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by AUVSI News IRobot Corp. and Amazon Web Services Inc. announced that they are now teaming up to bring stronger cloud-based services to smart homes across the world. IRobot will use AWS’ internet of things software, which is a cloud solution that allows devices to connect and interact with cloud applications and other connected devices to provide a variety of services and solutions while using IoT data. Combined, iRobot and AWS IoT will be able to enhance smart home technologies available now and in the future. “IRobot is excited to be using AWS as our company strategically addresses cloud robotics technologies,” said Colin Angle, chairman and CEO of iRobot, in a press release on the company website . “With its broad, rich services and world-class infrastructure, the AWS cloud infrastructure will enable iRobot to more efficiently develop connected robot technologies and expand the value of robots within the smart home.” Matt Wood, general manager of product strategy at AWS, echoed Angle’s sentiments about the collaboration between the two companies. “IRobot's use of AWS is a great example of how the cloud can enable innovative, useful, usable, impactful advancements that affect all of our daily lives,” says Wood. “We're excited to see iRobot's continued innovation in IoT using the power of the AWS cloud.” << Back to the News
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by AUVSI News Fully autonomous trains are coming to Beijing, with the newly created Yanfang line expected to be up and running in the capital of China by December 2017. The Yanfang line will connect the cities of Yanshan and Fangshan, and will have 11 total stations. With the hope of maximizing safety and reducing the workload of workers, the Yanfang line will become a part of a transit system that transports more than 10 million passengers per day. On a whole, Beijing has the second longest subway system in the world, and the world’s busiest subway system in terms of annual ridership, with more than 3 billion rides delivered according to 2015 statistics. Via an article from Chinadaily.com , the deputy manager for the Beijing metro construction administration, Wang Daomin, spoke to China’s massive step in the world of unmanned public transportation. "It's the new trend in the field of urban railway systems," says Daomin. "This will signify that China has reached the international level in this field." Wang adds that there is a plan to add four additional lines to the system that will also be fully autonomous. The Beijing subway system is operated by the Beijing Mass Transit Railway Operation Corp., which operates a majority of the lines. The remaining lines are operated by the Beijing MTR Corp., along with the Hong Kong MTR and Beijing Capital Group. Development of the Yanfang line began in February of this year. The Yanfang line will be the first line of its kind to be developed exclusively with Chinese manufacturers. << Back to the News
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A new town called Babcock Ranch being developed near Fort Myers, Florida, is seeking to introduce an automated shared mobility vehicles program to its community when it opens in 2017. With the idea of being a “smart community,” the goal of Babcock Ranch is to have 40 automated vehicles in operation in 2017, and 400 by 2021. The community will look to take advantage of Florida’s laws that allow for autonomous vehicles on the road. Earlier this year, Florida passed a law that now allows for the use of autonomous vehicles on public roads for drivers who have a valid driver license, effectively eliminating the need for a driver to be present in a vehicle while it is being driven. One of the hopes of Babcock Ranch is that with the shared mobility initiative in place, residents will choose to own only one personal car, and rely on the automated vehicles present within the community to get around. Locals will have the option of going to a variety of places via automated vehicles and shuttles, including athletic facilities, hotels and retail stores. The vehicles will be low speed, most likely 25 mph or below. Babcock Ranch is enlisting the help of automated vehicle developers to help with the technology of the autonomous vehicles that will be used by its residents. Developed by Kitson & Partners, Babcock Ranch — with its motto of “think big, start small and learn fast” — is intended to be an area that is environmentally friendly, and health and wellness conscious. To fulfill these ideals, new technologies and companies will be introduced to the area to capitalize on Florida’s technological developments as a state. These companies will help with the implantation of services such as an electric vehicle charging infrastructure and a mobile device and communications network. << Back to the News
