MIT Engineers Create ‘Robotic Lightning Bug’ That Weighs Little More than a Paperclip

In a new study published in the journal IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters a team of engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) describes how it created a 650 mg aerial robot powered by four electroluminescent actuators (tiny “soft” motors), each able to generate distinct colors and patterns. This tiny flying bug-bot, the researchers say, “further shows the potential of achieving coordinated swarm flights without using well-calibrated indoor tracking systems.”

In the video immediately above the engineers outline how their “insect-scale” flying lightning bug robot works, noting it was inspired by the ever-whimsical firefly and its ability to use bioluminescent chemical reactions to create light.

“If you think of large-scale robots, they can communicate using a lot of different tools—Bluetooth, wireless, all those sorts of things. But for a tiny, power-constrained robot, we are forced to think about new modes of communication. This is a major step toward flying these robots in outdoor environments where we don’t have a well-tuned, state-of-the-art motion tracking system, Kevin Chen says in an MIT press release. Chen is the D. Reid Weedon Jr. Assistant Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) at MIT and the senior author of the paper.

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Nebraska wants to test body and facial scans that work from a distance

The state of Nebraska is planning to test whole-body and facial recognition technology from far-off sensors. The project, funded by the Department of Defense, aims to test the accuracy of AI in identifying subjects from images and videos captured by stationary towers and drones positioned far from the subjects.

The project is backed by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) as part of its Biometric Recognition and Identification at Altitude or Range, aka Briar, program. The first phase, dubbed WatchID, of the three-part program will run for 18 months.

Researchers from the University of Nebraska’s Omaha and Lincoln campuses, University of Maryland College Park, Resonant Sciences, and BlueHalo Co. will participate in WatchID. The program will require 200 volunteers who will stand and walk in circles and straight lines in an open space. Once the first phase is successful, it will be expanded to require 600 volunteers.

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Mysterious drone attacks on US war ships solved

A mysterious series of attacks on US Navy warships off the coast of California in 2019 have been revealed to be caused by a cluster of drones launched from a Hong Kong cargo ship, a new report says.

The bizarre incidents, which were reported between March 30 and July 30, 2019 on seven warships and had led to speculation that they were caused by unidentified aerial phenomena or UFOs, came to light Friday after the publication of previously classified US Navy memos and ships’ logs, obtained by The Drive under Freedom to Information legislation.

The drone attacks caused high-level concern because they took place near a sensitive naval training area near the Channel Islands. Nearly two years after the attacks, Marine General Kenneth McKenzie Jr. called them “the most concerning tactical development since the rise of the improvised explosive device in Iraq.”

Among the revelations in The Drive’s cache of documents were that on July 15, 2019, Navy warships reported drones that they suspected were being launched from a Hong Kong civilian cargo ship, the MS Bass Strait. The initial report of the drone clusters was reported by sailors on the USS Bunker Hill, which recorded 11 drone attacks, according to the newly released documents.

The US ship called in a special team known as SNOOPIE — Ship Nautical or Otherwise Photographic Interpretation — to document the drones. Sailors also radioed the nearby Bass Strait, but the crew did not respond, according to the logs obtained by The Drive.

Another US Navy ship — the USS Paul Hamilton — which was on its way to Long Beach, California, also summoned its SNOOPIE team to document drones above their ship. The crew noted in their internal report to the US Navy that “MV Bass Strait likely using UAVs (unidentified aerial vehicles) to conduct surveillance on US Naval Forces.”

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US To Sell Ukraine Advanced Drones Armed With Hellfire Missiles In Coming Days

Despite a mere days ago President Biden pledging in a New York Times op-ed that under his watch the United States would ensure it avoids supplying the Ukrainians with weapons which could penetrate deep inside Russian territory, given the potential for wider war with Russia, the White House is now said to be mulling the transfer of multiple MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones which can be armed with Hellfire missiles.

Reuters, citing unnamed sources, reports the Biden administration has notified Congress of the potential sale within “the coming days”. If it goes through, the sale would mark the largest and most sophisticated drones in Ukraine’s arsenal. It would also inch the US a bit closer toward President Zelensky’s prior request for the US and NATO to “close the skies” – or impose a No Fly Zone (NFZ) – despite Biden officials earlier admitting this would trigger automatic direct conflict with Russian.

The Pentagon is already supplying hundreds of AeroVironment’s Switchblade drones, which is a small, low-cost loitering munition or “suicide” drone. Ukraine has also already long deployed the Turkish-made Bayraktar, however, the General Atomics-made Gray Eagle is much faster and capable of carrying heavier munitions.

According to a brief comparative analsysis in Forbes,

The Gray Eagle carries up to four roughly 100-pound Hellfire missiles, whereas the Bayraktar can carry as many as four 49-pound laser-guided “smart micro” bombs.

