• 3 ways China is using drones to fight coronavirus

    Over the past few months, the Chinese government has piloted ways to incorporate drones into their response to Coronavirus.
    Image: XAG

    In just a few months, Coronavirus has changed how we greet each other, how we work and how our children are educated. It’s also pushing public health authorities to develop new ways to deliver healthcare.

    Over the past few months, the Chinese government has been piloting ways to incorporate drones into their response to Coronavirus. These initial experiments may serve as a model for other countries looking to respond to the current health crisis. Longer term, they can provide lessons for how public and private health systems can incorporate drone technology into their planning to mitigate future pandemics.

    Here are three areas where drones have been a key tool in responding to COVID-19:

    Aerial spray and disinfection

    Drones originally designed to spray pesticides for agricultural applications were adapted in China to spray disinfecting chemicals in some public spaces and on epidemic prevention vehicles traveling between impacted areas. (Coronavirus is mainly transmitted via respiratory droplets and can also spread by touching contaminated surfaces. Disinfectant spray helps reduce these transmission mechanisms.)

    “Compared with hand spray, drone spray has many advantages in terms of efficiency, consistency,” noted Justin Gong, co-founder of agricultural drone company XAG. Depending on the application, drone spray can be fifty times more efficient than people spraying.

    To ensure the safety of aerial disinfection operations, XAG Technology, DJI Agriculture, China Agricultural Machinery Distribution Association, China Agricultural University Research Centre for Medical Equipment and Application Technology and other relevant agencies jointly published a series of operational guidance and technical specifications to communicate with local authorities and make sure that all efforts were conducted in a safe and scientific manner.

    Drones were an efficient way to apply disinfectant to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Image: XAG

    Transport of samples

    Delivering medical samples by drone can significantly reduce unnecessary human contact throughout the transport cycle. It can also speed feedback for critical tests needed by patients and medical workers.

    Testing drone delivery for medical samples began last month, at a time when the virus had already killed 600 people in the country and infected 28,000. Early last February, a drone loaded with medical testing supplies took off from the People’s Hospital of Xinchang County, Zhejiang Province and flew to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention located 3 km away. As a result, a journey that would have taken 20 minutes by ground transport took only 6, cutting delivery time by more than half.

    This effort required close coordination with a variety of groups and agencies, including the Hangzhou Municipal Government, its health department (and subset healthcare facilities), drone company Antwork, and the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) to approve routes and ensure proper safety measures were taken. At the peak of the operation, it ran 20 more flights every day.

    “At the moment of life and death, the air transport network can significantly confine the flow of people, avoid unnecessary physical contact and prevent secondary transmission,” said Lv Yinxiang, Secretary of the Party Committee of the County People’s Hospital. “Medical samples delivered through air can shrink the delivery time…while saving precious field resources.”

    Consumer drone delivery

    Drone delivery of consumer items can ensure that people have access to food and other goods – and make it easier for citizens to keep to recommendations limiting human contact.

    Consumer delivery was challenging in parts of China even before the virus thanks to difficult landscapes – like Anxin’s series of semi-isolated islands. In that village, routine grocery deliveries typically required three modes of transport. Goods were shipped to a main pier, ferried to each island, and then distributed by foot. When counter-virus measures suspended the ferry service, driving along the peninsula’s rugged and narrow road could take more than 2 hours in a single trip to cover 100 km.

    Drones in some parts of China sped the delivery of much-needed consumer goods as residents were asked to limit travel.
    Image: JD

    Drone delivery quickly became a feasible alternative. With the support from the local government, e-commerce company JD deployed its drone team. That team quickly conducted ground surveys, designed flight corridors, requested airspace access permission and conducted final flight tests. In just a few days, several drone delivery corridors were put in place replacing hours-long drives with a 2 km flight that could be completed in just 10 minutes.

    Lessons learned

    The coronavirus outbreak in China has led to significant experimentation with many emerging technologies, including drones. While these projects and demonstrations are still in their earliest phases, we can begin to draw some lessons that can be useful to health authorities around the world.

    Data needs to be gathered and shared about the efficacy of these applications so health authorities can assess the impact on disease transmission, any cost savings, and service improvements for the overall health system. Currently this data is often considered to be proprietary by companies and sensitive by authorities, but a commitment by authorities to release this information or a trusted neutral party with access to the data could ensure other health systems are able to learn from these experiences.

    Drones need to be integrated into planned health responses. As the results from Coronavirus response efforts in China to blood delivery in Rwanda and Ghana to Dengue prevention in Fiji become clearer, we should be able to preplant how drones will be used during disease outbreaks and make appropriate investments rather than relying on ad hoc experimentation.