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Northrop Grumman’s Global Hawk recently surpassed the 200,000-flight-hour mark. A majority of its hours came at the controls of the U.S. Air Force, with the remaining hours being logged by NASA, Germany and the Navy. During its flights, Global Hawk routinely reaches 60,000 feet in the air for more than 30 hours at a time for a singular mission. Since its inception nearly a decade and a half ago, Global Hawk has had a variety of responsibilities, from providing assistance in emergency situations across the world to helping with the gathering of data and information to send to the military in communication and imagery collection efforts. Through a press release published on July 26 , Northrop Grumman executive Mick Jaggers had this to say about the milestone: "Global Hawk has set endurance records and displayed an unmatched record of safety while reducing per hour flight costs to half the cost of the manned alternative," said Jaggers. "This milestone is especially meaningful as it comes just before the 15th anniversary of Global Hawk's first deployment into the theater of operations following the tragic events of 9/11. We expect Global Hawk to continue to provide indispensable ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] information to our warfighters." << Back to the News
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On Monday, retail giant Amazon announced a partnership with the United Kingdom and its Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to research the best techniques when delivering small packages by unmanned aircraft systems. The testing will be conducted in an effort to get Amazon’s futuristic Prime Air drone delivery service off the ground. The U.K. government and Amazon will test UAS for beyond line of sight operations in rural and suburban areas, sensor performance to see how UAS manage detecting and avoiding objects, and the ability for one person to monitor more than one drone flight at a time. The Federal Aviation Administration in the United States currently largely forbids beyond-line-of-sight flights as well as multiple UAS control, although it is establishing a waiver process that could be used to enable them. However, the U.K. has said it wants to have extensive UAS operations up and running by 2020, an attractive proposition for Amazon, which has been stymied by domestic flight rules. Once testing is complete, safety guidelines will be developed to ensure the safest procedures for future UAS used to make deliveries. In a press release published by Amazon on Monday , Vice President of Global Innovation Policy and Communications Paul Misener talked about how delivery by UAS could be beneficial for all parties involved. “Using small drones for the delivery of parcels will improve customer experience, create new jobs in a rapidly growing industry, and pioneer new sustainable delivery methods to meet future demand,” Misener said. He added that the relationship between Amazon and the U.K. will only be strengthened as the two work together to give customers around the world the most convenient shopping experience. The goal of Amazon’s Prime Air service is to deliver small items to customers in 30 minutes or less. Successful completion of tests could mean that customers get this service like they’ll get their future packages: sooner rather than later. << Back to the News
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On June 22, DARPA’s sub-hunting Sea Hunter autonomous ship successfully completed its first performance trials, which took place in San Diego, California. Sea Hunter, being developed for DARPA’s Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) program, is intended to become the first ship of its kind, with its main objective being to autonomously shadow diesel-electric submarines over long stretches of time and distance. During its initial trials, the 132-foot trimaran passed several key tests in a variety of areas from maneuverability to speed and acceleration. The vessel is currently in a two-year testing program that is designed to examine its capabilities while at sea. Autonomous and unmanned vessels are an emerging phenomenon in the military industry, and in an article published in AUVSI’s May 2016 edition of Unmanned Systems magazine, Sea Hunter’s primary contractor Leidos spoke on the importance of autonomy in the future of military operations. “Maritime autonomy is a disruptive technology,” said Leidos. “It is still in its infancy, but it has the potential for changing the way we do some of our future naval missions.” The hope is that at the end of the two-year testing program, Sea Hunter will be fully autonomous with minimal supervision. Upcoming tests in the next few months will examine Sea Hunter’s autonomy suite, along with other functionalities. Earlier this year, Director of DARPA Arati Prabhakar told congress that Sea Hunter “embodies breakthroughs in autonomous navigational capabilities with the potential to change the nature of U.S. maritime operations.” If this statement proves to be true, then Sea Hunter and other ships like it might one day be able to join the Navy’s operation to perform a variety of tasks. << Back to the News
