In the crisp Andes air, a drone flew at an altitude of about 16,000 feet (4,900 meters) in order to map and track the glaciers in Peru. This marks the highest altitude a drone has flown for mapping purposes in current scientific literature, according to a paper released in November in The Cryosphere.
Using a drone to map glaciers is way easier than manually staking out individual data points and provides much crisper images than satellites. “The ultimate goal was to be down in town, 10 kilometers away, having a beer in the pub and sending the drone up to do our work for us. We’re still a long ways away from that, but that was sort of the idea,” says Oliver Wigmore, an earth scientist currently at the University of Colorado Boulder and co-author of the paper. Read More
Artificial intelligence (AI) still has a ways to go before it reigns supreme.
In October, a group of researchers at California’s NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) pitted a professional human drone racer, Ken Loo, against an AI-piloted drone. They set out to test two years of research into drone autonomy, which was funded by Google. Read More
On a typically hot and humid July day in Stonetown, the capital of Zanzibar, a gaggle of children, teenagers and the odd parents watched our small drone take flight. My colleagues Makame Makame, Khamis Haji and I had finally found the perfect launch spot.
With a high-pitched humming, the drone took to the air. It sounded like a big mosquito—appropriate, since we were testing the use of drones for mapping aquatic malaria habitats. These shallow sunlit water bodies teem with mosquito larvae. In a matter of days, the larvae will emerge as adult mosquitoes in search of a blood meal. If one of those mosquitoes bites a human infected with malaria, it will become a vector for the disease and continue its deadly transmission cycle. Read More
Google Street View can pretty much show you every location in the world, even the Faroe Islands thanks to camera-yielding sheep, from the ground. While Satellite View shows us a large-scale aerial of the world, what about what’s in between?
Gregory Crutsinger, a scientist who’s worked for drone companies like 3D Robotics and Parrot, recently started a UAV consulting company called Drone Scholars and is leading a citizen scientist drone project called Fly4Fall. The project’s goals: to survey fall leaves across the world and test crowdsourcing drone data. The bigger goal: to create Google Street View in the sky with drone images. Read More
Another day, another bioinspired drone. But this microrobot, powered through a wire tether, can launch itself through the air and into water — then blast itself back into the air.
Harvard researchers have been working on bee-like robots for years, and a new study published Wednesday in Science Robotics shows more advancement. Scientists showed the little bot could successfully hover in the air, transition from air to water, swim, takeoff from the water and land on the water, according to the paper. Read More
We’ve seen drones modeled after geckos, insects and if you’ve watched Black Mirror there’s no way you can forget the massive bee drone swarms. Now, scientists are looking to one of nature’s best fliers, the albatross, for tips to help drones fly longer distances.
The albatross is one of the world’s largest living birds, with a wingspan of up to 11 feet across. It can fly hundreds of miles in just one day, while exerting very little effort. But how does it do this? Two separate groups of researchers discovered two very different reasons for this species’ long-lasting flights. Read More
Lava flow: an unstoppable destructive force that burns pretty much everything in its path. When a volcano erupts, it’s important that people in surrounding areas have adequate time to evacuate. To provide those crucial extra hours, or minutes, researchers are using drones to improve hazard predictions, and perhaps tell us something about life on ancient Mars.
Drones allow volcanologists to map large areas quickly, cheaply and, most of all, safely using magnetometers and thermal cameras. Scientists are even flying drones through eruption plumes to study the chemical composition of Earth’s hot, steamy belches. Read More
Bambi: A classic children’s movie about a happy-go-lucky fawn that ultimately takes a turn for the worse. Unfortunately, real life is no walk in the park for young deer either.
Early in a fawn’s life, its mother will leave for extended periods to forage for food and ensure predators stay at bay, wildlife experts say. But nesting in farm fields can be deadly for fawns, as farmers often don’t see them before it’s far too late.
While the SnotBot drone has been highly publicized for its aerial maneuvers over blowholes, its expeditions have yet to showcase some hard data about whales. But there’s another whale snot-gathering team out there using drones—and they’ve turned those misty explosions into some interesting biological data about whales.
After collecting humpback whale blow—the moist breath you see shoot into the air when a whale exhales—from two healthy populations, scientists found the creatures have a shared blowhole microbiome. The study, conducted by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), was released Tuesday in mSystems and represents the first study “to produce microbiome data from drone-collected blow,” according to lead author Amy Apprill. Read More
Polar bears’ fortunes are deeply tied to the whims of a changing climate, and as the Arctic continues to warm it’s increasingly important to keep an eye on their populations. But the Arctic’s stark white terrain can make that a difficult task to accomplish.
In the past, helicopters have been used to spot the bears, but those aircraft are both costly and disturbing to the wildlife. However, drones are a low-cost, less invasive alternative. On a recent Arctic mission, drones helped gather data about polar bears that will help researchers get a better idea of how climate change in the region, and around the world, affects wildlife. Read More
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