Category Archives: Automation & autonomous systems

Wave Glider Autonomous Vehicle Harvests Wave and Solar Power to Deliver Unique Operational Capabilities at Sea

The U.S. firm Liquid Robotics, Inc., in Sunnyvale, CA, designs, manufactures, and sells small unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) called Wave Gliders, which consist of two parts: an underwater “glider” that provides propulsion and a surface payload vehicle that houses electronics and a solar-electric power system. The physical arrangement of a Wave Glider is shown in the following diagrams. The payload vehicle is about 10 feet (305 cm) long. The glider is about 7 feet (213 cm) long and is suspended about 26 feet (800 cm) below the payload vehicle.

Wave Glider configurationSource: Liquid Robotics. Note: 800 cm suspension distance is not to scale.

The payload vehicle is topped with solar panels and one or more instrumentation / communication / navigation masts. The interior modular arrangement of a Wave Glider is shown in the following diagram. Wave Glider is intended to be an open, extensible platform that can be readily configured for a wide range of missions.

Wave Glider configuration 2Source: Liquid Robotics

The Wave Glider is propelled by wave power using the operational principle for wave power harvesting shown in the following diagram. Propulsion power is generated regardless of the heading of the Wave Glider relative to the direction of the waves, enabling sustained vehicle speeds of 1 to 3 knots.

Wave Glider propulsion schemeSource: Liquid Robotics

The newer SV3 Wave Glider has a more capable electric power system than its predecessor, the SV2, enabling the SV3 glider to be equipped with an electric motor-driven propeller for supplementary solar-electric propulsion. SV3 also is capable of towing and supplying power to submerged instrument packages.

Autonomous navigation and real-time communications capabilities enable Wave Gliders to be managed individually or in fleets. The autonomous navigation capability includes programmable course navigation, including precise hold-station capabilities, and surface vessel detection and avoidance.

Originally designed to monitor whales, the Wave Glider has matured into a flexible, multi-mission platform for ocean environmental monitoring, maritime domain awareness / surveillance, oil and gas exploration / operations, and defense.

More information and short videos on the operation of the Wave Glider are available on the Liquid Robotics website at the following link:

http://www.liquid-robotics.com/platform/overview/

On 28 April 2016, the U.S. Navy announced that it was in the process of awarding Liquid Robotics a sole-source contract for Wave Glider USV hardware and related services. You can read the Notice of Intent at the following link:

https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&id=6abb899b3e3286bfcd861fc5dedfdb65&tab=core&_cview=0

As described by the Navy:

“The required USV is a hybrid sea-surface USV comprised of a submerged ‘glider’ that is attached via a tether to a surface float. The vehicle is propelled by the conversion of ocean wave energy into forward thrust, independent of wave direction. No electrical power is generated by the propulsion mechanism.”

Navy requirements for the Wave Glider USV include the following:

  • Mission: Capable of unsupported autonomous missions of up to ten months duration, with long distance transits of up to 1,000 nautical miles in the open ocean
  • Propulsion: Wave power harvesting at all vehicle-to-wave headings, with sustained thrust adequate under own propulsion sufficient to tow significant loads
  • Electric Power: Solar energy harvesting during daylight hours, with power generation / storage capabilities sufficient to deliver ten watts to instrumentation 24/7
  • Instrumentation: Payload of 20 pounds (9.1 kg)
  • Navigation: Commandable vehicle heading and autonomous on-board navigation to a given and reprogrammable latitude/longitude waypoint on the ocean’s surface
  • Survivability: Sea states up to a rating of five and winds to 50 knots
  • Stealth: Minimal radar return, low likelihood of visual detectability, minimal radiated acoustic noise

In my 11 April 2016 post, I discussed how large autonomous surface and underwater vehicles will revolutionize the ways in which the U.S. Navy conducts certain operational missions. Wave Glider is at the opposite end of the autonomous vehicle size range, but retains the capability to conduct long-duration, long-distance missions. It will be interesting to see how the Navy employs this novel autonomous vehicle technology.

Landing a Reusable Booster Rocket on a Dime

There are two U.S. firms that have succeeded in launching and recovering a booster rocket that was designed to be reusable. These firms are Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Elon Musk’s SpaceX.   Their booster rockets are designed for very different missions.

  • Blue Origin’s New Shepard booster and capsule are intended for brief, suborbital flights for space tourism and scientific research. The booster and capsule will be “man-rated” for passenger-carrying suborbital missions.
  • In contrast, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 booster rocket is designed to deliver a variety of payloads to Earth orbit. The payload may be the SpaceX Dragon capsule or a different civilian or military spacecraft. Currently, the Falcon 9 booster and Dragon capsule are not “man-rated” for orbital missions. SpaceX is developing a crewed version of the Dragon capsule that, in the future, will be used to deliver and return crewmembers for the International Space Station (ISS).

Both firms cite a cost advantage of recovering and reusing an expensive booster rocket and space capsule. Let’s see how they’re doing.

Blue Origin

The basic flight profiles of a single-stage, single engine New Shepard booster and capsule are shown in the following diagram. The primary goals of each flight are to boost the capsule and passengers above 62.1 miles (100 km), safely recover the capsule and passengers, and safely recover the booster rocket. You can see in the diagram that the booster rocket and the capsule separate after the booster’s rocket engine is shutdown and they are recovered separately. At separation, the booster and capsule are traveling at about Mach 3 (about 1,980 mph, 3,186 kph). The orientation of the booster rocket is controlled during descent and the rocket engine is restarted once at low altitude to bring the booster to a soft, vertical landing. Both the booster rocket and the capsule are designed for reuse.

Blue-origin-flight-profileSource: Blue Origin

On 23 November 2015, Blue Origin made history when, on its first attempt, the New Shepard booster completed a suborbital flight that culminated with the autonomous landing of the booster rocket near the launch site in west Texas. The capsule landed nearby under parachutes. You can view a video of this historic flight at the following link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9pillaOxGCo

This same New Shepard booster was launched again on 22 January 2016, completed the planned suborbital flight, and again made an autonomous safe landing. This flight marked the first reuse of a booster rocket.

Again using the same hardware, New Shepard was launched on its third flight and safely recovered on 2 April 2016. On this flight, the rocket engine was re-started at a lower altitude (3,635 feet, 1,107 m) than on the previous flights to demonstrate the fast startup of the engine. The booster rocket made an on-target landing, touching down at a velocity of 4.8 mph (7.7 kph).

New Shepard landing 3Source: Blue Origin

You can view a short video of the third New Shepard flight at the following link:

https://www.blueorigin.com/news/news/pushing-the-envelope#youtubeYU3J-jKb75g

In this video, the view from the capsule at 64.6 miles (104 km) above the Earth is stunning. As the landing of the booster rocket approaches, it is dropping like a stone until the rocket engine powers up, quickly stops the descent, and brings the booster rocket in for an accurate, soft, vertical landing.

So, the current score for Blue Origin is 3 attempts and 3 successful soft, vertical landings in less than 5 months. The same New Shepard booster was used all three times (i.e., it has been reused twice).

Refer to the Blue Origin website at the following link for more information.

https://www.blueorigin.com

SpaceX Falcon 9 (F9R)

The basic flight profile for a two-stage Falcon 9 recoverable booster on an orbital mission is shown in the following diagram. For ISS re-supply missions, the target for the Dragon capsule is in a near-circular orbit at an altitude of about 250 miles (403 km) and an orbital velocity of about 17,136 mph (27,578 kph). The first stage shuts down and separates from the second stage at an altitude of about 62.1 miles (100 km) and a speed of about 4,600 mph (7,400 kph, Mach 7). These parameters are for illustrative purposes only and will vary as needed to meet the particular mission requirements. The second stage continues into orbit with a Dragon capsule or other payload.