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by AUVSI News The British government is slowly preparing itself for the reality of roads with autonomous cars, as they have announced that they will begin working on making changes to their longstanding set of driving guidelines known as the Highway Code. The changes made to the Highway Code are meant to serve two purposes: they will welcome the addition of advanced driver assisted and autonomous vehicles to the roads in Britain, and they will also look to insure autonomous vehicles while they are on the road. Several of the current rules under the current Highway Code will need to be adjusted to introduce these new forms of transportation. Britain’s Driver and Vehicles Standards Agency is imploring the citizens to help with the changes to the Highway Code by making suggestions on rules, and the Department for Transport has also launched a nationwide consultation program to see how citizens feel about the inclusion of these new vehicles on their streets. Via an article from Xinhua News , an unnamed spokesman for the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency made this statement about Britain’s desire to modify its Highway Code: "The government is determined that Britain leads the way globally in embracing the safe development of driverless technology. Advanced driver assistance systems and 'self-driving' technologies will transform travel helping deliver safer, smoother and smarter road journeys." According to the same spokesman, cars using advanced assistance features are expected to be on sale Britain in the next two to four years, and autonomous cars are supposed to be on the road by at least the mid-2020s. The Highway Code was first published in 1931. It is especially important for new drivers, but the rules in it apply to all pedestrians, motorists, and cyclists. << Back to the News
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Last week, 7-Eleven and drone delivery service Flirtey successfully teamed to make what they said are the first Federal Aviation Administration-approved commercial drone deliveries to customers' homes in the United States. Using an unmanned system, deliveries of snacks were made to two different hungry families in Reno, Nevada. After receiving orders from the families, 7-Eleven and Flirtey sent their unmanned system to the two families using precision GPS. Upon arriving at each location, the unmanned system gently lowered itself to the ground and dropped off a delivery container for each family. The deliveries, which included a variety of food items from 7-Eleven, including Slurpees and doughnuts, were made to the two families within minutes of each other. With the success of these deliveries, customers might eventually have the option of simply ordering everyday materials for delivery instead of having to get into a car and make their way to the store. With that in mind, 7-Eleven and Flirtey plan on building off of this major milestone in an effort to expand their delivery services going forward. “Drone delivery is the ultimate convenience for our customers and these efforts create enormous opportunities to redefine convenience,” said 7-Eleven EVP and Chief Merchandising Officer Jesus H. Delgado-Jenkins via a press release on the company’s website . “We look forward to working with Flirtey to deliver to our customers exactly what they need, whenever and wherever they need it.” Flirtey is no stranger to firsts in the world of unmanned systems. In 2015, they became the first company to deliver medical supplies in Virginia, and last month, they were the first company to complete a shore-to-ship delivery. << Back to the News << Back to the News
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Weekend Roundup

by AUVSI News This Week in the Unmanned Systems and Robotics World Ridding the world of landmines has been a dream of Afghani brothers Massoud and Mahmud Hassani, who have now built a low-cost drone that can destroy the devices. (Seeker) Would you like to be able to control swarms of robots at once, using only your thoughts? Researchers at Arizona State University’s Human-Oriented Robotics and Control Lab say they have found a way to do that. (ZDNet) Thirsty for a Slurpee? UAS startup Flirtey tested food delivery by drone for 7-Eleven in Reno, Nevada, earlier this month. (Tech Crunch) After racking mileage across 40 cities, the six-wheeled ground delivery robots built by the company Starship will now be tested in neighborhoods of London, delivering products from such companies as Just Eat and Hermes. (The Engineer) A team of researchers at Harvard have developed a new type of artificial muscle that could help robots move, which could be the ‘holy grail of soft robotics.’ (NDTV) The National Science Foundation has given the Old Dominion University Research Foundation nearly $1 million to develop and implement courses in Virginia colleges that research and explore the use of unmanned aircraft. (UAS Magazine) << Back to the News
