Tag Archives: Aircraft

Army Drones, Gesturing Robots, and African Delivery Drones

Army Drones

The US Army is looking to roll out tiny drones allowing soldiers on the front lines to have remote sensing capability. This would allow them to look around corners, into buildings and over hills without exposing themselves. The hope is to have these in the field by 2018.

Drones such as these are not new to the military. The British use the 0.5 oz (15 gram) Prox Dynamics’ Black Hornet minicopter in such a role already.

Gesturing Robots

I came across this article (Gestures improve communication, even with robots) telling how British researchers have found that having robots gesture while they talk helps communication with humans. In this study the gestures were first made by a human, then duplicated by the robot.

I think it will be harder to have robots spontaneously gesture with their speech. Will this make robots more understandable, or make people more uncomfortable around them?

African Delivery Drones

Zipline - Zip Outbound

There has been a lot of talk about using drones for deliveries here in the US. In July of this year drones will start dropping medical supplies to remote hospitals and clinics in western Rwanda.

These will be relatively small packages weighing up to only 3.5 pounds, but the drones can fly at up to 180 miles an hour. It is estimated that the aircraft will be able to make between 50 and 150 deliveries a day, so the actual amount of supplies able to be delivered is significant. With this drone delivery network, supplies can be ordered and delivered to locations up to 90 miles away within 30 minutes.

The drones to be used are being supplied by Zipline. This startup has a complete business plan around the delivery of medical supplies. The aircraft will fly to the delivery location then drop the supplies by parachute.

American Spitfire

My cousin sent me an email this morning containing a link to the above documentary. I thought it quite a coincidence since I had just finished reading “Operation Diver” this morning that took place at about the same time as the flight featured in the film.

I thought  this brief video was quite interesting. It took quite a flyer to routinely pilot an unarmed Spitfire on reconnaissance missions from England to Germany and back during World War II.

Watching this made me think of my visit to the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.

Cats in Space?

I came across a brief article today that talked about early efforts to investigate the affects of weightlessness. The short video below shows cats (and pigeons) in a “vomit comet” experiencing a brief period of weightlessness. Check out “The incredible story behind a 1950s space experiment that turned into a viral sensation” to see the video segments. I found the similar sequence shown below on YouTube.

These cats look FAR TOO CALM to me! I recall seeing a similar video once where they had taken a cat and exposed it to weightless conditions in a similar way. The video showed the cat just standing there, then slowly lifting off the deck of the aircraft. A moment later the cat realized what was happening – all four legs shot out to grab at anything in reach and it’s mouth opened in what must have been a pitiful cry.

I have had cats and they have VERY SHARP CLAWS. I don’t know if I would want to be sealed into the small space of the aircraft, weightless, with not one but TWO cats. I think that would have been cruel punishment to the air crew.

As I said the cats in the video above look far too calm.

Are Those Flying Cars Finally Here?

I saw a couple of announcements in the last week that seem to imply that flying cars (well . . . sort of cars) may finally be filling the sky.

Photo Dec 30, 07 47 57-R

One is the ‘AirMule’ VTOL (Vertical Take Off and Landing) Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAV) from Israeli based Tactical Robotics a subsidiary of  Urban Aeronautics. The described the AirMule on their web site as a “compact, unmanned, single-engine, VTOL (Vertical Take Off and
Landing) aircraft.  Internal lift rotors enable the AirMule to fly inside obstructed (e.g. mountainous, wooded, urban) terrain where helicopters are unable to operate. The AirMule is innovative due to its internal rotors and significant payload capacity that allows for the evacuation of 2 casualties as well as fast and flexible payload reconfiguration for other missions.  It is also ideally suited to special robotic operation, for example via Tele-Presence.

With a capacity of over 90 cubic feet and just over 1100 lbs, the AirMule has many applications in emergency response as well as the military. The internal lift motors enable the AirMule to fly in obstructed environments, such as mountainous, wooded or urban
settings, that are difficult for helicopters. The AirMule has already gone through some flight testing, so it’s appearance may not be too far in the future.


A similar aircraft shown at CES is the 184 from Chinese company EHang. EHang touts the 184 Autonomous Aerial Vehicle (AAV) as “the safest, Eco-est and Smartest low altitude autonomous aerial vehicle, aiming on providing Medium-Short Distance communication and transportation solution. The 184 AAV is designed with full redundancy – If one set of the power system are operating abnormal, the vehicle can still operate a normal flight plan and ensure the safety of the passenger together with the vehicle.

The 184 was designed to be a 100% with green technology, and is powered by electricity only. Four arms and eight propellers offer great lifting power and safety. Even with one propeller
malfunctions, it can still land in the nearest possible area safely.

Said to be available later in 2016 for $200,000 to $300,000, this aircraft could provide autonomously piloted travel for a single passenger. The 440 lb craft can fly to over 11,000 ft and has a speed of just over 60 mph. Having a payload of 264 lbs, this would not accommodate everyone. Nor is the 23 minute battery charge going to provide much of a range.