The Future is Here: AirMule’s Autonomous Demo Flight

airmule1Vertical Take-Off and Landing craft have been the subject of military developers for some time. In addition to being able to deploy from landing strips that are damaged or small for conventional aircraft, they are also able to navigate terrain and land where other craft cannot. Add to that the ability to hover and fly close to the ground, and you have a craft that can also provide support while avoiding IEDs and landmines.

One concept that incorporates all of these features is the AirMule, a compact, unmanned, single-engine vehicle that is being developed by Tactical Robotics in Israel. In January of 2013, the company unveiled the prototype which they claimed was created for the sake of supporting military personnel,  evacuating the wounded, and conducting remote reconnaissance missions.

airmule-1Now, less than a year later, the company conducted a demonstration with their prototype aircraft recently demonstrated its ability to fly autonomously, bringing it one step closer to carrying out a full mission demo. During the test, which took place in December, the craft autonomously performed a vertical take-off, flew to the end of a runway, then turned around on the spot and flew back to its starting point.

All the while, it maintained altitude using two laser altimeters, while maintaining positioning via a combination of GPS, an inertial navigation system, and optical reference to markers on the ground. These autonomous systems, which allow it to fly on its own, can also be countermanded in favor of remote control, in case a mission seems particularly harry and requires a human controller.

airmule-0In its current form, the AirMule possesses many advantages over other VTOL craft, such as helicopters. For starters, it weighs only 770 kg (1,700 lb) – as opposed to a Bell UH-1 empty weights of 2,365 kg (5,215 lbs) – can carry a payload of up to 640 kg (1,400 lb), has a top speed of 180 km/h (112 mph), and can reach a maximum altitude of 12,000 ft (3,658 m).

In short, it has a better mass to carrying capacity ratio than a helicopter, comparable performance, and can land and take-off within an area of 40 square meters (430.5 sq ft), which is significantly smaller than what a manned helicopter requires for a safe landing. The internal rotor blades are reportedly also much quieter than those of a helicopter, giving the matte-black AirMule some added stealth.

BD_atlasrobotPlans now call for “full mission demonstrations” next year, utilizing a second prototype that is currently under construction. And when complete, this vehicle and those like it can expected to be deployed to many areas of the world, assisting Coalition and other forces in dirty, dangerous environments where landmines, IEDs and other man-made and natural hazards are common.

Alongside machines like the Alpha Dog, LS3 or Wildcat, machines that were built by Boston Dynamics (recently acquired by Google) to offer transport and support to infantry in difficult terrain, efforts to “unman the front lines” through the use of autonomous drones or remote-controlled robots continue. Clearly, the future battlefield is a place where robots where will be offering a rather big hand!

 

And be sure to check this video of the AirMule demonstration, showing the vehicle take-off, hover, fly around, and then come in for a landing:


Sources: gizmag.com, tactical-robotics.com

The Future is Here: The Mind-Reading Headband!

Okay, it might not exactly represent mind control, or the pinnacle of mind-machine interface, but it’s certainly a step in that direction. Known as the Muse Headband, this device is capable of reading a wearer’s brainwaves through a series of sensors implanted in the band. It then transmits the information in real-time to a computer or mobile device and lets the user know what kind of state they are in.

In short, the device will be capable of letting a wearer know if they are stressed, losing focus, relaxed, or in a state of deep concentration. According to Interaxon, the developer, people will be able to use this device to develop their concentration skills, learn to keep their cools better, and practice relaxation techniques. The company is currently raising funds for development and intends to include a brain fitness app that will be stocked with guided lessons to exercise your memory, attention span, and relaxation skills.

However, the real potential comes in the form of developing devices that can read brainwaves and use them for the sake of remote control and communications. Just think of it – being able to play your video games, conduct IM chats, and type out those troublesome spreadsheets and essays without ever having to push a button or stroke a key. A new era of laziness will dawn! But perhaps future generations will also be more honed mentally, able to hold their concentration long enough to compose a simple sentence without any errs or ahs. Who knows? Even true telepathy could result!

Hey, we’re venturing into science fiction territory here, nothing is too farfetched! And in the meantime, check out the video below of the Muse Headband in action.

Source: news.cnet.com, indigogo