Since 2016, the human pilots of the Drone Racing League have competed to see who could whip a quadcopter around pylons and through hoops the fastest. On Tuesday, they’ll get a new challenge: the fully autonomous RacerAI, a drone programmed to fly itself.
Nine teams of programmers from around the world have have been coding for months to come up with the best software to control the Drone Racing League-designed RacerAI. Their work, along with the drone itself, will debut at the Addition Financial Arena in Orlando, Florida. The software needs to take advantage of the drone’s four cameras, four propellers and Nvidia processor.
The RacerAI looks more like a flying fish or bird of prey than a conventional quadcopter. Its arrow-like body emphasizes its purpose: full speed ahead.
The race will be the first in the new Artificial Intelligence Robotic Racing series, which uses simpler courses that pit computer-piloted drones against each other. The series culminates on Dec. 6, when the best AI-piloted drone will take on a human pilot in Austin, Texas.
“We’re here to watch as robotics evolve beyond humanity,” said Ryan Gury, DRL’s chief technology officer and designer of the league’s current racing drones. “We believe in the future of autonomous robotics.”
Competitions that pit humans against machines can be compelling. IBM computers famouslyand , and kicked up the difficulty level with its wins against the best players of the Go board game. We all know computers have us beat when it comes to doing math and remembering anniversaries, but it’s somewhere between fun and scary to watch the bots win in other domains.
The physical world is a less cerebral AI challenge than translating French into English or self-driving cars, passenger aircraft or delivery drones that have to deal with their surroundings.. Boston Dynamics’ humanoid and its . Similarly, the DRL’s RacerAI is designed to physically navigate on its own in the real world. Granted, it’s the limited domain of a race course inside a big arena, but it isn’t hard to see how this technology can apply to
Gury is a see what the drone sees over a wireless link. But he thinks AI-powered drones will ultimately prove superior. When? “2023 is our bet,” he said. “Everything really begins to shape up when you see robots outperform humans physically.”himself, one of those people who dons a headset to
RacerAI drone design
When human pilots fly a racing drone, a radio link lets them see things from the drone’s perspective. With the RacerAI, all the thinking takes place on the drone itself — specifically on an Nvidia Xavier processor designed for autonomous vehicles.
It’s pretty power-hungry, consuming 40 watts of power. That’s something like 20 times the power your phone processor uses. The RacerAI can fly only 2 to 3 minutes on one battery charge, about the same as the human-piloted racing drones, according to Gury.
Most drones, including the DRL’s Racer4 that the league’s human pilots fly and its record-setting RacerX that hit a top speed of 179.3 miles per hour, are an X shape, with two propellers in front and two propellers in the rear. The RacerAI takes a different approach — the shape of a plus sign. The propellers on the front, left and right point downward, while the rear propeller points upward.
Diagonal struts connect the front propeller to the left and right propellers, and each of those diagonals has a pair of fisheye cameras about 8 inches (20cm) apart. Each camera pair can be used to see in 3D stereoscopically, like human eyes. With two pairs, the drone gets that 3D vision ability for the entire 180-degree view, Gury said.
Nine drone programming teams
The nine AIRR teams, selected from more than 340 that tried out, are from around the world. They have names like the Warsaw MIMotaurs from Poland, MAVlab from the Netherlands, Team Puffin from Sweden and Icarus from Georgia Tech in the US.
Their job is to write software that interprets data from the cameras and the drone’s inertial tracking system and then instructs the drone on how to fly.
This year, the autonomous drone race courses won’t be as complex as those the human pilots tackle. Expect straight lines and basic slaloming, with gates helpfully marked so they’re easy for computer vision systems to spot. The first drone races will likely each take about a half minute.
But DRL will make the courses harder. “As we see competition evolve, we start to raise the stakes,” Gury said.
Bot versus bot
Researchers can learn a lot by pitting one chess-playing computer against another, and indeed the AlphaGo system partly learned how to win by playing itself. But the rise of robot pilots raises a new question for the relatively young league: Will people want to watch machines races machines?
