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Posts tagged ‘Robotics’

Steampunk Rover Could Explore Hellish Venus

By Mike Wall, Space.com

September 6, 2017

Researchers are studying the possibility of building a steampunk Venus rover, which would forsake electronics in favor of analog equipment, such as levers and gears, to the extent possible.

“Venus is too inhospitable for the kind of complex control systems you have on a Mars rover,” project leader Jonathan Sauder, an engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, said in a statement. “But with a fully mechanical rover, you might be able to survive as long as a year.

“Inhospitable” may be a bit of an understatement. Thanks to Venus’ thick atmosphere, pressures on the planet’s surface are high enough to crush the hull of a nuclear submarine, NASA officials said. That same atmosphere has also spawned a runaway greenhouse effect: Venus’ average surface temperature is a whopping 864 degrees Fahrenheit (462 degrees Celsius) — hot enough to melt lead (not to mention standard electronics).

No spacecraft has ever survived these conditions for more than 127 minutes, and none has even tried for more than three decades; the last probes to reach the Venusian surface were the Soviet Union’s twin Vega 1 and Vega 2 landers, which launched in 1984.

So Sauder and his team are thinking creatively, drawing inspiration from mechanical computers such as Charles Babbage’s famous 19th-century Difference Engine and the intricate Antikythera mechanism, which the ancient Greeks used to predict eclipses and perform a variety of other celestial calculations.

They’re developing their concept vehicle, known as the Automaton Rover for Extreme Environments (AREE), using two rounds of funding from the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program. NIAC grants are intended to help nurture potentially revolutionary space science and exploration ideas.

“In Phase 1, purely mechanical rover technologies were compared to a high-temperature electronics rover and hybrid rover technologies,” Sauder and his colleagues wrote in a description of the project. “A purely mechanical rover, while feasible, was found to not be practical, and a high-temperature electronics rover is not possible with the current technology, but a hybrid rover is extremely compelling.”

This hybrid rover, as currently envisioned, would trundle across Venus not on wheels but on treads, like a tank. Most of its power would be generated by an onboard wind turbine, though roof-mounted solar panels would help as well.

The team’s current plans also call for AREE to feature a radar target with a rotating shutter, which would allow the rover to selectively bounce back radar signals from an overhead orbiter. As such, AREE could relay data in an old-fashioned, Morse-code sort of way.

“When you think of something as extreme as Venus, you want to think really out there,” JPL engineer Evan Hilgemann, who’s working on AREE high-temperature designs, said in the same statement. “It’s an environment we don’t know much about beyond what we’ve seen in Soviet-era images.”

Source: SPACE.com.

Link: https://www.space.com/37994-nasa-steampunk-venus-rover-concept.html.

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IS drone kills Kurdish fighters, hurts French troops

Washington (AFP)

Oct 12, 2016

A remote-controlled jihadist hobby plane rigged with hidden explosives killed two Kurdish fighters and injured two French special operations troops near Mosul, French and US sources confirmed Wednesday.

While the Pentagon has previously said the Islamic State group uses simple, commercially available drones to conduct surveillance and carry small explosives, this was the first known deadly case.

According to a US defense official, the incident unfolded October 2 when a small plane with a styrofoam body was either shot down or crashed in Erbil in northern Iraq.

Two local Kurdish peshmerga fighters grabbed it and took it back to their camp to inspect and photograph it, when it blew up.

“It looks like the explosive charge was hidden inside of what appeared to be a battery on some sort of a timer,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the matter.

A French source earlier confirmed the use of a “booby-trapped drone in Iraq,” while another confirmed that two French soldiers were hurt in the incident.

One of the French soldiers has life-threatening injuries. Both have been flown back to France for treatment.

The French military declined to comment.

Colonel John Dorrian, a spokesman for the US-led coalition fighting IS in Iraq and Syria, described the incident as a “Trojan Horse-style” attack.

“There was an improvised device on a drone. And when that was brought back to the camp, it exploded,” he said.

US defense officials said the military was deploying additional anti-drone technologies to the theater, including systems that provide electronic jamming.

“We don’t just let the enemy develop a capability that threatens our forces and those forces of our allies and partners and leave that threat unaddressed,” Dorrian said.

France is part of the international coalition fighting IS, which is preparing for a major offensive to dislodge the jihadist group from Mosul, which lies 85 kilometers (53 miles) from Erbil.

Around 500 French soldiers are based in Iraq, where they advise the peshmerga and train Iraqi elite forces in Baghdad. About 5,000 US troops are in Iraq.

US defense officials stressed IS drones would have zero strategic impact on the upcoming battle to wrest control of Mosul from IS.

“The implications of this are certainly not an existential threat and not something that’s militarily significant in that it’s going to stop anything that needs to happen from happening,” Dorrian said.

The unnamed defense official said the biggest implication was guidance being issued across the coalition to not pick up any drones.

“Treat them as unexploded ordinance,” he said.

“You see a drone sitting on the ground, don’t pick it up,” and call a bomb disposal expert, he added.

Source: Space War.

Link: http://www.spacewar.com/reports/IS_drone_kills_Kurdish_fighters_hurts_French_troops_999.html.

Pentagon wants drones to replace some US troops in Sinai

Washington (AFP)

April 12, 2016

The Pentagon wants to cut the number of US peacekeeping troops in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, partly because of the growing threat from the Islamic State group, an official said Tuesday.

About 700 US troops participate in a UN operation established after Israel and Egypt signed a 1979 peace deal and agreed for a Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) mission to monitor compliance.

The mission has historically been somewhat low-key, but in recent months attacks from IS jihadists have put forces on a state of constant high alert.