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After two years of engineering, Facebook’s first unmanned aircraft, Aquila, made its first successful flight early on the morning of June 28 in Yuma, Arizona. With Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in attendance to witness the event, Aquila tripled its initial flight time expectancy, staying in the air for 96 minutes instead of the originally planned 30 minutes, according to a note published on Zuckerberg’s personal Facebook page. A video package of the flight was published on Zuckerberg’s Facebook page on Thursday, July 21. If all goes according to plan for Zuckerberg and his team, there will be many more Aquilas to come, in an effort to provide internet access to the entire world. Currently, less than half of the earth’s population has access to the world wide web, and Zuckerberg hopes to change that with the creation of Aquila. Along with that, he hopes to also provide the world with access to some of Facebook’s future services, including acritical intelligence and virtual reality. From an in-depth article on TheVerge.com, which first reported the successful flight of Aquila, nearly two dozen people worked on the development of the UAS. TheVerge spoke to Zuckerberg after the successful flight, and he talked about his plans for Aquila and other future unmanned aircraft like it. “I think the future is going to be thousands of solar-powered planes on the outskirts of cities and places where people live, and that’s going to make connectivity both available and cheaper,” Zuckerberg told TheVerge . “And, I think, can help play an important role in closing this gap of getting more than a billion people online. This is an early milestone, but it’s a big one.” Here are some other interesting notes on Aquila from both the note and video posted on Zuckerberg’s Facebook page: • Aquila has the wingspan of an airliner but weighs less than 1,000 pounds, with the hope to make it even lighter • Currently, it flies off the power of roughly three hair dryers • It is unmanned but still requires a ground crew to help direct and monitor its flight • It purposely flies slow to use the least amount of energy, but the goal is for it to reach 80 mph at some point • It will use lasers than can transfer data 10 times faster than existing systems • Zuckerberg hopes that Aquila can one day break the world record for longest unmanned aircraft flight. << Back to the News
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Tweet by AUVSI News Come 2030, the people in Dubai might have a new way of getting to work if the plan of two companies goes accordingly. Instead of cars, busses or trains, citizens in Dubai might have access to driverless, battery powered pods. The pods will be capable of connecting to each other, creating one large pod, and they will be able to pick up passengers on demand in an effort to create the most convenient traveling experience possible. In an effort to create this next generation transportation method, Middle East based cab booking company Careem will work with U.S. based tech company Next Future Transportation to lead the charge in creating the pods. Careem formerly announced the plan for the pods earlier this week. In an article on Gulfnews.com, co-founder of Careem Mudassir Sheikha spoke about all of the benefits that the driverless pods will provide. “Together, Careem and Next are co-innovating to help solve some of today’s more troubling mass transit problems, including minimizing congestion and pollution,” Sheikha told Gulfnews.com. “Additionally, by providing personalized pick-up and drop-off of users, Next and Careem will help make daily commute more efficient and quick.” According to the Careem website, the goal is to have the pods up and running on the streets by 2030. But driverless pods aren’t a completely new concept, as Singapore and London both have plans of releasing driverless pods onto their streets before the end of 2016. << Back to the News
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by AUVSI News Wisconsin announced on Wednesday the formation of a new board called the Wisconsin Unmanned Aerial Systems Advisory Board (WUAB), intended to help promote UAS use and development in the state. The goal of the board, which is made up of private and public users of UAS, is to provide technical expertise and assistance to lawmakers on all things UAS related. The board will also serve as a central organization that can focus on the different safety aspects as they relate to UAS use by civilians. The board will hold quarterly meetings that will be open to the public. Chris Johnson will serve as the President of the WUAB. Johnson has an extensive background in aerial systems, as he is the founder and CEO of the website PilotTrainingSystem.com. He is also the director of the University of Wisconsin Madison Flight Lab. More information about WUAB can be found on their website, via this link . << Back to the News
