Why the Army Is Doubling Down on Drones to Win Future Wars

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The Army’s use of manned-unmanned teaming, wherein human operators control air and ground robotic vehicles to conduct reconnaissance, carry supplies or even launch attacks has long been underway. This developmental trajectory is demonstrated by the Army’s most recent successes with unmanned-unmanned teaming. 

Progress with drone to drone connectivity, from ground to ground and ground to air is fast gaining momentum following successful recent experiments where the Army passed key targeting data from larger drones to smaller mini-drones in the air. This happened in September at Yuma Proving Grounds, Ariz., during the Army’s Project Convergence experiment, wherein the ability to massively shorten sensor-to-shooter time and network time-sensitive combat information was demonstrated between drones. 

During the experiment, an Army Gray Eagle drone networked with a forward operating mini-drone called Air Launched Effects. This, as Army leaders described, extended the range, scope and target envelope for attack missions well beyond “line of sight” and what service leaders described to me as the “visibility line.” Moreover, Gen. John Murray, Commanding General of Army Futures Command, told The National Interest that more drone-drone operations were planned for coming years. 

“You saw unmanned-unmanned teaming with two air vehicles that were completely autonomous. We are going to continue to expand that. Next year, we are looking at four and then we will continue to scale that up,” Murray said at Project Convergence in Yuma. 

The technology is also connecting ground-operated robotic vehicles to aerial drones through platforms such as Textron Systems Ripsaw vehicle. The RIPSAW M5 medium-sized Robotic Combat Vehicle, now being developed as part of an Army program, is an armed robot-vehicle engineered with advanced sensors, scalable armor, high-fidelity targeting sensors made by FLIR Systems, weapons and advanced algorithms for autonomous navigation and networking operations. 

Textron developers emphasize that the RIPSAW is built to be scalable,

The FAA is opening the door a crack for self-flying drones like Skydio to reach their potential

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You can’t fly a drone at night. You can’t fly a drone over people. You need to be able to see it with your naked eye at all times — or have a dedicated observer who can. These rules exist to keep dumb drones (and reckless pilots) from crashing into people, property, and other aircraft in the skies.

But what happens when drones get smarter, and can dodge obstacles on their own? That’s the kind of drone that Skydio builds, and it appears to be successfully convincing the FAA to create exceptions to that naked-eye, Visual Line Of Sight (VLOS) rule.

This week, the FAA granted the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) a blanket waiver to fly Skydio drones beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) to inspect any bridge, anywhere across the state, for four whole years. They primarily need to make sure the bridge isn’t occupied by random people, and fly within 50 feet of the bridge and 1,500 feet of the drone’s pilot. You can see the full waiver here (PDF).

It’s not the first time the FAA has granted a BVLOS waiver; the agency has granted limited waivers since the first drone rules rolled out, but early waivers were often for a single flight or series of flights by a licensed pilot who’d applied months in advance. But in 2015, the FAA signaled that it wanted to enable more advanced uses of drones, particularly beyond visual line of sight, as quickly as it can — and over the past year, we’ve seen it start to happen in a bigger way.

Last October, the UPS won FAA approval to operate a “drone airline” with a Part 135 Standard certification, allowing its delivery drones to fly beyond visual line of sight. This August, Amazon’s Prime Air got the

Falcons will use high-tech drones to clean Mercedes-Benz Stadium once fans return

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MLS: Sporting Kansas City at Atlanta United FC
USATSI

The 0-3 Atlanta Falcons’ second-half play this season has been anything but clean, but now with the help of some high-tech drones, at least their stadium will be spotless. The team and Mercedes-Benz Stadium have partnered with Charlotte-based Lucid Drone Technologies for D1 disinfecting drones to sanitize the stadium. They will use two drones to sanitize the 71,000-seat area, with a third on deck if needed.

To get everything in the space clean, the drones use electrostatic spraying nozzles that allows for “medical-grade disinfecting chemicals” to be spread in the stadium, according to ESPN. The move to use these drones comes as the team plans to welcome back fans at a limited capacity in October, starting on the 11th when they host the Carolina Panthers.