The nine-engine first stage carries extra fuel to enable some of the booster rockets to re-start three times after stage separation to adjust trajectory, decelerate, and make a soft vertical landing on an autonomous recovery barge floating in the ocean 200 miles (320 km) or more downrange from the launch site.

The empty weight of the recoverable version of the Falcon 9 first stage (the F9R) is 56,438 pounds (25,600 kg,), which is about 5,511 pounds (2,500 kg) more than the basic, non-recoverable version (V1.1). The added fuel and structural weight to enable recovery of the first stage reduces the payload mass that can be delivered to orbit.

Falcon flight profile to barge landingSource: SpaceX

The autonomous “drone” barge is a very small target measuring about 170 ft. × 300 ft. (52 m × 91 m). It is equipped with azimuthal thrusters that provide precise positioning using GPS position data. The Falcon 9 booster knows where the drone barge should be. The Falcon 9’s four landing legs span 60 ft. (18 m), and all must land on the barge.

SpaceX_ASDSSource: SpaceX

SpaceX made a series of unsuccessful attempts to land on a drone barge before their first successful landing:

  • 10 January 2015: First attempt; hard landing; booster destroyed.
  • 11 February 2015: High seas prevented use of the barge. Instead, the Falcon 9 first stage was flown to a soft, vertical landing in the ocean, simulating a barge landing.
  • 14 April 2015: Second attempt; successful vertical landing but the booster toppled, likely due to remaining lateral momentum.
  • 7 January 2016: Third attempt; successful vertical landing but the booster toppled, likely due to a mechanical failure in one landing leg.
  • 4 March 2016: Fourth attempt, with low fuel reserve and using only three engines; hard landing; booster destroyed.

On 8 April 2016, a Falcon 9 booster was launched from Cape Canaveral on an ISS re-supply mission. The first stage of this booster rocket became the first to make a successful landing on the drone barge downrange in the Atlantic.

A002_C002_0408A9Source: SpaceX

You can view a short video of the Falcon 9 booster landing on the drone barge at the following link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RPGUQySBikQ

In the video, you will note the barge heaving in the moderate seas. After landing, the 156 foot (47.5 m) tall booster rocket is just balanced on its landing legs. Before the barge can be towed back to port, crew must board the barge and secure the booster. This is done by placing “shoes” over the landing feet and welding the shoes to the deck of the barge. Once back at Cape Canaveral, the booster will be examined and the rocket engine will be test fired to determine if the first stage can be reused.

Previously, on 21 December 2015, SpaceX successfully launched its Falcon 9 booster on an orbital mission and then landed the first stage back on the ground at Cape Canaveral. As shown in the diagram below, this involved a very different flight profile than for a Falcon 9 flight with a landing on the downrange drone barge. For the December 2015 flight, the Falcon 9 first stage had to reverse direction to fly back to Cape Canaveral from about 59 miles (95 km) downrange and then decelerate and maneuver for a soft, vertical landing about 10 minutes after launch.

Blue Origin-Falcon flight profile comparedSource: SpaceX

After recovering the booster, the Falcon 9 was inspected and the engines were successfully re-tested on 15 January 2016, on a launch pad at Cape Canaveral. I could not determine if this Falcon 9 first stage has been reused.

So, the current score for SpaceX is 6 attempts (not counting the February 2015 soft landing in the ocean) and 2 successes (one on land and one on the drone barge) in 15 months.

Refer to the SpaceX website at the following link for more information.

http://www.spacex.com

The bottom line

In the above diagram for the December 2015 Falcon 9 flight, the relative complexity of a typical New Shepard flight profile and the Falcon 9 flight profile with return to Cape Canaveral is clear. The Falcon 9 flight profile for a landing on the small, moving, down-range drone barge is even more complex.

The New Shepard sub-orbital mission is much less challenging than any Falcon 9 orbital mission. Nonetheless, both booster rockets face very similar challenges as they approach the landing site to execute an autonomous, soft, vertical landing.

