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NASA Completes Successful Test of Saucer-Shaped Vehicle for Mars Missions

NASA completed a near-space test flight of NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD), developed to evaluate new landing technologies for future Mars missions. While this initial test was designed to determine the flying ability of the vehicle, it also deployed two new landing technologies as a bonus. Those landing technologies will be officially tested in the next two flights, involving clones of the saucer-shaped vehicle.

Posted in: Test & Measurement, Aerospace, Aviation, Machinery & Automation, News

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New Drones Ensure Ideal Photographic Lighting Positions

Researchers at MIT and Cornell University will provide photographers with squadrons of small, light-equipped autonomous robots that automatically assume the right positions for photographic lighting. With the new system, the photographer indicates the direction from which the rim light should come, and the miniature helicopter flies to that side of the subject. The photographer then specifies the width of the rim as a percentage of its initial value, repeating that process until the desired effect is achieved.In the researchers' experiments, the robot helicopter was equipped with a continuous-light source, a photographic flash, and a laser rangefinder.The researchers tested their prototype in a motion-capture studio, which uses a bank of high-speed cameras to measure the position of specially designed light-reflecting tags with millimeter accuracy; several such tags were affixed to the helicopter.SourceAlso: Learn about Small-Object Detection via Fast Discrete Curvelet Transform.

Posted in: Cameras, Imaging, Photonics, Lasers & Laser Systems, Lighting, Aerospace, Aviation, Machinery & Automation, Robotics, News

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Students Design Robotic Gardeners for Deep Space

Graduate students from the University of Colorado Boulder are designing robots to work in a deep-space habitat, tending gardens and growing food for astronaut explorers.The team's entry in the eXploration HABitat (X-Hab) Academic Innovation Challenge is called "Plants Anywhere: Plants Growing in Free Habitat Spaces." Instead of an area set aside just for vegetation, the approach calls for plants to be distributed in any available space in a deep-space habitat.In their new system, a Remotely Operated Gardening Rover, or ROGR, travels around the habitat tending to a fleet of SmartPots, or SPOTS, which would be distributed throughout the deep-space habitat's living space.The SPOTS facilitate plants growing in a small, custom- designed hydroponic growth chamber with computerized systems to monitor the vegetation's progress. Each has its own sensor run by an embedded computer."We envision dozens of SPOTS on a space habitat," said Dane Larsen who is working on a master's degree on computer science. "Telemetry in each SPOT provides data on plant condition to a computer display."The robots and plants are networked together, and the SPOTS have the ability to monitor their fruits' or vegetables' soil humidity and issue watering requests.As each SPOT monitors and supports its plants, it can determine when ROGR needs to perform plant maintenance tasks. ROGR, a robot on wheels, has a forklift to move SPOTS, a mechanical arm for manipulating the plants, and a fluid delivery system that can provide fresh water or water with nutrients.SourceAlso: Learn about a Dexterous Humanoid Robot.

Posted in: Electronics & Computers, Sensors, Test & Measurement, Monitoring, Machinery & Automation, Robotics, News

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Synthetic Aperture Sonar Can Help Navy Hunt Sea Mines

Since World War II, sea mines have damaged or sunk four times more U.S. Navy ships than all other means of attack combined, according to a Navy report on mine warfare. New sonar research being performed by the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) could improve the Navy’s ability to find sea mines deep under water.

Posted in: Imaging, Sensors, Detectors, Machinery & Automation, Robotics, Defense, News

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NASA Decelerators Slow Payloads Traveling at Supersonic Speed

What will it take to land heavier spacecraft on Mars? How will engineers slow large payloads traveling at supersonic speeds in a thin Martian atmosphere? The Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) mission will seek to answer these questions.

Posted in: Motion Control, Motors & Drives, Power Transmission, Test & Measurement, Aerospace, Machinery & Automation, News

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Mobile Robots Help Technicians Manufacture Airplanes

A new mobile assistant is being developed to support technicians in the airplane manufacturing industry when applying sealant, measuring, and testing — without putting them at risk. In the EU project known as VALERI (Validation of Advanced, Collaborative Robotics for Industrial Applications), a European consortium is engineering a mobile robot that operates autonomously and moves independently through a production hall, side-by-side with the engineers and technicians. It is not intended to replace the technician, but instead relieve them of stressful and monotonous duties and take over inspection duties.

Posted in: Manufacturing & Prototyping, Industrial Controls & Automation, Sensors, Test & Measurement, Aerospace, Aviation, Machinery & Automation, Robotics, News

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New Strain Gauge Enables 'Soft Machines'

Purdue University researchers have developed a technique to embed a liquid-alloy pattern inside a rubber-like polymer to form a network of sensors. The approach may be used to produce "soft machines" made of elastic materials and liquid metals.Such an elastic technology could be used to create robots with sensory skin, as well as develop stretchable garments that interact with computers."What's exciting about the soft strain gauge is that it can detect very high strains and can deform with almost any material," said Rebecca Kramer, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University. "The skin around your joints undergoes about 50 percent strain when you bend a limb, so if you wanted to have sensory skin and wearable technology that tracks your movement you need to employ soft, stretchable materials that won't restrict your natural range of motion."SourceAlso: Learn about Thermal Properties of Microstrain Gauges.

Posted in: Materials, Metals, Plastics, Motion Control, Sensors, Machinery & Automation, Robotics, News

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