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States and AUVSI Partner to Transform the National Economy with Unmanned Aircraft Systems ALEXANDRIA, Va., July 21, 2016 – The Aerospace States Association (ASA), an association of state Lieutenant Governors, and the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), the world's largest nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of unmanned systems and robotics, have signed an agreement to help transform the national economy with unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). ASA Chair, Alabama Lt. Governor Kay Ivey, said, “Unmanned aircraft systems have the potential to transform how we move and see things like the internet has transformed how we communicate. UAS are emerging technologies that will transform America by providing wide-ranging economic, environmental, safety, and security benefits. The UAS industry is expected to grow our state economies, create over 100,000 high-paying jobs, and be a source of innovation and inspiration for our youth to enter the STEM workforce.” “We look to ASA to provide leadership at the state level to advance unmanned aviation as its members have successfully done to expand manned aviation,” said Brian Wynne, president and CEO of AUVSI. “Informing state elected officials about the benefits of unmanned systems and listening to their concerns and interest in this emerging technology are vital to enabling the infrastructure and public policy needed to grow our industry.” Mr. Wynne will address the ASA annual meeting on July 29 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he will discuss the recently released FAA “Small UAS Rule.” The two associations will also plan joint efforts to promote the UAS industry in states across the nation. States’ Role in Supporting American Aerospace Educate and train aerospace professionals (the next generation of scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs) who will develop the next generation aviation system and pioneer the frontiers of space. Develop, test, and incubate new technologies across a wide spectrum of corporate, academic, and private innovation infrastructures. Sponsor aerospace conferences and business roundtables to enable networking among key aerospace leaders. Facilitate attractive tax structures, leverage venture capital, and seed public-private partnerships to promote entrepreneurship and expand space enterprise. Provide adequate infrastructure (e.g., airports, spaceports, roads, communications, internet access) and leverage unique geographical assets (e.g., landforms, location, climate) to develop terrestrial analog test sites. Dedicate public lands for airports, space launch and other aerospace-related activities, and create research, and education centers to both support these programs and facilitate technology transfer. Convey the multiple scientific, educational and commercial benefits of space exploration to the general public. About ASA ASA is a non-partisan organization representing the grass roots of American aerospace and aviation. It is a 501(c)3 scientific and educational organization of Lieutenant Governors, Governor-appointed delegates and associate members from the aerospace industry, academia, and non-profit organizations. ASA was formed in 1991 to promote a state-based perspective in federal aerospace policy development and to support state aerospace initiatives that enhance economic development opportunities and student/teacher education outreach including the...
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by AUVSI News College students in the state of Virginia will soon be able to take classes on drone technology thanks to a major announcement on Wednesday. The National Science Foundation is awarding $899,477 to the Old Dominion University Foundation to help create courses and provide training to students at several Virginia colleges in the field of unmanned aircraft systems, specifically in the areas of geospatial data acquisition, analysis, and exploration. The money will also cover the teaching and training of faculty members to help with their development, as well as helping with precollege activities to highlight opportunities within the field. Virginia senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine announced the initiative through a joint press release. They both expressed great enthusiasm for the new initiative and the future of the industry as a whole. “Unmanned aircraft systems are becoming increasingly important in many industries, and have the potential to impact all sectors of the U.S. economy,” Warner said in the press release . “In my work on the Governor’s Unmanned Systems Commission, a key point of discussion has been that Virginia can set itself apart from its competition by creating a workforce pipeline of well-trained operators and researchers. This funding will make it easier for Virginia students to gain the skills necessary to fill that need.” Sen. Kaine said, “Virginia has already seen the remarkable impacts of UAS technology, such as delivering critical medical supplies to communities in remote areas of the Commonwealth. Today’s funding will fuel breakthrough research and innovation that will position Virginia as a leader and innovator in UAS technology for the future.” Thomas Nelson Community College, the Virginia Community College System, southwest Virginia’s Mountain Empire Community College, Virginia Tech, and the Virginia Space Grant Consortium will all receive money to create the new curriculum. << Back to the News
