Sunday, April 10, 2016

Robots; by Land, Sea and Air

  • Last week, recommendations from the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) "small drone" working group included 1) drones weighing about half a pound or less should fly without restrictions and 2) drones weighing four to five pounds can fly over populated areas but must stay at least 20  feet above or 10 feet away from people.
  • U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein’s commented about drone regulation saying “Reckless drone use varies significantly in different states and even within a state, which is why we need to maintain the ability for states to set their own standards of drone operation … one in five incidents of reckless drone use nationwide has occurred in California, and densely-populated areas with critical infrastructure like Los Angeles and San Francisco need flexibility to enact rules that address their unique challenges.”
  • Separately, the U.S. Navy christened the autonomous warship Sea Hunter, which was developed by the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The 132-foot diesel powered vessel, which is still being tested, is designed to operate without human remote control.
  • Deputy U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Work said, "This is an inflection point … this is the first time we've ever had a totally robotic, trans-oceanic-capable ship."
  • Also, as part of the “European Truck Platooning Challenge”, twelve semi-automated “smart” trucks from DAFDaimlerIvecoMAN, Scania and Volvo traveled to Rotterdam, Netherlands - some trucks traveled over 1,200 miles, crossing four country borders.
  • Dutch infrastructure and environment minister Melanie Schultz van Haegen said “Truck platooning will ensure cleaner and more efficient transport. Self-driving vehicles also contribute to road safety because most accidents are caused by human failure.”

  • In the short term, the landscape for aerial and terrestrial automated vehicles will need to adapt to different regulations across, cities, states and countries – which may slow the pace of adoption.
  • In the longer term, the need for collision detection and avoidance will continue to challenge many robotic solutions.  Advances in sensor technologies will mitigate some of the risk, but adoption may be constrained to more structured use cases where the environmental variables are well understood.  

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