Both Blue Origin and SpaceX have made tremendous technological leaps in demonstrating that a booster rocket can make an autonomous, soft, vertical landing and remain in a condition that allows its reuse in a subsequent mission. Blue Origin actually has reused their booster rocket and capsule twice, further demonstrating the maturity of reusable rocket technology.

It remains to be seen if this technology actually delivers the operating cost savings anticipated by Blue Origin and SpaceX. I hope it does. When space tourism becomes a reality, the hoped-for cost benefits of reusable booster rockets and spacecraft could affect my ticket price.

 

Large Autonomous Vessels will Revolutionize the U.S. Navy

In this post, I will describe two large autonomous vessels that are likely to revolutionize the way the U.S. Navy operates. The first is the Sea Hunter, sponsored by Defense Advanced Projects Agency (DARPA), and the second is Echo Voyager developed by Boeing.

DARPA Anti-submarine warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV)

ACTUV conceptSource: DARPA

DARPA explains that the program is structured around three primary goals:

  • Demonstrate the performance potential of a surface platform conceived originally as an unmanned vessel.
    • This new design paradigm reduces constraints on conventional naval architecture elements such as layout, accessibility, crew support systems, and reserve buoyancy.
    • The objective is to produce a vessel design that exceeds state-of-the art manned vessel performance for the specified mission at a fraction of the vessel size and cost.
  •  Advance the technology for unmanned maritime system autonomous operation.
    • Enable independently deploying vessels to conduct missions spanning thousands of kilometers of range and months of duration under a sparse remote supervisory control model.
    • This includes autonomous compliance with maritime laws and conventions for safe navigation, autonomous system management for operational reliability, and autonomous interactions with an intelligent adversary.
  • Demonstrate the capability of an ACTUV vessel to use its unique sensor suite to achieve robust, continuous track of the quietest submarine targets over their entire operating envelope.

While DARPA states that ACTUV vessel is intended to detect and trail quiet diesel electric submarines, including air-independent submarines, that are rapidly proliferating among the world’s navies, that detect and track capability also should be effective against quiet nuclear submarines. The ACTUV vessel also will have capabilities to conduct counter-mine missions.

The ACTUV program is consistent with the Department of Defense (DoD) “Third Offset Strategy,” which is intended to maintain U.S. military technical supremacy over the next 20 years in the face of increasing challenges from Russia and China. An “offset strategy” identifies particular technical breakthroughs that can give the U.S. an edge over potential adversaries. In the “Third Offset Strategy”, the priority technologies include:

  • Robotics and autonomous systems: capable of assessing situations and making decisions on their own, without constant human monitoring
  • Miniaturization: enabled by taking the human being out of the weapons system
  • Big data: data fusion, with advanced, automated filtering / processing before human involvement is required.
  • Advanced manufacturing: including composite materials and additive manufacturing (3-D printing) to enable faster design / build processes and to reduce traditionally long supply chains.

You can read more about the “Third Offset Strategy” at the following link:

http://breakingdefense.com/2014/11/hagel-launches-offset-strategy-lists-key-technologies/

You also may wish to read my 19 March 2016 post on Arthur C. Clarke’s short story “Superiority.” You can decide for yourself if it relates to the “Third Offset Strategy.”

Leidos (formerly SAIC) is the prime contractor for the ACTUV technology demonstrator vessel, Sea Hunter. In August 2012, Leidos was awarded a contract valued at about $58 million to design, build, and operationally test the vessel.

In 2014, Leidos used a 32-foot (9.8 meter) surrogate vessel to demonstrate the prototype maritime autonomy system designed to control all maneuvering and mission functions of an ACTUV vessel. The first voyage of 35 nautical miles (65.8 km) was conducted in February 2014. A total of 42 days of at-sea demonstrations were conducted to validate the autonomy system.

Sea Hunter is an unarmed 145-ton full load displacement, diesel-powered, twin-screw, 132 foot (40 meters) long, trimaran that is designed to a wide range of sea conditions. It is designed to be operational up to Sea State 5 [moderate waves to 6.6 feet (2 meters) height, winds 17 – 21 knots] and to be survivable in Sea State 7 [rough weather with heavy waves up to 20 feet (6 meters) height]. The vessel is expected to have a range of about 3,850 miles (6,200 km) without maintenance or refueling and be able to deploy on missions lasting 60 – 90 days.

