Robotics Education Journal


The Air Force will send its Tactical High Power Microwave Operational Responder (THOR) overseas this fall for operational field experiments, with Army warfighters in particular keen to get their hands on drone-killing systems. In fact, the Army has so much confidence in the Air Force’s microwave experiments that it’s decided to focus its own R&D dollars on lasers and let the Air Force take the lead developing microwave weapons that might be used by both services.


The four winners announced July 23rd in the Air Force’s highly-anticipated contest for the Skyborg demonstration program — Boeing Co., General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., Kratos Unmanned Aerial Systems Inc., and Northrop Grumman Systems Corp — are all big names in autonomous systems. The drone is part of the Air Force's Low-Cost Attritable Strike Demonstration program. "The intent of Skyborg is to integrate an autonomy mission system core and suite of services ... with multiple low-cost air vehicle systems, each designed to perform one or more mission types." The companies will be competing for an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract, estimated to be worth up to $400 million.


The Guardian XO industrial exoskeleton augments operator strength without restricting freedom of movement. It is designed to boost productivity while dramatically reducing injuries. Industries it is suited for include Industrial Manufacturing, Oil & Gas, Maritime, Construction, Automotive, Military & Defense, Distribution & Warehouse logistics, and Aviation & Aerospace. SARCOS was recently awarded a contract by the U.S. Marine Corps Logistics Innovation Office program for the delivery of an Alpha version of the Guardian® XO® full-body, powered industrial exoskeleton robot. Delivery of the Guardian XO Alpha unit to the U.S. Marines is scheduled by the end of 2020.


Corporate Vision (CV) magazine’s prestigious Technology Innovator 2020 program recently presented c-Link Systems with the “Most Innovative Autonomous Robotics Company 2020” award for “demonstrated excellence, commitment, and innovation.” The innovation award honors c-Link's history of unmanned ground vehicle innovation, most recently represented by the new compact Omni Panzer UGV line.


The first annual Automated Vehicles Symposium took place July 27-30. It was a robust, full-featured online conference with many sessions and lectures to choose from, as well as online opportunities to network with speakers and fellow attendees. Opening day segments dealt with policy and planning, operations & applications, users & human factors, and technology topics. Virtual video platform access used Vimeo, and Zoom was used for discussion groups in breakout sessions. Event sections included: Keynotes & Plenaries; Breakout Sessions; Poster Sessions; Enterprise Solution Series; Exhibitors + Sponsors; and Networking. The virtual platform hosting the event is available on-demand to attendees for 90 days following the symposium.


The Chinese Army is preparing to deploy small tracked unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) armed with machine guns, night-vision, missile loaders, and cameras to launch attacks while leaving manned systems at relatively safe stand-off distances. U.S. policy requires a human in the loop before a robot can use deadly force, yet we have little or no assurance that potential enemies will follow a similar path.


An update at shows the first public view of Boeing’s MQ-25 Tanker Drone refueling pod on a carrier-based MQ-25 tanker drone test vehicle. The Cobham buddy refueling store is mounted under the drone's left wing. The drone is designed to fly extended maritime surveillance missions. The photo was taken at Boeing’s facilities at MidAmerica last week during a visit by Illinois Democrat Senator Tammy Duckworth. The airport is adjacent to Scott Air Force Base in Illinois.


W.J. Hennigan with supporting reporting by Julia Zorthian, today, posted on a comprehensive update on Russian, Chinese and U.S. space weaponry and testing. This is a highly readable compilation of what is known in the public domain, today.


The Slocum G2 Glider “Silbo”, built by Teledyne Webb Research, recently achieved a first for an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) by completing a 4+ year journey that circumnavigated the Atlantic Ocean in four legs. As reported by Teledyne Marine, “Launched in the early spring of 2016 from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Silbo interacted with international science teams from several countries, collected scientific and critical engineering data along the way for a variety of programs, and returned to Cape Cod in late June of 2020.”


The latest generation of semi-autonomous robotic canines are already at work patrolling and surveilling construction, entertainment and other venues. ANYbotics’ ANYmal C is a recent entrant providing “mobility, autonomy and inspection intelligence” to various inspection operations. It follows in the paw prints of Boston Dynamics’ Spot, and Unitree Robotics’ Aliengo.


Researchers at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel have developed a system that locates the operators of a drone by analyzing how the vehicle moves through the air. The new AI-augmented approach, tested only in simulators at the date of its announcement, interprets the reactions of drone pilots to environmental factors such as obstructions and sun glare.


7-17-2020 Press Release by Hitec Commercial Solutions

We are excited to announce our new aerial service division Hitec Commercial Drone Services. Catering to the needs of customers in Agriculture, Construction & Excavation, Mining & Aggregates, Oil & Gas, Engineering & Surveying, Public Safety and many other vertical sectors, we provide end-to-end reliable drone services using our fleet of unmanned vehicles. Our proprietary Mission Control software and impressive data and photogrammetry collection techniques allow for the most comprehensive unmanned aviation experience.
Heading up this new division as our Field Services Director is Jim Bonnardel, an innovative entrepreneur with a history steeped in unmanned flight.


Opportunities are still available for competitors to participate in the DARPA Subterranean (SubT) Challenge: Cave Circuit 2020 and Final Event 2021. Watch an introduction to the DARPA Subterranean Challenge (SubT) with Program Manager Timothy Chung on Monday July 20 at 12pm PDT. See also a link to current Robotnik UGVs in this update.


