Astronomers have located a meteorite using drones and machine vision algorithms (AI) after detecting it streak through the sky. Finding meteorites is highly challenging and typically involves a group of astronomers searching four or more days with a 20% success rate. This pioneering approach will vastly increase the success rate.
Drones equipped with cameras survey the land and collect data processed by the machine learning algorithm. This algorithm is trained using images of past meteorites found on similar landscapes and meteorites placed on location by the astronomers.
“By reconstructing the trajectory,” wrote The Physics arXiv Blog, “they can work out what part of the solar system the meteor must have come from. This allows astronomers to better understand the origin of the meteorite and the role it may have played in the formation of the Solar System.”
This innovative approach to retrieving meteorites will propel research forward, making their study more cost-effective. This AI for detecting objects can also be used in other fields, including wildlife management and conservation.
A small aircraft can now fly silently using an electro-aerodynamic propulsion system built without moving parts. Until now, aircraft have relied on moving parts within a propulsion system to provide the energy to fly. This silent, solid-state flying system is attractive for environments concerned with noise pollution and space missions hindered by moving parts that need repairs.
The electro-aerodynamic propulsion system creates an ionic wind, propelling the aircraft forward. The wind is created by electrodes beneath the wings, generating a high-voltage electric field, ionizing and accelerating naturally occurring nitrogen molecules in the air.
"The aircraft would enable package delivery missions in noise-sensitive areas or at night, where operations would otherwise not be allowed due to community opposition," wrote Steven Barrett, MIT aerospace engineering professor, in his NIAC project summary.
This latest breakthrough has revolutionized how we look at propulsion systems. Clear benefits in the near term involve smaller vehicles, such as drones that are otherwise noisy and disruptive. In the future, possibilities are endless, including space aircraft exploring other planets.
Drones mounted with robotic branch-cutting tools are disrupting the practice of invasive species removal. Toxic browntail moths (BTM) have infested native oak treetops in Maine, making removal difficult with current industry standards. These drones make it possible to reach trees in densely forested areas and empower landowners to work on removal independently.
The robotic attachment includes a rotating saw blade that will cut the branch hosting the BTM nests, as well as a clamp that holds the branch once severed. The drone is also equipped with self-heating batteries for use in cold weather conditions, ideal for BTM removal.
“In rapid succession, you can effectively and efficiently remove an infestation in trees,” said Tom Massey, a licensed arborist and UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) pilot, “the learning curve was almost nothing.”
As invasive species become increasingly spread around the globe, new innovative ideas for mitigation and removal are necessary to maintain ecosystem function. Drones can broaden the reach of these mitigation efforts far beyond what was previously possible while engaging average citizens in those efforts.