Sea Hunter side view cropSource: DARPA

Raytheon’s Modular Scalable Sonar System (MS3) was selected as the primary search and detection sonar for Sea Hunter. MS3 is a medium frequency sonar that is capable of active and passive search, torpedo detection and alert, and small object avoidance. In the case of Sea Hunter, the sonar array is mounted in a bulbous housing at the end of a fin that extends from the bottom of the hull; looking a bit like a modern, high-performance sailboat’s keel.

Sea Hunter will include sensor technologies to facilitate the correct identification of surface ships and other objects on the sea surface. See my 8 March 2015 post on the use of inverse synthetic aperture radar (ISAR) in such maritime surveillance applications.

During a mission, an ACTUV vessel will not be limited by its own sensor suit. The ACTUV vessel will be linked via satellite to the Navy’s worldwide data network, enabling it to be in constant contact with other resources (i.e., other ships, aircraft, and land bases) and to share data.

Sea Hunter was built at the Vigor Shipyard in Portland, Oregon. Construction price of the Sea Hunter is expected to be in the range from $22 to $23 million. The target price for subsequent vessels is $20 million.

You can view a DARPA time-lapse video of the construction and launch of Sea Hunter at the following link:

http://www.darpa.mil/attachments/ACTUVTimelapseandWalkthrough.mp4

Sea Hunter launch 1Source: DARPA

Sea Hunter lauunch 2Source: DARPA

In the above photo, you can see on the bottom of the composite hull, just forward of the propeller shafts, what appears to be a hatch. I’m just speculating, but this may be the location of a retractable sonar housing, which is shown in the first and second pictures, above.

You can get another perspective of the launch and the subsequent preliminary underway trials in the Puget Sound in the DARPA video at the following link:

http://www.darpa.mil/attachments/ACTUVTimelapseandWalkthrough.mp4

During the speed run, Sea Hunter reached a top speed of 27 knots. Following the preliminary trials, Sea Hunter was christened on 7 April 2016. Now the vessel starts an operational test phase to be conducted jointly by DARPA and the Office of Naval Research (ONR). This phase is expected to run through September 2018.

DARPA reported that it expects an ACTUV vessel to cost about $15,000 – $20,000 per day to operate. In contrast, a manned destroyer costs about $700,000 per day to operate.

The autonomous ship "Sea Hunter", developed by DARPA, is shown docked in Portland, Oregon before its christening ceremonySource: DARPA

You can find more information on the ACTUV program on the DARPA website at the following link:

http://www.darpa.mil/news-events/2016-04-07

If ACTUV is successful in demonstrating the expected search and track capabilities against quiet submarines, it will become the bane of submarine commanders anywhere in the world. Imagine the frustration of a submarine commander who is unable to break the trail of an ACTUV vessel during peacetime. During a period of conflict, an ACTUV vessel may quickly become a target for the submarine being trailed. The Navy’s future conduct of operations may depend on having lots of ACTUV vessels.

Echo Voyager Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (UUV)

Echo Explorer - front quarter viewSource: BoeingEcho Explorer - top openSource: Boeing

Echo Voyager is the third in a family of UUVs developed by Boeing’s Phantom Works. The first two are:

  • Echo Ranger (circa 2002): 18 feet (5.5 meters) long, 5 tons displacement; maximum depth 10,000 feet; maximum mission duration about 28 hours
  • Echo Seeker (circa 2015): 32 feet (9.8 meter) long; maximum depth 20,000 feet; maximum mission duration about 3 days

Both Echo Ranger and Echo Seeker are battery powered and require a supporting surface vessel for launch and recovery at sea and for recharging the batteries. They successfully have demonstrated the ability to conduct a variety of autonomous underwater operations and to navigate safely around obstacles.

