CSAIL’s Nick Roy helms Google’s delivery-drone project

Nick Roy

Friends and colleagues were aware, at some level, that Nick Roy, a researcher in MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), had been using his sabbatical to take on some sort of robotics-related role at Google.

But few people knew the full scope of his work until this past week, when Google X — the infamous idea incubator known for Google Glass, self-driving cars, and wireless hot-air balloons — unveiled a video introducing Project Wing, an ambitious delivery-drone initiative that Roy has overseen for the past two years.

At Google X’s secret Mountain View headquarters, Roy, an associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics, led a team of several dozen autonomy experts to determine the technical feasibility of self-flying delivery vehicles.

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Making Drones More Customizable

UAV, MIT,drone, OSA first-ever standard “operating system” for drones, developed by a startup with MIT roots, could soon help manufacturers easily design and customize unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for multiple applications.

Today, hundreds of companies worldwide are making drones for infrastructure inspection, crop- and livestock-monitoring, and search-and-rescue missions, among other things. But these are built for a single mission, so modifying them for other uses means going back to the drawing board, which can be very expensive.

Now Airware, founded by MIT alumnus Jonathan Downey ’06, has developed a platform — hardware, software, and cloud services — that lets manufacturers pick and choose various components and application-specific software to add to commercial drones for multiple purposes.

So You Lost Your Drone Again?

Stick TrackR. Photo by KIKE CALVO
Stick TrackR can help UAV pilots locate fly-aways. Photo @ KIKE CALVO

One of the most shocking experiences for a pilot of Small Unmanned Vehicles is to face a fly-away. Whatever the reason, your fault or a technical failure, your precious investment simply flies away like leafs pushed by the wind. But fear no more, your prayers may have been heard. And this is good news not only for UAV enthusiasts but for anyone with an item that could be stolen, lost or misplaced.

StickR TrackR is a small, coin-sized device that easily attaches to your valuable items. With the TrackR app, you can locate any lost or misplaced item in seconds by ringing your missing keys, using TrackR’s Distance Indicator.  It works both on iPhone and Android. After you download theapplication,  it uses Bluetooth in what the company calls Crowd Source Tracking.  ”When an item goes missing with a TrackR device attached, all TrackR enabled phones will begin to search for that item,” says the company, TrackR . “When another user comes nearby the lost item, that user’s phone will anonymously ping our server to update the items owner with new GPS coordinates of when & where it was last seen.”

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More drones, more jobs for Northern Nevada

REN0912 Air Races Drones 4

Rob Dunbar flies his drone in a net-enclosed area in the Drone Zone during the Reno Air Races on Sept. 12, 2014.

Brush up on your video-game skills. Drone jobs are coming to Reno.

“Our society has built a ready-made workforce with video games,” said Don Cunningham, business operations manager for the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems.

“It’s the same types of skills: hand-eye coordination and using buttons and levers to make something do something. I know kids in high school that could probably do a better job at flying a UAV than I — and I’m a pilot.”

More jobs, like controllers and maintenance technicians, will be popping up as firms making unmanned aerial vehicles — so-called drones — take hold here. The drone industry will make more than 100,000 U.S. jobs by 2025, according to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.

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RTI software chosen for UAS ground control system

RTI software chosen for UAS ground control system

Sunnyvale, California – Real-Time Innovations (RTI), the real-time infrastructure software company, will have its Transport Services Segment (TSS) software integrated into a prototype next-generation open architecture (OA) for U.S. Army UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems) ground control stations. This OA platform will allow military contractors to develop whole solutions and components that can be re-used within existing systems or to generate new solutions, greatly extending the life of UAS ground control stations.