In September for instance, a roadside bombing injured six peacekeepers including four Americans.

Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis said the Pentagon remains “fully committed” to the MFO mission but wants to use drones and other high-tech tools to assume some of the riskier work.

“I don’t think anyone is talking about a wholesale withdrawal, I think we are just going to look at the number of people we have there and see if there are functions that can be automated,” Davis said.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter and other US officials have begun “formal conversations” with Israel and Egypt, Davis added.

US officials are also considering moving some US and international troops into a camp in the southern Sinai, far from their current base — called El-Gorah — near the Gaza Strip.

Sinai jihadists pledged allegiance in November 2014 to IS fighters, who control parts of Iraq and Syria and also has a presence in conflict-ridden Libya.

Jihadist fighters have long used Sinai as a base and launched an insurgency after the military overthrew Egypt’s Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

Source: Space War.

Link: http://www.spacewar.com/reports/Pentagon_wants_drones_to_replace_some_US_troops_in_Sinai_999.html.

Iran’s new aerial drone makes maiden flight

by Carlo Munoz

Tehran (UPI)

Apr 12, 2016

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, or IRGC, on Tuesday unveiled its newest aerial surveillance drone during large-scale military exercises in the western part of the country.

Iranian media reports the drone, named “Hamasseh” or “Epic” in English, conducted its first ever surveillance flights during the exercise in Sistan and Baluchestan Province in western Iran. The drone flew as part of a three-plane formation and carried out several high-altitude reconnaissance flights, Iranian news outlet Press TV.

The Iranian military’s smaller, tactical Mojahr-1 and Ababil-5 drones as well as the high-altitude Shahed-129 surveillance drone flew alongside the Hamasseh during the exercises, IRGC’s Ground Forces Brigadier General Mohammad Pakpour said.

Aside from long-range surveillance operations, the drone is also reportedly designed to carry out airstrikes as part of its anticipated multimission package.

The drone will continue to see action during the exercise in Kerman, South Khorasan and Homozgan, Pakpour added. The drills are expected to wrap up on April 14th.

On Monday, Tehran announced the first tranche of Russian-built S-300 long-range surface-to-air missile systems are en route to the Iranian military. The weapons transited to Iran via the Caspian Sea arriving this week, the country’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Jaberi Ansari said Monday.

Source: Space War.

Link: http://www.spacewar.com/reports/Irans_new_aerial_drone_makes_maiden_flight_999.html.

Britain buying solar-powered Zephyr 8 drones from Airbus

Toulouse, France (UPI)

Feb 18, 2016

Airbus Defense and Space has received an order from Britain’s Ministry of Defense for its solar-powered Zephyr 8 unmanned aerial vehicle.

The Zephyr 8, described by Airbus as a high-altitude pseudo-satellite craft that provides persistent surveillance and communications links for about a month at a time before it needs to land for refurbishment.

Its altitude ceiling is about 65,000 feet. Its wing span is about 72 feet, and it weighs about 30 percent less than its predecessor, the Zephyr 7.

Solar panels on the aircraft charge its batteries from sunlight during the day and maintain the aircraft’s high altitude at night.

Airbus said Britain ordered two of the aircraft. Other contract details were not disclosed.

The first Zephyr 8 ordered is being built at an Airbus facility in England and is due to fly in mid-2017.

Source: Space War.

Link: http://www.spacewar.com/reports/Britain_buying_solar-powered_Zephyr_8_drones_from_Airbus_999.html.

Spain Agrees to Purchase Predator Drone System With Four Planes

Moscow (Sputnik)

Feb 19, 2016

The Spanish military decided to purchase a Predator B drone system consisting of four planes and two ground control stations with satellite links, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI) said in a press release on Wednesday.

The Predator B is capable of remaining in the air for 27 hours at a maximum altitude of 50,000 feet. The system can be used to monitor borders, help direct rescue efforts following natural disasters and support Spain’s military missions worldwide, the release noted.

“GA-ASI is proud to partner with the Spanish Armed Forces to offer our operationally proven Predator B RPA [remotely piloted aircraft] to fulfill Spain’s emerging multi-mission requirements,” Chief Executive Officer Linden Blue said in the release.

SENER, a leading engineering company in Spain, will provide technical support for the project, according to the release.

“Reaper will contribute significantly to strengthen our country’s Defense and Security system and will provide increased protection to our forces,” SENER Vice President Andres Sendagorta said in the release.

Source: Space War.

Link: http://www.spacewar.com/reports/Spain_Agrees_to_Purchase_Predator_Drone_System_With_Four_Planes_999.html.

Fifty Drones Guarding Russian Nuclear Missile Assets

Moscow (Sputnik)

Feb 19, 2016

According to defense ministry, around 50 unmanned aerial vehicles are protecting the assets of Russia’s Strategic Missile Forces.

Around 50 unmanned aerial vehicles are protecting the assets of Russia’s Strategic Missile Forces (SMF), responsible for the country’s nuclear arsenal, the defense ministry said Thursday.

“Around 50 UAVs are involved in operations to guard and protect SMF infrastructure,” the Russian Defense Ministry press service told reporters.

The SMF command has identified measures to boost the security of Russia’s nuclear stockpile against possible terrorist threats as a priority in 2016, the press office noted.

“To that end, an effort is being made to equip facilities with new security systems on a large scale,” the ministry added.

Since 2013, Russian strategic missile facilities have been protected by a new mobile security robot called Taifun-M.

Source: Space War.

Link: http://www.spacewar.com/reports/Fifty_Drones_Guarding_Russian_Nuclear_Missile_Assets_999.html.

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