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NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosalind speaks at the Automated Vehicles Symposium. by AUVSI News The administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration promised on Wednesday that pending guidance on highly automated vehicles will be “nimble and flexible” and able to keep up with the pace of technological innovation. Mark Rosekind was the keynote speaker at the second day of the Automated Vehicles Symposium, hosted by AUVSI and TRB. That guidance is being “is being reviewed, tweaked and perfected as we speak,” he said. “It’s an important document, and so it’s important that we get it right.” It won’t be a long one, though. Rosekind joked that “those expecting 16,000 pages of regulations will be disappointed, or, more likely, relieved.” Rosekind laid out in stark terms why the guidance — and automated vehicles — are needed. The nation lost 35,200 people to automobile accidents last year, the equivalent of crashing a Boeing 747 every week. “It’s not just a number. Those are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, colleagues, friends, family,” Rosekind said. “That number is alarmingly higher than just a year before. That is a dangerous warning sign that we must use as a call to action for improved safety on our roadways.” Echoing comments made the day before by Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, Rosekind said technology could help mitigate human errors or choices, which cause the overwhelming number of accidents on the roads. “If there was a way to account for all those human choices or behaviors, we would be talking about a world where we could potentially prevent or mitigate 19 of every 20 crashes on the road,” he said. “That is the promise of automated vehicles, and that is, at its core, why NHTSA and the Department of Transportation have been so focused on doing what we can to accelerate the lifesaving promise of highly automated vehicles and connected vehicles.” NHTSA is investigating the recent fatal crash of a Tesla automobile whose driver was employing the “Autopilot” mode, an advanced series of driver assist functions. Rosekind dubbed that the “elephant in the room” and said he couldn’t comment on an ongoing investigation. However, he said, “I can tell you that no one incident will derail the Department of Transportation and NHTSA from its mission to improve safety on the roads by pursuing new lifesaving technologies.” He said incidents will continue to occur with highly automated vehicles, and NHTSA will continue to investigate them and take such actions as are needed. He also said that “new, highly automated vehicles provide an enormous opportunity for learning that has rarely existed before. When something goes wrong, or a highly automated vehicle encounters an edge case — something it hasn’t been programmed to deal with — that data can be taken, analyzed, and then the lessons can be shared with more than the rest of that vehicle fleet. It could be shared with all automated vehicles. “Whereas new drivers must learn on the road and make the same mistakes as thousands before them, automated vehicles will be able to benefit from the data and learning of all others on the road,” Rosekind said. European Efforts Automated vehicles have racked up thousands of test miles on American roads, but have been on European roads even longer, as various countries there have conducted large-scale demonstrations and tests. ...
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by AUVSI News On Monday, it was revealed that a Mercedes Benz semi-autonomous bus known as the Mercedes Benz Future Bus made its first successful trip. The bus, which is under the production of the Daimler Group, traveled 12 miles from an airport in Amsterdam to the town of Haarlem. There was a driver monitoring the drive for safety purposes, but there was never a need for any participation on the part of the driver during the ride. The bus, which has a maximum speed of 43 miles per hour, was able to navigate the roads safely without any errors, thanks to a number of unique safety features. Among the many features highlighted on the Mercedes Benz Future Bus, through its collective technology known as “CityPilot,” are its ability to read real world objects including traffic lights and signs. The bus can also tell when there is a pedestrian in its path so that it can pause to let them pass before moving. Another impressive functionality of the bus is its capability of collecting data on the conditions of roads to report back to the city through a central computer. The interior of the bus is just as impressive as the outside, as its design allows for convenience and comfortable seating. Riders also have the ability to charge their devices wirelessly by placing them on a power-conducting surface beside their seats. A video of a sample ride on the Mercedes Benz Future Bus is available on the Daimler Group’s website via this link . << Back to the News
