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Package Delivery by Drone

At a NASA Convention, Workhorse Group presents its plan to have drones drop packages at your door

1 min read
Package Delivery by Drone
Photo: Tekla Perry

Take an electric delivery truck, add wireless charging on top, and a drone that can carry four and a half kilograms for 30 minutes, and you have the perfect package delivery system. At least that’s what the Workhorse Group thinks. Last week, the company filed paperwork with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration asking for permission to deliver packages by drone. This week, it demonstrated the drone part of its technology at UTM 2015, a three-day convention focused on Unmanned Aerial System Traffic Management. The event is being held at the NASA Ames Research Center (see video, above).

The idea, explains Martin Rucidlo, company president, is for the operator of the delivery truck to make the normal rounds, but send the drone off to handle the less convenient deliveries. The drone gets most of the way to the delivery site by navigating autonomously after scanning a barcode for GPS coordinates, but when it gets ready to descend, it turns on cameras and alerts the operator, who monitors the descent, watching out for dogs, children, or other potential hazards, and stands ready to take control. The drone then returns itself to the truck, which has continued to travel along its delivery route. The drone lands itself automatically and precisely on the charging pad. That’s not easy to do, Rucidlo said. But he believes that the company has found a solution that will work even in windy conditions.

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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
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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
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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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