Mars Helicopter now the ‘real deal’ after successful test flights

29 Mar 2019

NASA researchers working on the Mars Helicopter. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

This week in future tech, NASA gets even closer to the real Mars Helicopter, while the EU plans to slow things down on our roads from 2022.

Earlier this week, the DAA (Dublin Airport Authority) announced an agreement with Bristol Airport and a US company called Collins Aerospace that will see biometric and facial recognition technology used for passengers travelling to and from the UK airport.

Meanwhile, researchers discovered that by combining bee spit with flower oil, they could create a new range of strong glues that remain sticky, whatever the weather.

Future Human

NASA Mars Helicopter passes tests with flying colours

Last year, NASA revealed plans for a helicopter like no other, one that could overcome the incredibly challenging environment of Mars. Now, the US space agency said that things have progressed quite a lot, with the machine having passed a series of recent flight tests.

Weighing less than 2kg, the Mars Helicopter was tested to see whether it could withstand the extreme cold temperatures of as low as minus 90 degrees Celsius on Martian nights, which it proved it could. All of this testing is gearing up towards February 2021 when the helicopter will touch town on the Red Planet underneath the belly of the Mars 2020 rover. After a few months, it will take off on a series of test flights lasting up to 90 seconds each.

“Gearing up for that first flight on Mars, we have logged over 75 minutes of flying time with an engineering model, which was a close approximation of our helicopter,” said MiMi Aung, project manager for the Mars Helicopter. “But this recent test of the flight model was the real deal. This is our helicopter bound for Mars. We needed to see that it worked as advertised.”

Speed-limiting tech to be mandatory in new EU cars by 2022

From 2022, all new cars sold in the EU – and the UK – must come with speed-limiting technology that will automatically keep a car’s speed at the local speed limit. According to the BBC, among the measures approved by the European Commission were the use of intelligent speed assistance, advanced braking and lane-keeping technology.

With these systems in place, the EU said that it could help avoid 140,000 serious accidents by 2038, with the aim of having zero road deaths by 2050.

The technology will not prohibit drivers from exceeding the speed limit entirely, as it can be overridden temporarily – if the driver wishes to overtake a truck, for example – by pressing down hard on the accelerator. However, for drivers wishing to override the system on a regular basis, there is a stark warning being issued.

All new cars will be fitted with mandatory ‘black boxes’ that record all of their driving data, meaning they will show if someone regularly breaks the speed limit in a given area.

Boston Dynamics unveils robot designed to lift and move boxes

It seems every time Boston Dynamics announces something, it’s big news, and now the SoftBank subsidiary has revealed Handle, a robot that aims to change how logistics companies handle their stock.

In a YouTube video, the company said Handle is a mobile manipulation robot whose on-board vision system tracks marked pallets for navigation and finds individual boxes for grasping and placing.

When Handle places a boxes on a pallet, it uses force control to nestle each box up against the other ones around it. Each of the boxes in the video reportedly weighs about 5kg, but Handle can carry the weight of a box up to 15kg.

More than 100 operators now have NB-IoT networks

The Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) has published findings that show 149 mobile network operators are investing in narrowband internet of things (NB-IoT) or LTE-M networks in 69 countries across the world.

102 of those operators in 52 countries had deployed or launched at least one of the NB-IoT or LTE-M technologies. Of those, 20 operators in 19 countries had deployed or launched both NB-IoT and LTE-M. Meanwhile, 22 countries are now home to deployed or launched NB-IoT and LTE-M networks.

The technology is one of a number that aim to bring IoT sensors to a whole range of different industries, transmitting small packets of data back to a central hub.

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Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic