Autonomous Robots in the Fog of War

Networks of autonomous robots will someday transform warfare, but significant hurdles remain

11 min read
Autonomous Robots in the Fog of War
Photo-Illustration: noemotion

Two small planes fly low over a village, methodically scanning the streets below. Within minutes, they spot their target near the edge of town. With no way to navigate through the streets, they radio for help. Soon after, a metallic blue SUV begins moving cautiously but purposefully along the dirt roads leading to town, seeking out the target's GPS coordinates. Meanwhile, the planes continue to circle overhead, gathering updated information about the target and its surroundings. In less than half an hour after the planes take to the sky, the SUV has zeroed in on its quarry. Mission accomplished.

Last fall, my research team fielded these vehicles at Fort Benning, Ga., during the U.S. Army's Robotics Rodeo. That's right, the two quarter-scale Piper Cub aircraft and the Porsche Cayenne operated without any humans at the controls. Instead, each robot had an onboard computer running collaborative software that transformed the three machines into an autonomous, interoperable system.

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Engineers Are Working on a Solar Microgrid to Outlast Lunar Nights

Future lunar bases will need power for mining and astronaut survival

4 min read
A rendering of a lunar base. In the foreground are rows of solar panels and behind them are two astronauts standing in front of a glass dome with plants inside.
P. Carril/ESA

The next time humans land on the moon, they intend to stay awhile. For the Artemis program, NASA and its collaborators want to build a sustained presence on the moon, which includes setting up a base where astronauts can live and work.

One of the crucial elements for a functioning lunar base is a power supply. Sandia National Laboratories, a research and development lab that specializes in building microgrids for military bases, is teaming up with NASA to design one that will work on the moon.

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Trilobite-Inspired Camera Boasts Huge Depth of Field

New camera relies on “metalenses” that could be fabricated using a standard CMOS foundry

3 min read
Black and white image showing different white box shapes in rows

Scanning electron microscope image of the titanium oxide nanopillars that make up the metalens. The scale is 500 nanometers (nm).

NIST

Inspired by the eyes of extinct trilobites, researchers have created a miniature camera with a record-setting depth of field—the distance over which a camera can produce sharp images in a single photo. Their new study reveals that with the aid of artificial intelligence, their device can simultaneously image objects as near as 3 centimeters and as far away as 1.7 kilometers.

Five hundred million years ago, the oceans teemed with horseshoe-crab-like trilobites. Among the most successful of all early animals, these armored invertebrates lived on Earth for roughly 270 million years before going extinct.

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Automating Road Maintenance With LiDAR Technology

Team from SICK’s TiM$10K Challenge creates system to automate road maintenance

4 min read

Developed by a team of students at Worcester Polytechnic Institute as part of SICK's TiM$10K Challenge, their ROADGNAR system uses LiDAR to collect detailed data on the surface of a roadway.

SICK

This is a sponsored article brought to you by SICK Inc..

From advanced manufacturing to automated vehicles, engineers are using LiDAR to change the world as we know it. For the second year, students from across the country submitted projects to SICK's annual TiM$10K Challenge.

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