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by AUVSI News Thanks to the financial backing of several major investors, a mapping technology company might soon be able to provide real-time maps for driverless cars. After receiving a $6.6 million investment from the likes of Ford Motor Company, Stanford University nonprofit StartX, and an investment firm run by Yahoo cofounder Jerry Yang, Civil Maps will look to provide driverless cars with mapping technology that can be easily learned and digested by autonomous vehicles. Civil Maps hopes to do this by using a lot of technology common to unmanned systems, including lidar, cameras and sensors. The initiative by Civil Maps will likely mirror that of a Google mapping app called Waze. Waze allows drivers to provide updates of roads and conditions on the road. For Google’s self-driving cars, a driver can teach the car new routes for future autonomous use. Unlike Waze, though, Civil Maps is hoping to skip the teaching element. It is the goal of the company to provide driverless cars with maps they can learn on the fly, while also allowing the cars to take into account and analyze real world data and objects such as street signs, lights and potential hazard spots. Civil Maps and its technology hopes to provide the safest trip possible for driverless cars. From a press release published through Business Wire , CEO Sravan Puttagunta talked about the future of mapping for driverless vehicles and how he hopes his company will be at the front line of developing technology to help ease the process. “Autonomous vehicles require a totally new kind of map,” said Puttagunta. “Civil Maps’ scalable map generation process enables fully autonomous vehicles to drive like humans do — identifying on-road and off-road features even when they might be missing, deteriorated or hidden from view and letting a car know what it can expect along its route. We are honored to work with Ford and the rest of our investor team to pave the way for fully autonomous vehicles at continental scale.” According to an article from the Washington Post , Civil Maps is in talks with automakers in China, Japan, Korea and the United States. << Back to the News
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Tweet Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx. AUVSI photo. by AUVSI News Self-driving cars and trucks are on the way, Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx said at the first day of AUVSI’s Automated Vehicles Symposium, and regulators have a good chance to help them take to the roads safely. “Automated vehicles are coming. Ready or not, they are coming, and the choice we have in government is to either act or react,” Foxx said. “And our view is that we must act, that we must prepare our ecosystem to integrate these new types of vehicles into the bloodstream of American infrastructure.” Unmanned aircraft were already in the air to some extent before rules governing them were written, he said, but “we have a chance to actually get ahead of that with automated cars.” Foxx said studies have indicated that up to 94 percent of crashes today can be attributed to human error. “Automated cars could eliminate a significant proportion of those crashes,” he said. “That potential is enormous … I do want to make it clear, though, that autonomous doesn’t mean perfect. If we can achieve … 80 percent reductions in crashes, that would be hugely significant to us. That means saved lives.” The Department of Transportation is trying to help by various means, including by the Smart City Challenge, which aims to create the first U.S. city to integrate a variety of technology, including self-driving cars, connected vehicles and smart sensors. Columbus, Ohio, was recently named the winner of that challenge, which includes up to $40 million from Foxx’s agency. Other ideas could include pre-market approval steps from the government, which would require greater cooperation between industry and government, and greater coordination between the federal government and the states so manufacturers don’t have to deal with 50 different standards. Foxx said he’s excited by the challenge. It’s an exciting time to be in the transportation world. It’s gone from being kind of a stodgy, kind of old school type of area to being cool again. But we shouldn’t get so blinded by it that we don’t remember that the fundamental premise … is we help people to get places. And that means we all have to be focused on safety,” Foxx said. He was preceded by Brian Kelly, secretary of the California State Transportation Agency, who said California has been studying automated vehicles since the late 1980s. “In 2014, the California Department of Motor Vehicles adopted regulations for the testing of automated vehicles, and now 14 companies are approved to test on California’s public streets,” he said. That testing is “an important step in the eventual deployment of self-driving cars, but we must maintain our focus on safety first,” he said. Kelly said in 2014, more than 32,000 Americans died in traffic accidents, with more than 3,000 of them in California. “With autonomous vehicles we have the potential to bring us closer to achieving the vision … of zero deaths on our roadways,” he said. The conference continues on Wednesday. << Back to the News