It’s easy to anthropomorphize the physical ordeal that BattleBots face as they smash, pound and saw each other. But even there, a human is behind the remote control. It’s harder to put yourself in the shoes of a programming team trying to optimize training data and figure out how many layers deep a drone’s neural network programming should be.
It’s definitely enough to get Gury’s juices flowing: “What we want to see is the greatest autonomous drones in the world.”
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Aerial threat: Why drone hacking could be bad news for the military
Unmanned aerial vehicles, more commonly called drones, are now a fundamental part of defense force capability, from intelligence gathering to unmanned engagement in military operations. But what happens if our own technology is turned against us?
Between 2015 and 2022, the global commercial drone market is expected to grow from A$5.95 billion (Australian dollars) to A$7.47 billion.
However, as with all IT technology, manufacturers and users may leave the digital doors unlocked. This potentially leaves opportunities for cyber-criminals and perhaps even cyber-warfare.
Imagine a defense operation in which a drone is sent out to spy on enemy territory. The enemy identifies the drone but instead of disabling it, compromises the sensors (vision, sonar, and so on) to inject false data. Acting upon such data could then result in inappropriate tactics and, in a worst case scenario, may even lead to avoidable casualties.
U.K. cybersecurity consultant James Dale warned earlier this year that “equipment is now available to hack drones so they can bypass technology controls.”
Drones are relatively cheap technologies for military use — certainly cheaper than the use of satellites for surveillance. Off-the-shelf drones can be used to gather intelligence, without any significant development effort.
Meanwhile, governments have cracked down on illegal civilian drone use, and imposed no-fly zones around secure infrastructure such as airports. Drone manufacturers have been forced to provide “geofencing” software to avoid situations such as the recent drone strike in a Saudi oil field. However, cyber criminals are smart enough to bypass such controls and openly provide services to help consumers get past government and military-enforced no-fly zones.
Russian software company Coptersafe sells such modifications for a few hundred dollars. Anyone can buy a drone from a retail store, purchase the modifications, and then send their drone into no-fly zones such as military bases and airports. Ironically, Russia’s military base in Syria came under attack from drones last year.
Australia on the frontline
Australia is at the frontier of the military drone revolution, equipping itself with a fleet of hundreds of new drones. Lieutenant Colonel Keirin Joyce, discussing the program in a recent defense podcast, declared Australia will soon be “the most unmanned [air vehicle] army in the world per capita.”
It will be essential to safeguard every single component of this sophisticated unmanned aerial fleet from cyber attack.
When drones were developed, cybersecurity was not a priority. Let’s explore a few potential threats to drone technology:
- Drone navigation is based on the Global Positioning System (GPS). It’s possible an attacker can break the encryption of this communication channel. Fake signals can be fed to the targeted drone and the drone effectively gets lost. This type of attack can be launched without being in close physical proximity.
- With knowledge of the flight controller systems, hackers can gain access using “brute force” attacks. Then, the captured video footage can be manipulated to mislead the operator and influence ground operations.
- A drone fitted with sensors could be manipulated by injecting rogue signals. For example, the gyroscopes on a drone can be misled using an external source of audio energy. Cyber criminals may take advantage of this design characteristic to create false sensor readings.
- Drones’ onboard control systems are effectively small computers. Drone control systems (onboard and ground-based controllers) are also vulnerable to malicious software or Maldrone (malware for drones). The founder and CTO of CloudSEK, Rahul Sasi discovered a backdoor in the Parrot AR.Drone. Using malicious software, an attacker can establish remote communication and can take control of the drone. Attackers can also inject false data to mislead the operators. This type of malware can be installed silently without any visible sign to the operators. The consequences are significant if the drones are used for military operations.
As with traditional cyber-crime, it’s likely 2019 will see a sharp rise in drone-related incidents. However, these security breaches should not discourage the use of drones for personal, industrial or military applications. Drones are great tools in the era of smart cities, for instance.
But we should not forget the potential for cyber crime — and nowhere are the stakes higher than in military drone use. Clearly, the use of drones needs to be carefully regulated. And the first step is for the government and the Australian Defence Force to be fully aware of the risks.
