science tech uavs firefighting drones wildland wildlife_refuge surveillance

Wildland Firefighters Get Help From Above With Drone Surveillance
NASA researchers will be testing out this robotic aircraft for the next year to see if it can help catch forest and brush fires before they get out of control. The vehicle, which can be programmed to fly on its own, will perform missions over the 50,000-acre Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge that straddles the Virginia-North Carolina border. 
The battery-powered drone can travel at up to 40 mph for an hour at a time before needing to be recharged. They’ve equipped it with a forward-mounted camera to look for rising smoke plumes and a ground-facing infrared camera to scan for hidden hot spots. Video feeds are transmitted back to refuge managers to spot ignition after lightning strikes in the refuge. The whole six-foot-wingspan system weighs just 15 pounds.[[MORE]]
Mike Logan, a scientist at NASA’s Langley Research Center who is leading the research, says he came up with the idea of a firefighting surveillance drone after a major 2011 fire that burned for four months and cost millions of dollars to put out. 
“I made a phone call to the local fire captain after days of inhaling peat bog smoke,” said Logan. “I learned most fires are caused by lightning strikes and the only way they can spot them is by hiring an aircraft to do an aerial survey of the huge swamp. So I figured why not use a [unmanned aerial vehicle] as a fire detector?”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages the refuge agreed it was a good idea worth trying out. The program will get under way once the Federal Aviation Administration approves drone overflights.
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is evaluating the feasibility of airborne unmanned platforms and their ability to offer a safer and more cost-effective alternative for surveillance of potential areas of interest immediately following thunderstorm activity,” said Great Dismal Swamp Refuge Manager Chris Lowie. “The agency hopes to see a significant decrease in cost to survey the Great Dismal Swamp, as well as a reduction in time to detect nascent fires, which could potentially save millions of dollars to the taxpayer in firefighting costs
And we’d like to interrupt this story for a moment to offer a tip of the hat to Mr. Logan, pictured above with his firefighting surveillance drone, for excellent moustache sculpting. Cheers to you, Sir.
Image courtesy NASA Langley/David C. Bowman.

Wildland Firefighters Get Help From Above With Drone Surveillance

NASA researchers will be testing out this robotic aircraft for the next year to see if it can help catch forest and brush fires before they get out of control. The vehicle, which can be programmed to fly on its own, will perform missions over the 50,000-acre Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge that straddles the Virginia-North Carolina border. 

The battery-powered drone can travel at up to 40 mph for an hour at a time before needing to be recharged. They’ve equipped it with a forward-mounted camera to look for rising smoke plumes and a ground-facing infrared camera to scan for hidden hot spots. Video feeds are transmitted back to refuge managers to spot ignition after lightning strikes in the refuge. The whole six-foot-wingspan system weighs just 15 pounds.

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tech drones uavs weather hurricane tropical_storm global_hawk surveillance meteorology

Designs Would Put Surveillance Drones Over Hurricanes For A Week At A Time

The three designs above won a NASA competition to envision the next generation of hurricane surveillance drones. 

The agency asked teams to develop an unmanned aerial system (UAS) that could stay aloft for seven days at a time and offer persistent remote sensing over a period of five months. That timeframe covers a typical Atlantic hurricane season, and the agency’s goal is to closely follow storm formation from when a tropical wave moves off Africa’s west coast through the full life cycle of the weather system.

Current UASs used for tropical storm monitoring are similar to the military Global Hawk surveillance and security platform, and can only stay aloft for 24 hours at a time before they need to come home.

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Drones, Better Model Helps Navy Improve Hurricane Intensity Forecasts

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by Rebecca Ruiz

Forget Moby Dick’s white whale – a tropical cyclone is by far the most difficult ocean beast to track. This rotating system of clouds and thunderstorms, most commonly known to North Americans as a hurricane once it reaches a certain size and speed, is typically several hundred miles wide with winds as fast as 155 miles per hour.

These vast storms are essentially a physics puzzle, in which the interaction of moisture, wind, air, heat and other elements can trick even the most knowledgeable scientists trying to forecast both the path and intensity of a hurricane. In the last decade, weather models have gotten much better at predicting path and landfall, but they have been less skillful when trying to estimate pressure and maximum wind speeds.

So when the U.S. Navy’s Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center recently launched a new hurricane prediction model capable of tracking a storm’s intensity, it was no small feat. Known as COAMPS-TC (Coupled Ocean/Atmosphere Mesoscale Prediction System-Tropical Cyclone), the model can accurately forecast wind strength one to five days out. This is essential information for fleets and installations that might need to evacuate or protect their facilities—under- or overestimating the strength of a storm can be a costly mistake.

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tech in_theory health medical_devices uavs brain_machine_interfaces neuroscience
Temporary Tattoos Could Make Electronic Telepathy, Telekinesis Possible

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by Charles Q. Choi

Temporary electronic tattoos could soon help people fly drones with only thought and talk seemingly telepathically without speech over smartphones, researchers say.

Commanding machines using the brain is no longer the stuff of science fiction. In recent years, brain implants have enabled people to control robotics using only their minds, raising the prospect that one day patients could overcome disabilities using bionic limbs or mechanical exoskeletons.

But brain implants are invasive technologies, probably of use only to people in medical need of them. Instead, electrical engineer Todd Coleman at the University of California at San Diego is devising noninvasive means of controlling machines via the mind, techniques virtually everyone might be able to use.

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