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Here's What DARPA Wants to See From Their Crowdsourced UAV

DARPA's latest challenge is a crowdsourced UAV, and here's what they're expecting

2 min read
Here's What DARPA Wants to See From Their Crowdsourced UAV

DARPA is just getting lazier and lazier. Instead of coming up with new pieces of hardware by themselves, they keep on sponsoring these competitions where everyone else (like you) can come up with good ideas. Crowd-sourced UAVs, anyone?

UAVForge is a DARPA-sponsored contest designed to get teams of anyone who wants to, to produce an advanced, highly capable UAV for the military. For an outlay of a $100,000 first prize (plus a trip to participate in a military exercise), DARPA is expecting to get a platform that can do something like this:

Key features here seem to be autonomous navigation, obstacle avoidance, loiter capability, and target tracking. This all implies some serious endurance, and the autonomous capability will be tricky in the sorts of environment that this video seems to show. Of course, there's a big disclaimer at the beginning about how this video is "not intended to represent the requirements" blah blah blah. And it's true that some of those features I just mentioned are part of the "advanced behaviors" list, as opposed to the "baseline objectives" list. But "advanced behaviors" have to be what DARPA is really looking for here: The basics (like take-offs, flying around a bit, and landings) are worth a mere 30 points out of the 200 that are possible.

All kinds of ideas have been put forward so far, with proof of flight submissions due last week. The competition itself will be a fly-off in spring of next year, and below, check out some of the conceptual craft that UAVForge teams are working on:

Falcon UAV


GremLion UAV - National University of Singapore


VoRPaL Monocopter - Embry Riddle University

[ UAVForge ]

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The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof

In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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