Tuesday, October 27, 2020
FEATURED ARTICLES NASA'S NEW MISSION: WARBOTS?

NASA’S NEW MISSION: WARBOTS?

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While the federal government’s increased use and advocacy of drones over U.S. skies is widely known, its promotion of another technological advancement has received less attention: the accelerated deployment of “humanoid robots” into American society.


 

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WND has discovered that NASA is recruiting help from industry and academia to speed up the commercialization of such robotic humanoids “for Earth applications.”

Among the applications is warfare, the agency said.

NASA said technical hurdles remain before sending human-like machines into combat operations and other “hazardous and remote environments.” Among the obstacles are “object recognition/detection” and “artificial vision,” according to a Sources Sought notice that WND discovered via routine database research.

The Johnson Space Center is open to producing intellectual property that NASA and its partners could co-own.

The government, however, also expressed willingness to fully fund the research and development and is equally open to allowing the products to “become the property of the partner” rather than the U.S. citizens who foot the bill for the initiatives.

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The oil and gas industries in particular may benefit from the taxpayer-provided endeavor, the document says. Fire and rescue, telemedicine and post-disaster recovery also fall within the realm of possible uses for humanoid robots, according to NASA.

The U.S. has been using space-based humanoid robots for years. The time has come, NASA said, to leverage these technologies “to advance life on Earth.”

Although NASA began recruiting partners earlier this year, it has extended the deadline until May 31 to submit letters of interest in the project, according to a modified notice released April 10.

The pursuit of these and other “futuristic” endeavors comes at a time when a majority of Americans polled (59 percent) believe “technological advancements will lead to a future in which people’s lives are mostly better, while 30 percent believe that life will be mostly worse,” according to the Pew Research Center.

Specific to unmanned aerial vehicles, however, “the public is largely unenthusiastic,” the survey concluded.

It determined that 63 percent of Americans see it as a negative development if “personal and commercial drones are given permission to fly through most U.S. airspace.  Only 22 percent “think it would be a change for the better.”

Pew noted that the “widespread use of personal and commercial drones” is not futuristic but is imminent, depending as much on federal regulatory decisions as on advanced engineering.

Indeed, the Federal Aviation Administration soon will hold an open meeting to help it determine some of the next steps toward integrating drones into the National Airspace System.

Though the meeting will address issues such as privacy practices for UAS operations, FAA’s idea of “public” apparently is limited to government, university and industry players who will help the Obama administration succeed in making drones an ordinary part of Americans’ lives.

The gathering will focus on FAA’s intention to create an Air Transportation Center of Excellence, or COE, for Unmanned Aircraft Systems, a planned taxpayer-funded consortium of groups who hold a stake in pervasive drone deployment.

The announcement for the public meeting fails to make reference to citizen interest or participation, though neither does it explicitly prevent the public from participating. It does, however, express FAA’s desire to ensure “equal access for all academic and industry registrants.”

Registration for the Washington, D.C.-area meeting is “open to the public on a first come, first served basis by online registration only” via the center website.

Though the COE initially will focus on drone-related R&D, FAA will leverage the center to help it “fill some gaps in its roadmap to integrate” drones into the national airspace in a “safe, efficient and timely” fashion.

by Steve Peacock on WND


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