The Nearly Effortless Flight of the Albatross

Measuring and modeling the bird’s aerial behavior could inspire new drone designs

11 min read
The Nearly Effortless Flight of the Albatross
Illustration: Emily Cooper

The male albatross is finally back from his foraging, and now there is no time to lose. His mate has been patiently sitting on their nest awaiting his return, without food, for nearly a month, and we have to get to her before she flies off to forage for herself.

Our colleague, biologist Anna Nesterova, crawls slowly toward the bird. All of a sudden, she lunges: With her left hand she expertly grabs the 10-kilogram albatross by the beak, and with her right arm she hugs its body and lifts it off the nest and its precious cargo, a single egg. Together we then fix a GPS logger onto the feathers of the bird’s back with adhesive tape and glue.

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Golf Robot Learns To Putt Like A Pro

Watch out Tiger Woods, Golfi has a mean short game

4 min read
Golf Robot Learns To Putt Like A Pro

While being able to drive the ball 300 yards might get the fans excited, a solid putting game is often what separates a golf champion from the journeymen. A robot built by German researchers is quickly becoming a master of this short game using a clever combination of classical control engineering and machine learning.

In golf tournaments, players often scout out the greens the day beforehand to think through how they are going to play their shots, says Annika Junker, a doctoral student at Paderborn University in Germany. So she and her colleagues decided to see if giving a robot similar capabilities could help it to sink a putt from anywhere on the green, without assistance from a human.

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Tickle Pill Bug Toes With These Haptic Microfingers

Balloon actuators and liquid metal sensors enable tactile human-insect interactions

4 min read
A gif showing a live pill bug on its back wiggling its body and feet as a very small robot hand touches it

All things considered, we humans are kind of big, which is very limiting to how we can comfortably interact with the world. The practical effect of this is that we tend to prioritize things that we can see and touch and otherwise directly experience, even if those things are only a small part of the world in which we live. A recent study conservatively estimates that there are 2.5 million ants for every one human on Earth. And that’s just ants. There are probably something like 7 million different species of terrestrial insects, and humans have only even noticed like 10 percent of them. The result of this disconnect is that when (for example) insect populations around the world start to crater, it takes us much longer to first notice, care, and act.

To give the small scale the attention that it deserves, we need a way of interacting with it. In a paper recently published in Scientific Reports, roboticists from Ritsumeikan University in Japan demonstrate a haptic teleoperation system that connects a human hand on one end with microfingers on the other, letting the user feel what it’s like to give a pill bug a tummy rub.

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FAST Labs’ Cutting-Edge R&D Gets Ideas to the Field Faster

BAE Systems’ FAST Labs engineers turn breakthrough innovations into real-life impact

1 min read

FAST Labs is an R&D organization where research teams can invent and see their work come to life.

BAE Systems

This is a sponsored article brought to you by BAE Systems.

No one sets out to put together half a puzzle. Similarly, researchers and engineers in the defense industry want to see the whole picture – seeing their innovations make it into the hands of warfighters and commercial customers.

That desire is fueling growth at BAE Systems’ FAST Labs research and development (R&D) organization.

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