This article first appeared on The Conversation.
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RADeCO Inc., a drone manufacturer in Plainfield looking to capitalize on rapidly growing applications of unmanned aerial technology, says it’s outmaneuvered by Chinese rivals propped up by government subsidies.
Sen. Chris Murphy visited the company Tuesday to discuss legislation he’s backing that would bar federal agencies from buying drones from countries identified as national security threats. He cited China and Iran.
Keith Lovendale, president and chief executive officer of RADeCo, said the legislation, which is in the early stages after being sent to a Senate committees, would boost business for his company and others based in the U.S. that are now priced out of the market by Chinese rivals benefiting from support from Beijing.
“It opens doors for companies that do not bid for those jobs,” he said.
However, directing federal agencies to buy drones from U.S. companies is more difficult than it appears because the domestic industry needs to grow.
“My concern is if American companies are ready,” Lovendale said.
Murphy, D-Conn., said public-private partnerships could help bulk up the domestic industry.
“In the U.S., we trust the private sector to create a market, soup to nuts,” he said.
In addition to being undercut on cost — Lovendale said Chinese competitors can sell equipment for half what U.S. companies charge — drone technology also comes with security concerns because information obtained by the Chinese government could be used to conduct physical or cyberattacks against U.S. civilian and military targets.
DJI Technology, a Shenzhen, China-based company that makes the drones facing U.S. criticism, said in July that a report by the U.S. Department of the Interior confirms that its products “can meet the stringent data needs of high-security customers like government agencies and critical infrastructure operators.”
The company did not immediately respond to an email request for comment on the proposed legislation.
Murphy said the Department of Defense is “essentially held hostage to Chinese technology.”
“Chinese drone technology virtually cornered the market in drone technology,” he said.
China and “other adversaries” have used drones to collect sensitive data, Murphy said.
“Instead of rewarding bad actors like China we should be investing in the development of a U.S.-based supply chain that creates jobs and protects our national security,” he said.
Murphy has previously pushed similar legislation. The Senate Appropriations Committee, of which Murphy is a member, approved legislation last year directing the U.S. government to buy domestic-made drones.
The current legislation has bipartisan support. In addition to backing from Murphy and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., it’s supported by Republican Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott of Florida and Mitt Romney of Utah.
Drones are increasingly used in applications such as agriculture, construction, crime fighting, homeland security, real estate and, in technology applied by RADeCO, detecting radiation at nuclear power plants.
Stephen Singer can be reached at [email protected]
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Amazon hat eine Neuauflage ihres 10,1 Zoll großen Android-Tablets vorgestellt, das zuletzt 2017 aufgefrischt wurde. Im Vergleich zum Vorgänger bietet das Amazon Fire HD 10 2019 eine schnellere Performance, einen USB C Anschluss und eine Bild-in-Bild-Ansicht. Schon jetzt kann man das Tablet zur unverbindlichen Preisempfehlung von ab 149,99 Euro vorbestellen. Ab dem 30. Oktober wird es dann ausgeliefert.
Laut eigenen Angaben ist das neue Fire HD 10 2019 jetzt 30 Prozent schneller als der Vorgänger. Im Inneren werkelt anstelle eines Quad-Core Chips nun ein 2GHz Octa-Core Prozessor. Dem stehen weiterhin 2GB RAM zur Seite. Beim Kauf kann man zwischen 32GB und 64GB internen Speicher wählen. In den MicroSD-Kartenslot passen bis zu 512GB große Karten.
Beim Grunddesign hat sich nicht viel geändert. So besteht das Gehäuse weiterhin komplett aus Kunststoff und mit 9,8mm ist es selbst für ein preiswertes Tablet ziemlich dick. Dafür soll es in Falltests robuster als das neuste iPad Pro 11 Zoll (Test) sein.
Neu ist, dass man es nun nicht nur in Schwarz, sondern auch in Dunkelblau und Weiß bekommen kann. Besonders freut es mich außerdem, dass es nun über einen USB C 2.0 Anschluss aufgeladen wird. Die anderen Fire Tablets haben allesamt einen MicroUSB Port.
