marks a continuation of Seth Goldstein's research to create "programmable matter." Goldstein, an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University, has been working with a team of scientists at Intel and the U.S. Air Force Research Lab on just such a feat for over two years.


Raven Unmanned Aircraft System Gets Nod from Dutch Military Aviation Authority

November 6, 2009

AeroVironment, Inc. announced that the Military Aviation Authority of the Netherlands (MLA-NLD) has issued a Military Type Certificate (MTC) for the company's Raven B NLD MUAS, a move which will allow the Dutch military to operate Raven systems in designated Dutch airspace.


This is the first such certificate issued in the Netherlands in the Micro-Unmanned Aerial Vehicle category.


According to published reports, the Dutch selected the Raven B system following an open competition in 2007. Key elements resulting in its selection were hand-launchability, reliability, ease of use, robustness, and demonstrated in-theater operational performance and logistics support.


"Receiving this MTC validates the Raven system's airworthiness and reliability, but also represents an important step toward the operation of small UAS in our national airspace," said Dick Goedhart, head section type management unmanned aircraft, for the Netherlands Defence Ministry's Defence Materiel Organization or DMO


The Raven is a 4.2-pound, backpackable, hand-launched sensor platform that provides day and night, real-time video imagery for "over the hill" and "around the corner" reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition in support of tactical units.

Wilson's Robopocalypse Optioned to Dreamworks & Doubleday

November 6, 2009

DreamWorks Studios and Doubleday announced they have acquired the rights to, "Robopocalypse," Daniel H. Wilson's unpublished manuscript that explores the fate of the human race following a robot uprising.


A 2011 date has been tentatively agreed upon as the launch date for the novel, and it has been reported that Dreamworks is putting the project into "accelerated development."


Wilson expressed his gratitude to the fans and well wishers who congratulated him on his success.


"Thanks to everybody for the congrats," he Tweeted. "Now I just hafta finish writing the novel. I *was* wondering what to do for the next year and a half."


Wilson's previous works include 2005's "How to Survive a Robot Uprising: Tips on Defending Yourself Against the Coming Rebellion;" "Where's My Jetpack?: A Guide to the Amazing Science Fiction Future That Never Arrived;" "How To Build a Robot Army: Tips on Defending Planet Earth Against Aliens, Ninjas, and Zombies;" and "The Mad Scientist Hall of Fame: Muwahahaha!"


He has a Ph.D.

ABI Sees Quadrupling Personal Robot Market by 2015

November 5, 2009

ABI Research has released a new study predicting that the personal robotics market will achieve a global value of $1.16 billion this year, and that the market will more than quadruple by 2015, when worldwide shipments should approach $5.26 billion.


According to the report, Personal Robotics 2009: Task, Security & Surveillance/Telepresence, Entertainment and Education Robot, and Robotic Components Markets Through 2015:


Advances in military and commercial robots will continue to trickle down to the consumer market, and components will see price declines driven by their use in other markets (e.g., laser rangefinders in the automotive industry).


ABI Researchers consider the personal robotics market is made up of consumer products that have some intelligence, interface with their environment through sensors, and perform a desired function. These functions might include acting as a security system, or utility in the entertainment or educational spheres.


The research yields that North America is the largest market for personal robots, ahead of Asia-Pacific where Japan makes up a significant portion of the market. Western Europe is expected to grow into a significant market, but according to the report, Europeans are interested less in the cachet of owning a robot, and more in how well the robot performs its task.

Novint Adds Tactile Feedback for PackBot Operators

November 5, 2009

Novint Technologies, Inc. has been awarded a subcontract with iRobot Corp. for a military robotics project funded by the Secretary of Defense Joint Ground Robotics Enterprise through the Robotics Technology Consortium (RTC).


The arrangement calls for Novint to co-develop a Remote Touch Kit (RTK) for iRobot's PackBot line of military-grade unmanned ground vehicles. Thre goal is to provide soldier operators the ability to experience force and tactile sensing when operating the PackBot from a distance.


According to a press release announcing the subcontract, the RTK will allow soldiers to feel how hard the PackBot's "gripper" squeezes an object, safely pick up and handle fragile objects, and feel when the robot's arm touches a wire or reaches a movement limit.

Universal Robotics, Motoman Team Up On 3D Vision Systems

November 5, 2009

A partnership between Universal Robotics, Inc. and Motoman, Inc. will yield an accurate, cost effective and easy-to-implement 3D vision system solution for a variety of robotic applications. The idea is to integrate Universal's Spatial Vision self-calibrating 3D vision software in Motoman's industrial robots. It is hoped that the resulting solutions will be introduced to the materials handling market in early 2010.


Roger Christian, Vice President Marketing and International Groups at Motoman is excited at the prospect of the partnership. "The Spatial Vision software is an exciting breakthrough by Universal that will allow us to set a new price-performance point in the robotic 3D vision systems market.