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US scientists working on mind-controlled drones for military use

RT.com

 

University researchers in Texas say they are designing a new type of drone – one that could be controlled simply and only with a soldier’s mind.

If successful, the project would allow soldiers to command future drones in ways beyond simple navigational commands. While troops would be able to order a drone to “move left” and “move right,” it would potentially enable them to command the vehicles to travel over specific geographic installations and send critical data back to their operators.

According to My San Antonio, the project is currently underway at the University of Texas at San Antonio, where graduate students recently demonstrated a hovering drone operated via a cell phone app while one researcher sat – his head covered in sensors – and focused intently on the unnamed aerial vehicles’ activity.

While the goal of controlling vehicles by way of the mind is still ways off, the hope is that by studying the brain signals and magnetic waves captured from graduate student Mauricio Merino, the researchers will be able to link the activity to specific commands that can eventually be received by an advanced drone.

These commands would be relayed by sophisticated electroencephalogram systems (EEG) that can process brain signals.

Once developed, mind-controlled drones would significantly reduce the amount of supplies that troops have to carry into combat zones, the chairman of the university’s electrical and computer engineering department, Daniel Pack, believes.

“It becomes more burdensome to ask them to carry more things,” he told My San Antonio. “You have to have a computer or a mechanism that you use to control the UAVs. But if you can do this without having them actually carry additional equipment … then you are helping our soldiers.”

While the project is primarily funded by the Department of Defense and the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the researchers also think the technology will have important uses for those with disabilities.

“For people who don’t have motor skills, for people in wheelchairs, this could be so helpful,” graduate Prasanna Kolar said to the outlet.

Already, scientists at other universities are hard at work on similar technology. At the University of Minnesota, EEG systems were used last year to control a flying robot. They specifically mentioned the ability to control wheelchairs and artificial limbs as practical applications for the breakthrough, and speculated that even more helpful uses could be on the horizon.

“It may even help patients with conditions like autism or Alzheimer’s disease or help stroke victims recover,” engineering student Karl LaFleur said in a press release at the time. “We’re now studying some stroke patients to see if it’ll help rewire brain circuits to bypass damaged areas.”

 

US assassination drone strike kills four in Pakistan

 


 

At least four people have been killed in a US assassination drone strike in Pakistan’s northwestern tribal region.

The US drone hit Dargah Mandi village in North Waziristan, located about 10 kilometers (six miles) west of Miranshah, on Wednesday.

According to Pakistani officials, the drone fired two missiles, targeting a vehicle and a house.

The drone strike on Wednesday comes despite the Pakistani government’s repeated calls on Washington to end the drone attacks.

Washington claims its drone strikes target militants, although casualty figures clearly indicate that Pakistani civilians are the main victims of the non-UN-sanctioned attacks.

The slaughter of Pakistani civilians, including women and children as a result of US drone strikes has strained ties between Islamabad and Washington, and Pakistani officials have complained to the US administration on numerous occasion.

United Nations and several human rights organizations have identified the US as the world’s number one user of “targeted killings,” largely due to its drone attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

 

BP allowed commercial drones by US regulators in unprecedented decision

theguardian.com

 

 

DHS Borrowed Drone

 

 

The Federal Aviation Administration said Tuesday it has granted the first permission for commercial drone flights over US land to the BP energy corporation, the latest effort by the agency to show it is loosening restrictions on commercial uses of the unmanned aircraft.

Drone maker AeroVironment of California and BP energy corporation have been given permission to use a Puma drone to survey pipelines, roads and equipment at Prudhoe Bay in Alaska, the agency said. The first flight took place on Sunday.

The Puma is a small, hand-launched craft about 4.5ft long and with a 9ft wingspan. It was initially designed for military use.

AeroVironment chief executive Tim Conver said the Puma “is now helping BP manage its extensive Prudhoe Bay field operations in a way that enhances safety, protects the environment, improves productivity and accomplishes activities never before possible.”

Last summer, the FAA had approved the Puma and the ScanEagle, made by Boeing subsidiary Insitu Inc of Washington, for flights over the Arctic Ocean to scout icebergs, count whales and monitor drilling platforms.

“These surveys on Alaska’s North Slope are another important step toward broader commercial use of unmanned aircraft,” said transportation secretary Anthony Foxx. “The technology is quickly changing, and the opportunities are growing.”

Last week, the FAA said it was considering giving permission to seven filmmaking companies to use drones for aerial photography, a potentially significant step that could lead to greater relaxation of the agency’s ban on commercial use of drones. So far, the only exceptions to that ban have been limited flights that have been approved over the Arctic Ocean and now Alaska.

Congress directed the FAA to provide commercial drones access to US skies by September 2015, but the agency’s efforts to write safety rules for such flights by drones weighing 55lbs or less have been slow, and it is not expected to meet the deadline. FAA officials are on their third attempt to draft regulations acceptable to the Transportation Department and the White House.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta has said drafting such rules is complex because they must ensure that the large volume and diversity of manned aircraft in US skies are protected. Even a small drone that collides with plane traveling at high speeds or gets chewed up by helicopter rotors could cause a crash.

But as the cost of small drones has come down and their sophistication and usefulness has increased, entrepreneurs and businesses from real estate agents to wedding video makers aren’t waiting for government permission. Drone industry officials have warned that the longer the FAA takes to write regulations, the more rogue commercial operators will multiply.