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Giant Solar-Powered UAVs Are Atmospheric Satellites

The largest robot in the AUVSI expo hall last week belonged to Titan Aerospace. It was a model of their Solara 50 robotic atmospheric satellite, and they had to chop off the tail and most of the wings to get it to fit. The Solara is intended to lift a payload to 20,000 meters and then keep it there for five years, running entirely on solar power. It functions a bit like a satellite, except substantially cheaper and much more versatile. And, you can get it back when you're done.

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Lockheed Martin Developing Flying Robotic Car Carrier

At the AUVSI trade show last week, we spent most of our time wandering around looking for robots that weren't just slightly different flavors of quadrotors, or little airplanes with cameras on them. Things weren't as wacky and awesome as they have been in past years (possibly because the market is maturing a bit), but we still managed to dig up some very cool stuff. And one of the very coolest things was Lockheed Martin's Transformer TX, a DARPA project that'll result in an unmanned payload transport system that can deliver just about anything. Even a car, with you in it.

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Video Friday: Military Robots, Kissing Nao, and Automated Recycling

Well, we're back from AUVSI's Unmanned Systems expo in Washington, D.C. And we're super jet lagged and in desperate need of a vacation. We know better than anyone, though, that the robot news never ever stops, and it especially never ever stops on Fridays. We'll have some great AUVSI content for you next week, but today, it's all about the videos.

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Tiny Jumping Robot Finds Room for a Tail

We first met Jianguo Zhao's jumping robot at ICRA 2011. We were impressed because of how tiny it was, but also because it could change direction, self-right, and jump, all using just one single motor and a clever arrangement of gears. A new upgrade (inspired by research from UC Berkely) adds a tail to the mix, giving this little robot the ability to orient itself in midair. Oh, and it can also run, because why not.

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Orbotix Rolls Out Speedy Next-Gen Sphero

Sphero is a robotic ball that you can drive around with your smartphone. It's a lot fun, and we've been especially impressed with the way that you can get down into its software and mess with it, changing it from a relatively simple remote controlled toy into a real autonomous robot. Heck, you can even control it with ROS.

Today, Orbotix is introducing the Sphero 2.0, packed with new hardware that makes it faster, smarter, faster, brighter, and faster than ever. And did we mention it's faster? Because it's definitely faster.

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Florida to Test Drones for Mosquito Search and Destroy

Is there anything worse than mosquitoes? Yes. Lots of things. But mosquitoes are pretty bad. Besides being buzzy and itchy and annoying, they can transmit nasty diseases including malaria and West Nile virus, even in civilized (mostly) places like Florida. The issue with mosquitoes is that they're everywhere, and if you've ever tried to get rid of even one mosquito, you can imagine how hard mass eradication is. In Florida, they're about to experiment with aerial drones to see if they can help.

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National Geographic Robots Get Intimate With Lions

There is most definitely such a thing as getting way too close to lions. Way too close means close enough that lions can chase you down and tackle you and bite your legs off. Don't let this happen to you. Next time you find yourself in the Serengeti trying to snap the perfect lion picture, just do what the pros over at National Geographic do and enlist the assistance of a little tracked camera robot.

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Video Friday: Robot Fighting, Slime Mold Faces, and RoboSub 2013

Next week, we'll be heading to Washington DC to check out AUVSI Unmanned Systems 2013, which is the big conference for military robotics. We know that military robotics can polarizing issue that lots of people tend to get upset about, but it's hard to get around the fact that with a military-sized budget, you can build some pretty awesome robots. And sometimes, the technologies in those military bots do eventually trickle down to make our lives better, so we're going to go into this with an open mind. Until we get there, distract yourself with some ultra-pasteurized robot videos!

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X-47B Gets Two More Years of Tests to Prep Navy for Robot Warplanes

Last month, Northrop Grumman's X-47B Unmanned Combat Air thingy (Vehicle or System, take your pick) did a mostly excellent job at autonomously taking off from, and more importantly landing on, an aircraft carrier. Once everything was shown to work, the U.S. Navy was like, "awesome job, now never fly those things again," and the two X-47Bs were slated for permanent museum display. Fortunately for fans of big, expensive, scary-looking flying robots, the Navy has just changed its mind.

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Automaton

IEEE Spectrum's award-winning robotics blog, featuring news, articles, and videos on robots, humanoids, automation, artificial intelligence, and more.
Contact us:  e.guizzo@ieee.org

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Erico Guizzo
New York, N.Y.
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Berkeley, Calif.
 
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