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by AUVSI News One company is creating a new business unit to help in the ever expanding world of traffic management for unmanned air systems. Through the creation of SkyVue LLC, Analytical Graphics Inc. (AGI) will now begin providing a software dedicated to unmanned aircraft system traffic management (UTM). SkyVue will use AGI’s current commercial situational awareness technology to provide several new services, including airspace management, real-time flight monitoring and deconfliction, which is the process of avoiding hazardous and dangerous flying situations between different types of aircraft through careful coordination. SkyVue’s functions will be similar to those of one of AGI’s current programs, the ComSpOC (Commercial Space Operations Center). ComSpOC does the same thing that ComSpOC will seek to do, except with space exploration. CEO and co-founder of AGI, Paul Graziani, was optimistic about SkyVue. “We are very excited about the opportunity to apply AGI’s proven technology to accelerate the adoption of commercial UAS operations. There is a close alignment of our situational awareness and decision support capabilities with the technical needs of UAS traffic management.” SkyVue will be based in Exton, Pennsylvania, and will also have an office in Washington, D.C. << Back to the News
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Investor Mike Abbott, general partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. AUVSI photo. by AUVSI News Unmanned systems company startups need to be able to answer a few fundamental business questions if they want to attract investor attention, according to a panel of experts speaking at AUVSI’s Startup Connection, held July 18 in San Francisco. “Every good company can answer three questions,” said Gareth Keane, investment manager at Qualcomm Ventures. “What problem are you trying to solve? Who are your customers? How will you get your product to market?” David Austin, general manager of startup programs at PCH, said he has another question: Why now? “How are you hitting the right cycles at the right time?” he asked. “How is now the right time to make this investment?” There are perils to waiting too long to jump into the technology game, Keane said, but there are also perils from being too early. “It’s almost worse to be too early than to be too late,” he said. “If you’re too early, the market just isn’t there.” Kate McAndrew, an associate at Bolt, said she’s not sure where the drone market is in that timing. “We are at a weird moment in drone investing,” she said. “We’ve seen companies with first mover advantage take ownership but haven’t really seen the drone market happen in maybe the way we thought it would three years ago. … I think you will need to convince investors of the true market opportunity, and especially now.” The investors closed out the speaking portion of AUVSI’s first startup conference, and the afternoon was devoted to matchmaker speed networking, where companies and potential investors got to know each other. Before that happened, however, the crowd also heard from Mike Abbott, general partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers; Rick Clonan, vice president of innovation and entrepreneurship at CenterState CEO; Jesse Clayton, product manager of autonomous machines at NVIDIA; and Dave Vos, project lead at Google X’s Project Wing. Vos said this is a “phenomenally exciting moment in technology and aviation history,” and change will be coming fast, not in decades, but in a matter of years. Money should flow into the technology business world, at extremely low interest rates, to accelerate this change, he said. “The cost of that money needs to be basically zero, and those who need it can get it,” he said. Around the world, he said, people are going to be able to take part in a newly connected world. “We are on the cusp of two or three billion people becoming middle class partners in world society,” he said. “The opportunity is so much greater than the risk.” Part of that means being able to go up and make use of an airspace that often doesn’t have much in it, Vos said. “There’s a big dimension, which is up, which is about to open up.” The pace of regulation has been slow, but it’s speeding up now, he said, with more progress happening in the last couple of years than was made in a decade or two previously. “The level of attention today is right at [Federal Aviation Administration] Administrator Michael Huerta’s level,” Vos said. “It’s firmly in his viewfinder that this is the new emerging sector.” Abbott said he’s not looking for companies that might have a great idea or product but are just looking to get bought up by the likes of Google. He prefers entrepreneurs with “a chip on their shoulder, with...
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