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Google Grant to Help WWF Monitor Endangered Species with Drones

Photo: Helge Denker/WWF

Google has announced that it is awarding a US $5 million grant to the World Wildlife Fund to help the organization buy, among other things, drones. The drones will be used to keep track and protect tigers, rhinos, and elephants in Africa and Asia.

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Good Ideas: DARPA Program Adds Giant Robot Arm to UAV

Hey, you know what would be cool? Mounting a giant frikkin' robot arm on a giant frikkin' UAV. And since overall coolness seems to be the #1 criteria that DARPA uses to decide whether or not to pay someone a bunch of money to get a robot to do something (we heartily approve of this), we now have a giant frikkin' robot arm on a giant frikkin' UAV. Thanks, DARPA, and you're welcome, universe.

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Video Friday: Dances With Robot Arms, ROS Turns Five, LittleDog Says Hello

It's December. December means holidays, December means vacation, December means that you should call in sick today, sink into your couch, make yourself a mug of hot cocoa, and watch robot videos until everything you see looks like it's made out of a slightly less than infinite number of tiny little ones and zeros. Unfortunately, the only part of that that we can help you with is providing those robot videos, although we did manage to find this cocoa recipe from a blog that's supposedly by authored by some sort of robotic chef. So, there you go.

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AR Drone That Infects Other Drones With Virus Wins DroneGames

AR Drones can be much, much more than awesome toys. Just recently, we've see how the (relatively) inexpensive and versatile flying robots have been used as research tools, but the sky's the limit as to what you can do with them, so to speak. DroneGames, which took place over the weekend in San Francisco, tasked programmers with hacking the UAVs in the most interesting and creative ways possible.

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Liquid Robotics' Wave Glider Completes Pacific Crossing

It’s Thursday, 6 December, in Australia, and “Papa Mau,” an autonomous vehicle that propels itself by tapping into wave energy, has arrived in Australia. Launched from San Francisco by U.S.-based Liquid Robotics, Papa Mau traveled 16 668 kilometers, during which, the company says, “he weathered gale force storms, fended off sharks, spent more than 365 days at sea, skirted around the Great Barrier Reef, and finally battled and surfed the East Australian Current.” During this journey he measured chlorophyll blooms and gathered other data, all of which was transmitted to researchers in real time.

Sibling robot Benjamin is following behind, and is expected to show up in Australia early next year. Two other robots set off for Japan; one is still en route, a second has detoured back to Hawaii for repair.

Photos: A Wave Glider in action, above. Four robots set off across the Pacific last year, below. Credit: Liquid Robotics

NASA's Mars Program Now Includes 2020 Rover

It's been just four months since Curiosity landed on Mars, and NASA is already planning for her successor. At a press conference held in conjunction with the American Geophysical Union annual meeting in San Francisco yesterday, the agency officially announced its intention to land a next-generation version of the rover on Mars in 2020.

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CyPhy Works Exits Stealth Mode with 'Unlimited Duration' Surveillance Drones

Ex-iRobot founder Helen Greiner's new company, CyPhy Works, has been doing something secret involving drones for the last several years, and as of today, we've found out what it is: UAVs that can operate for "unlimited" amounts of time. It's not some sort of fancy fuel cell or wireless power transfer technology; rather, if you look closely at the image above, you'll see that CyPhy's UAVs are using a new solution that is actually very old: an unbroken, continuous cable that connects the UAV to its ground station at all times.

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Georgia Tech Robots Learn Deceptive Behaviors from Squirrels

We know, we know, robots being deceptive sounds like a bad thing. Potentially a very bad thing. But the fact is, deception is everywhere, and for good reason: being deceptive is often the most efficient and effective way to protect yourself from harm. Deception is by no means unique to humans, either: animals are masters at deceiving other animals (and us), and Ron Arkin's group at Georgia Tech has been teaching robots to learn deception from a pro: the squirrel.

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IEEE Spectrum's award-winning robotics blog, featuring news, articles, and videos on robots, humanoids, drones, automation, artificial intelligence, and more.
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