Echo Voyager, unveiled by Boeing in Huntington Beach, CA on 10 March 2016, is a much different UUV. It is designed to deploy from a pier, autonomously conduct long-duration, long-distance missions and return by itself to its departure point or some other designated destination. Development of Echo Voyager was self-funded by Boeing.

Echo Voyager is a 50-ton displacement, 51 foot (15.5 meters) long UUV that is capable of diving to a depth of 11,000 feet (3,352 meters). It has a range of about 6,500 nautical miles (12,038 km) and is expected to be capable of autonomous operations for three months or more. The vessel is designed to accommodate various “payload sections” that can extend the length of the vessel up to a maximum of 81 feet (24.7 meters).

You can view a Boeing video on the Echo Voyager at the following link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9vPxC-qucw

The propulsion system is a hybrid diesel-electric rechargeable system. Batteries power the main electric motor, enabling a maximum speed is about 8 knots. Electrically powered auxiliary thrusters can be used to precisely position the vessel at slow speed. When the batteries require recharging,

The propulsion system is a hybrid diesel-electric rechargeable system. Batteries power the main electric motor, enabling a maximum speed is about 8 knots. Electrically powered auxiliary thrusters can be used to precisely position the vessel at slow speed. When the batteries require recharging, Echo Voyager will rise toward the surface, extend a folding mast as shown in the following pictures, and operate the diesel engine with the mast serving as a snorkel. The mast also contains sensors and antennae for communications and satellite navigation.

Echo Explorer - mast extendingSource: screenshot from Boeing video at link aboveEcho Explorer - snorkelingSource: screenshot from Boeing video at link above

The following image, also from the Boeing video, shows deployment of a payload onto the seabed.Echo Explorer - emplacing on seabedSource: screenshot from Boeing video at link above

Sea trials off the California coast are expected in mid-2016.

Boeing currently does not have a military customer for Echo Voyager, but foresees the following missions as being well-suited for this type of UUV:

  • Surface and subsurface intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR)
  • ASW search and barrier patrol
  • Submarine decoy
  • Critical infrastructure protection
  • Mine countermeasures
  • Weapons platform

Boeing also expects civilian applications for Echo Voyager in offshore oil and gas, marine engineering, hydrography and other scientific research.

28 July 2016 update: Sea Hunter ACTUV performance testing

On 1 May 2016, Sea Hunter arrived by barge in San Diego and then started initial performance trial in local waters.

ACTUV in San Diego BaySource: U.S. Navy

You can see a video of Sea Hunter in San Diego Bay at the following link:

https://news.usni.org/2016/05/04/video-navys-unmanned-sea-hunter-arrives-in-san-diego

On 26 July 2016, Leidos reported that it had completed initial performance trials in San Diego and that the ship met or surpassed all performance objectives for speed, maneuverability, stability, seakeeping, acceleration, deceleration and fuel consumption. These tests were the first milestone in the two-year test schedule.

Leidos indicated that upcoming tests will exercise the ship’s sensors and autonomy suite with the goals of demonstrating maritime collision regulations compliance capability and proof-of-concept for different Navy missions

Will Your Job Be Done By A Machine?

In September 2013, University of Oxford researchers Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne published a paper entitled, “The Future of Employment: How Susceptible are Jobs to Computerization?”. In this paper, they estimated that 47% of total U.S. jobs have a high probability of being automated and replaced by computers by 2033. Their key results are summarized in the following graphic.

Frey & Osborn key results-2013 paper

You can download their paper for free at the following link:

http://www.futuretech.ox.ac.uk/sites/futuretech.ox.ac.uk/files/The_Future_of_Employment_OMS_Working_Paper_0.pdf

On 5 Feb 2015, Fortune published an article entitled, “5 white-collar jobs robots already have taken.”  This article identifies the affected jobs as:

  • Financial and sports reporters
  • Online marketers
  • Anesthesiologists, surgeons, and diagnosticians
  • E-discovery lawyers and law firm associates
  • Financial analysts and advisors

You can read the complete article at the following link:

http://fortune.com/2015/02/25/5-jobs-that-robots-already-are-taking/

On 21 May 2015, NPR posted an interesting interactive article that provides rough estimates of the likelihood that particular jobs will become automated in the future. The ranking is based on the following factors:

  • Do you need to come up with clever solutions?
  • Are you required to personally help others?
  • Does your job require you to squeeze into small spaces?
  • Does your job require negotiation?