“This stadium is incredibly large, and as we begin to slowly welcome fans back, these drones allow us to maximize the time between games and private events to thoroughly sanitize,” Jackie Poulakos, manager of building operations, told ESPN. “We are always challenged by leadership to continually innovate and this new technology is the ideal solution to effectively disinfect and sanitize our stadium in an efficient manner.”

While the Falcons are the first team believed to use this drone technology, according to ESPN, they aren’t the only one introducing high-tech way to get their stadium ready for fans. The Panthers have a Xenex LightStrike Robot — referred to as a “germ-zapping robot” by team president Tom Glick — on hand for games at Bank of America Stadium. The Panthers are welcoming in 5,240 fans on Sunday when they host the Arizona Cardinals.

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Atlanta Falcons to use drones to clean stadium after games

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The Atlanta Falcons’ home, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, is believed to be the first professional sports venue to implement drones to clean the stadium, but they’re not the only ones using new technology.

Beginning after the team’s Oct. 11 game against the Carolina Panthers, the 71,000-seat stadium, which has not hosted fans for the first two home games because of the coronavirus pandemic, will welcome back a limited capacity. (The stadium hosted about 500 family members, friends and associates for a test run during Sunday’s Bears-Falcons game.)

Mercedes-Benz Stadium partnered with Charlotte-based Lucid Drone Technologies for D1 disinfecting drones to sanitize areas. The drones use electrostatic spraying nozzles for even distribution of medical-grade disinfecting chemicals that include an inhibitor that prevents bacteria and virus from adhering to surfaces without leaving a residue. The nontoxic hypochlorous acid solution is in compliance with Environmental Protection Agency standards, according to the company.

Two drones will be used to clean the stadium, and the team will have a third as a backup.

“The process of welcoming fans back involves actively listening and responding to their concerns and we understand that proper cleaning and sanitization protocols are top of mind in the current environment,” said Dietmar Exler, COO of AMB Sports and Entertainment. “We have worked tirelessly to provide a safe environment for not only our associates, players and staff, but especially our fans.”

The Panthers will allow 5,240 fans into Bank of America Stadium for Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals, and while Carolina doesn’t have drones, it does have a modern cleaning plan.

The Panthers appear to be the first NFL team to debut what team president Tom Glick called a “germ-zapping robot” that has been used in locker rooms, office space and other parts of the building.

The Xenex LightStrike Robot is being billed

Optus and ANU to throw satellites, drones, and robotics at Australian bushfires

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bushfires-2020-1024x341.jpg

The Australian bushfires wreaked havoc. A new study shows that anthropogenic climate change made things worse.


Image: World Weather Attribution

The Australian National University (ANU) and Optus announced on Thursday the pair would attempt to develop a national system to detect and extinguish fires using a mixture of satellites, drones, and robotics.

The first step of the program, which is due to run until 2024, will be to create an “autonomous ground-based and aerial fire detection system”.

It will begin with the trial of long-range infra-red sensor cameras placed on towers in fire-prone areas in the ACT, which will allow the ACT Rural Fire Service (RFS) to monitor and identify bushfires.

The long-term goal, though, is to put out fires using drones.

“We hope to develop a system that can locate a fire within the first few minutes of ignition and extinguish it soon afterwards,” ANU vice-chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt said.

“ANU is designing and looking to build highly innovative water gliders with autopilots that will extinguish fires within minutes of them igniting.”

By 2022, it is planned that ANU will manage a constellation of satellites, as well as a geo-stationary satellite, to help with fire detection.

See also: Twitter bots and trolls promote conspiracy theories about Australian bushfires

“If we are able to improve the speed and accuracy of fire detection it ultimately means we can improve our response and better protect communities and landscapes,” ACT RFS acting chief officer Rohan Scott said.

A joint chair for bushfire research and innovation, as well as a research fund, will also be established at ANU.

Also on Thursday morning, Optus announced it would allow customers to provision eSIMs from the My Optus app without needing a physical Optus SIM at some stage.

“eSIM also eliminates the hassle of having to carry