We were deeply saddened to learn that former Mythbuster, STEM education advocate and DIY robotics & mechatronics master Grant Imahara has passed. He was 49. Among his many diverse initiatives, Grant gave a lot of his time to former Robot magazine to promote hands-on technology to students of all ages.


Commentators have evaluated the outcome of drone attacks and the balance between offense and defense, and their reports cast some light on how difficult effective air defense is in an era of comparatively inexpensive armed drones and precision guided low-flying cruise missiles. Reporting in this arena appears to show that some C-UAS weapons have not been used owing to operational complexity and others owing to political issues. The edge seems to be in favor of offensive UAS at this juncture.


Artificial intelligence (AI) was once the province of science fiction, but today, it is growing around us in nearly every technology we use on a daily basis. A brief survey of a few areas in which AI is becoming prominent in modern life shows how it permeates today’s world. To help frame this presentation, “Artificial general intelligence” (AGI) is the hypothetical intelligence of a machine that has the capacity to understand or learn any intellectual task that a human being can. “Machine learning” is a form of AI that systematizes the ability of robots to improve their operational algorithms, on their own, without being reprogrammed by humans.


On this patriotic day celebrating the birth of American independence, it's fitting for us to reflect on the Voyager spacecraft launched from our great nation under the visionary watch of Carl Sagan, one of our greatest astronomers, planetary scientists and cosmologists. The two Voyagers are the farthest-reaching unmanned missions in human history and both robots are still operational today, 40+ years later!


The TA15 autonomous electric hauler, built by Volvo Autonomous Solutions, won the prestigious Red Dot Product Design Award in what is reportedly the world’s largest and most distinguished design competition. The battery-powered electric truck carries Lidar, Radar, GPS and other sensors for autonomous operation.


In an interesting reflection on unmanned systems aviation history, the # 20 - 13 - 27 JUNE 2020 edition of the UNMANNED SYSTEMS NEWS (USN) describes the primitive origins of today’s ubiquitous drones: “In the 1940s, Drones Were Just Something for Navy Gunners to Shoot At (These were TRUE DRONES not UAVs). These were Radio-controlled, gyro-stabilized, and powered by an externally mounted, gasoline-powered pulsejet engine, which used a design similar to the German V-1 rocket to deliver 55 pounds of thrust. The ‘Katydid’ was one of the most sophisticated UAVs of the mid- to late 1940s. Recognizable by its distinct V-tail, the 320-pound drone could be launched via an AT-1 catapult or released from the bomb rack of a PBY-4 Catalina, at which point gunners would attempt to draw a bead on it.”


This remote-control cetacean was designed by San Francisco’s Edge Innovations in conjunction with Walt Conti and Roger Holzberg, the former Creative Director/Vice-President at Walt Disney Imagineering. The initial prospects for the bottlenose dolphin robot include Chinese theme parks and aquariums. Edge Innovations hopes to sell up to 150 over three years. With mechanics and a center of gravity designed to help it faithfully mimic the swimming of the live animal, the robot bottlenose dolphin can swim for 10 hours on a charge.


CUAS News reported that “Europe’s leading provider of Rotary Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) platforms, UMS SKELDAR, will host a webinar to formally announce its new contract win with the Belgian and Dutch Navies.” The deal will be the first to use the “Toolbox” concept, in which a variety of autonomous UAVs and underwater vehicles (AUVs) will work in unison. SKELDAR V-200 was selected owing to its advanced heavy fuel engine. It is equipped for day or night surveillance and 3D mapping. First deliveries are scheduled for 2023.


MIT researchers described the “brain-on-a-chip” technology in a recent Nature Nanotechnology article. Tens of thousands of artificial brain synapses, “memristors”, made of silver and copper alloys comprise the chip. These alloy-based synapses are said to be more efficient than previous non-alloy versions. The research represents a step toward “neuromorphic devices” that mimic the brain’s neural architecture.


On June 18, in its daily eBrief, the AUVSI posted a story by Harry McNabbon on FLIR Nano drone swarms that recently appeared on FLIR, maker of the Black Hornet NANO drone was awarded a $20.6 million contract to produce Black Hornet® 3 Personal Reconnaissance Systems (PRS) for the military. “The recent contract for Black Hornets is an addition to the $39.7 million contract that the U.S. Army awarded FLIR in January of last year.”


This compilation reveals two dozen humanoid robots used in R&D across the world, today. These links include most of the publicly known leading engineering in this exotic humanoid robotics realm; and we think you will agree, these projects resonate to decades of science fiction. As an introduction, we have included images of a few of the coolest pioneering robot humanoids. Top down: Agility Robotics Cassie, Seisun DSCR5, Kawada Industries AIST HRP-2, AMY-M1B Financial Service Robot, and the historic Westinghouse Elektro. Don't miss the links to over two dozen leading humanoid robotic platforms that represent today's state-of-the-art.


The BBC recently reported that the European Space Agency is “moving rapidly to develop its next Mars rover.” This mission is part of a project to return samples to Earth. “Esa has awarded an advanced B2 contract to the UK arm of the aerospace giant Airbus, which will enable the firm to kick-start the necessary technologies. The new rover is dubbed "Fetch" because its mission will be to find and retrieve the rock samples that have been collected and cached on the surface by the American Perseverance rover, which is heading to Mars next month.”


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