Further, “The long-range model of the Gray Eagle drone is 28 feet long and can fly for over 41 hours with a top speed of about 173 miles per hour, while the Bayraktar is 21 feet long and can fly for 27 hours at up to 138 miles per hour.”

The potential transfer comes just as Biden authorized $700 million more in military aid to Ukraine. Reuters says the transfer is to include at least four Gray Eagle drones.

The Drive notes that with this type of advanced weapons system sale, there could be a few more hurdles along the way: “Typically a foreign military sale, even one financed by the U.S., as Reuters reports, has to be pre-approved by the State Department,” the report says.

And once again the Pentagon could be ordered by the administration to deplete its own crucial stockpile and arsenal in order to further arm the Ukrainians.

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DHS Coordinated with Chinese Drone Company to Create the First Totally Surveilled City in America

Inside San Diego’s metropolitan area, the second largest city, home to some 275,000 residents, has made the history books. Chula Vista hasn’t cured cancer or discovered perpetual energy; instead, their mark on history will be a dark one as they become the first city in America to be completely monitored by spy drones.

“On a per capita basis, they’re probably the most or one of the most surveilled cities in the country,” said Brian Hofer, executive director of the Oakland-based privacy advocacy group Secure Justice. “Pretty much the minute you walk outside your front door and move about your daily life, you’re going to be tagged and tracked by some law enforcement agency, even though you’ve likely never been suspected of any wrongdoing.”

Chula Vista’s drone program didn’t come to fruition overnight. Instead, the Department of Homeland Security and other government agencies coordinated with with Chinese drone manufacturers and unscrupulous actors in Big Tech and have implemented the program over the course of several years.

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Russia makes new allegations about US-funded biolabs in Ukraine

Documents and other evidence from US-funded laboratories in Ukraine suggest that Kiev was planning to use drones to deploy pathogens against the Donbass, as well as Russia itself, Moscow claimed on Wednesday.

The Defense Ministry also alleged that it has identified specific US officials involved in the development of bioweapons in the East European country. No direct evidence was provided to back up the assertion. 

Of particular interest to Russian investigators are “documents testifying to the plans of the Kiev regime to use unmanned aerial vehicles capable of carrying and spraying deadly substances,” military spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov outlined during a briefing.

Facts in the possession of the Russian military “prove that the Kiev regime was seriously considering the possibility of using biological weapons against the population of the Donbass and the Russian Federation,” Konashenkov added.

Russia has also identified “specific officials who took part in the creation of components of biological weapons,” the general went on to reveal. He did not name any of them, however, saying only they were “the heads of divisions and employees of the US Department of Defense, as well as its main contractors.”

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Signed as Law: Utah Expands Limits on Drone Surveillance

On Monday, Utah Governor Spencer Cox signed a bill into law expanding state limits on government drone surveillance. The legislation will not only establish important privacy protections at the state level; it will also help thwart the federal surveillance state.

Rep. Ryan Wilcox (R) introduced House Bill 259 (HB259) on Jan. 28. In 2014, Utah passed a law requiring police to get a warrant before conducting drone surveillance in most situations. HB259 clarifies that the law applies “to any imaging surveillance device, as defined in Section 77-23d-102 when used in conjunction with an unmanned aircraft system.” This includes “radar, sonar, infrared, or other remote sensing or detection technology.”

In effect, the enactment of HB259 clarifies that this type of technology cannot be used in conjunction with a drone without a warrant.

The Senate passed HB259 by a 23-0 vote. The House approved the measure by a vote of 70-0. With Gov. Cox’s signature, the law goes into effect May 4.

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Eric Adams considering using drones to fight NYC crime, sources say

Mayor Eric Adams is mulling a mini-army of drones to fight surging crime in the Big Apple — possibly deploying the high-flying robocops from rooftops as watchful guardians of Gotham, sources told The Post.

Tel Aviv-based Blue White Robotics and Easy Aerial of Brooklyn were two drone manufacturers featured earlier this month at an event to launch a NYC-Israel Chamber of Commerce.

Adams attended the gathering in the Williamsburg Hotel, and sources said the mayor was so impressed with the joint presentation that he suggested his chief technology officer Matthew Fraser and the firms’ honchos begin talks about the city potentially buying drones and expanding the NYPD’s use of them.

“Eric is a big booster of drones and how they can be used to streamline government function, but obviously whatever he would try to roll out would be constrained” under existing laws limiting drone use, said a source familiar with the mayor’s thinking.

The drone makers – whose clients include the US Department of Defense, Air Force and Customs and Border Protection – say they’ve dubbed the plan the “Soteria Project,” derived from a Greek word meaning “deliverance from a crisis.”

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