You can try out this interactive site at the following link:

http://www.npr.org/sections/money/2015/05/21/408234543/will-your-job-be-done-by-a-machine?utm_source=howtogeek&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter

There is no opportunity to select many technical professions in science or engineering. Nonetheless, the results for the jobs you can select are insightful. Here are a few example screenshots from the above NPR link:

College professor automation

Aircraft mechanic automation.

Bookkeeper automation

Choosing a career is always a complicated process, but these recent studies clearly show that some careers will be marginalized by automation in the relatively near future.

First Autonomous Car to Drive (Most of the Way) Across Country

American automotive supplier Delphi modified a 2014 Audi SQ5 to make it capable of driving autonomously and then had it drive 3,400 miles on highways from San Francisco to New York City. The human “co-pilot” took control for about 1% of the distance on city streets.

image Source: www.wired.com

Read the story, including details on the car’s autonomous driving features, at the following link:

http://www.wired.com/2015/04/delphi-autonomous-car-cross-country/?utm_source=howtogeek&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter

An important point made in this article is the great speed with which autonomous vehicle technology has advanced. In the first DARPA Grand Challenge in March 2004, all 15 competing autonomous vehicles failed to complete a very difficult 142 mile off-road course from Barstow, CA to Primm, NV. The greatest distance completed by the “winner” was 7.32 miles. In September 2005, five vehicles completed a 132 mile Grand Challenge course in southern Nevada. The third Grand Challenge in 2007 was held in an urban street environment in Victorville, CA. Six of 11 competing teams completed the course. SAIC supported a team in all three Grand Challenges.

For more information, check out the 2014 article, “The DARPA Grand Challenge – 10 Years Later,” at the following link:

http://www.darpa.mil/newsevents/releases/2014/03/13.aspx

Read details on the 2004 Grand Challenge at the following link:

http://spectrum.ieee.org/robotics/robotics-software/dusted-no-winners-in-darpas-1-million-robotic-race-across-the-mojavedesert

And details on the 2005 Grand Challenge at:

http://www.researchgate.net/profile/Erik_Blasch/publication/2961674_Unmanned_Vehicles_Come_of_Age_The_DARPA_Grand_Challenge/links/0deec525dbe44b0bea000000.pdf

And details on the 2007 urban challenge at:

http://archive.darpa.mil/grandchallenge/TechPapers/Sting_Racing.pdf

 

 

Searching the Internet of Things

The company Shodan (https://www.shodan.io) makes a search engine for Internet connected devices, which commonly is referred to as the “Internet of things”. The Shodan website explains that the intent of this search engine is to provide the following services:

Explore the Internet of Things

  • Use Shodan to discover which of your devices are connected to the Internet, where they are located, and who is using them.

Monitor Network Security

  • Keep track of all the computers on your network that are directly accessible from the Internet. Shodan lets you understand your digital footprint.

Get a Competitive Advantage

  • Who is using your product? Where are they located? Use Shodan to develop empirical market intelligence.

See the Big Picture

  • Websites are just one part of the Internet. There are power plants, smart TVs, smart appliances, and much more that can be found with Shodan.

From a security point-of-view, the last point, above, should seem a bit unsettling to the owners / operators of the power plants, smart TVs and smart appliances.

Shodan founder, John Matherly, claims to have “pinged” all devices on the internet.  Not surprisingly, the results, which are reproduced below, show that internet-connected devices are concentrated in developed nations and metropolitan areas. These results were reported on Twitter at the following link:

https://twitter.com/achillean/status/505049645245288448/photo/1

Shodan 2014 ping of Internet of Things