Das Display ist weiterhin 10,1 Zoll groß, hat eine FullHD-Auflösung mit 1920 x 1200 Pixel und ist vollständig laminiert. Zu den weiteren Features gehören zwei 2-Megapixel Kameras, ein Kopfhöreranschluss und ein Akku, der bis zu 12 Stunden halten soll.
Interessant ist, dass es eine neue Bild-in-Bild-Ansicht geben soll. Damit kann man Videos von Prime Video, Twitch, Netflix und Zattoo schauen und gleichzeitig im Internet surfen oder Emails lesen. Klar, von normalem Android kennen wir das schon lange. Aber echtes Multitasking mit zwei gleichzeitig geöffneten Apps war auf Fire Tablets bisher nicht möglich.
Das Amazon Fire HD 10 2019 ist natürlich wie alle Vorgänger ein Android-Tablet. Wichtig zu wissen ist aber, dass es Amazons und nicht Googles Version von Android ist. Das bedeutet, dass ab Werk weder der Google Play Store, noch Apps wie Gmail, Chrome oder YouTube installiert sind. Stattdessen sind die eigenen Angebote von Amazon wie Prime Video, Kindle E-Books, Audible und ihr eigener App Store fest in das Betriebssystem integriert. Dazu gehört auch der Sprachassistent Alexa, der auch bei ausgeschaltetem Display funktioniert.
Amazon Fire HD 10 Kids Edition mit kindgerechter Hülle
Zusätzlich hat Amazon eine neue Kinder-Edition ihres Tablets vorgestellt. Das neue Amazon Fire HD 10 2019 Kids Edition erscheint ebenfalls am 30. Oktober, ist mit ab 199,99 Euro aber 50 Euro teurer. Zwar ist die Hardware der Kinder-Version mit dem normalen Fire HD 10 identisch, doch gibt es zusätzliches Zubehör und einige Software-Features.
So ist eine kindgerechte Hülle mit eingebautem Ständer dabei, die in den Farben Blau, Pink und Violett angeboten wird. Interessant ist auch die zweijährige Sorglos-Garantie. Zusätzlich ist eine einjährige Mitgliedschaft von Amazon FreeTime Unlimited dabei. Damit bekommen Kinder Zugriff auf altersgerechte Bücher, Hörbücher, Lern-Apps und Spiele. Auch Filme wie LEGO Marvel Black Panther sind dabei.
Amazon Fire HD 10 2019Das Amazon Fire HD 10 2019 ist ein 10,1 Zoll großes Android-Tablet mit einem FullHD-Display und einem Octa-Core Prozessor. Es kostet knapp unter 150 Euro, der Sprachassistent Alexa ist eingebaut und die Akkulaufzeit soll bei bis zu 12 Stunden liegen.
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I woke up a few nights ago cursing a cricket I couldn’t find. It’d stopped after I got up and turned on the lights and I thought that was the last of it.
Two nights ago at a little before three am I heard the sound again. I noticed this time it wasn’t really a cricket but more like the sound of a fan hitting a wire at speed, or a squeaky pump. I turned off the air conditioner (which involves it finishing up whatever cycle it’s on,) and by the time it shut off the squeak was gone.
But you know where this is going… it’s the Ooler. It’s become a randomly squeaking nightmare machine and I swear the app has decided to play fast and loose with reality.
It took several days to track this down because despite being pretty sure it was the Ooler I had to determine which Ooler it was and I was going to do that by shutting them off via the app whenever that happened. Oh, I shut them both off, but the app didn’t shut them off. Or at least not reliably.
Finally narrowed it down to mine by unplugging Kim’s Ooler and letting her suffer a night of an uncooled side of the bed. Mine started chirping, I broke out the phone to grab a video of it, and no, stops the instant I look at it sideways.
I’ve contacted customer support on both my Jiminy Cricket Ooler, and the sludge factory replacement (the sludge is brown, I think this one is killing bacteria but guessing the chillpad insides had a decent amount and the sludge is still coming out months later).
Love the cool bed, but man… if a reviewer two units and RMAs 3 there are issues.
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