    “These lessons can reshape how we protect and care for people during health emergencies.”

    —Junwei Yang, Timothy Reuter, World Economic Forum

    Coordination between the public and private sector is essential. Drones are subject to strict regulation outside of consumer use and civil aviation authorities need to respond quickly to requests for health applications while preserving the safety of the airspace and those on the ground. Right now, flight requests are being approved on an exceptional basis, but in the future there should be clear regulations put in place that define how to conduct these applications.

    The civil aviation authority is working with industry, health officials and security services to put these policies into place. The CAAC unmanned aerial system office leadership stated, “Drones are playing key roles in managing the COVID-19 outbreak… It proves that lessons learnt from real world practices are critical for developing a sound regulatory framework whereby the potential of drone technology can be realized.”

    As the world continues to tackle this crisis, these lessons can reshape how we protect and care for people during health emergencies.

    Source: Aeronerve

  • TVET diajar semula ikut kehendak industri – PM

    PUTRAJAYA: Penawaran program pengajian Pendidikan Teknikal dan Latihan Vokasional (TVET) akan dikaji dan diajarkan semula mengikut kehendak industri bagi menyediakan graduan berdasarkan bidang tumpuan ekonomi mengikut wilayah atau lokaliti yang dikenal pasti dalam Wawasan Kemakmuran Bersama (WKB) 2030.

    Perdana Menteri, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad yang juga pemangku Menteri Pendidikan berkata, selari dengan Wawasan Kemakmuran Bersama, TVET dijadikan sebagai antara pemboleh daya yang dapat menyumbang ke arah pembentukan negara membangun yang makmur dan inklusif.

    Bagi tahun 2020, katanya Kementerian Pendidikan (KPM) dan semua kementerian penyedia TVET yang lain akan memberi penekanan terhadap pelaksanaan Peta Strategi Pemerkasaan TVET yang telah dihasilkan oleh Jawatankuasa Kabinet Pemerkasaan TVET.

    Ia bagi menghasilkan graduan TVET yang seimbang, holistik dan berciri keusahawanan seterusnya menjadi pekerja berkemahiran tinggi yang menyumbang terhadap produktiviti dan pertumbuhan ekonomi negara, katanya.

    “Kesemua pihak terbabit perlu memastikan wawasan TVET yang diterajui industri bagi mengurangkan permasalahan ketidaksesuaian kemahiran, kebergantungan kepada buruh asing dan akhirnya menghasilkan graduan TVET yang memenuhi keperluan industri dapat kita capai,” katanya pada majlis amanat dan aspirasi bersama warga Kementerian Pendidikan di sini, hari ini.

    Dalam pada itu, Dr Mahathir berkata bagi menyediakan murid mengharungi Revolusi Industri Keempat, KPM akan memastikan peningkatan pendidikan Sains, Teknologi, Kejuruteraan dan Matematik (STEM) dari pelbagai segi.

    Peningkatan itu termasuklah bilangan murid yang mengambil mata pelajaran STEM, kemahiran penyampaian guru, aktiviti kolaboratif bersama pihak industri dan penglibatan ibu bapa dalam memupuk minat murid untuk mengambil STEM, katanya.

    “Untuk menarik lebih ramai murid menyertai bidang STEM, mulai tahun ini, kementerian telah menyediakan lebih banyak opsyen untuk murid memilih mata pelajaran elektif di bawah pakej STEM selain sastera dan kemanusiaan,” katanya.

    Dr Mahathir berkata Pelantar Pembelajaran Digital Kementerian yang dibangunkan pada 1 Julai 2019 akan terus digiat dan dimantapkan tahun ini sebagai pemangkin pengajaran dan pembelajaran digital dalam kalangan guru dan murid melalui kebolehcapaian bahan yang lebih mudah dan meluas.

    “Kandungan kurikulum juga dirangka merangkumi elemen-elemen seperti Objek Rangkaian Internet (IoT), pengekodan, robotik dan data raya atau big data dalam mata pelajaran di sekolah rendah dan menengah untuk menarik minat murid dan memudahkan penguasaan ilmu yang hendak disampaikan,” katanya. – BERNAMA

    PERDANA Menteri merangkap pemangku Menteri Pendidikan, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad bersama anak-anak Orang Asli suku kaum Temuan dari Sekolah Kebangsaan Sungai Melut, Dengkil selepas menyampaikan Amanat dan Aspirasi Kementerian Pendidikan di Pusat Konvensyen Antarabangsa Putrajaya (PICC). – Foto BERNAMA


    Sumber: Berita Harian Online

  • DJI Memperkenalkan RoboMaster S1

    The RoboMaster S1 is DJI’s advanced new educational robot that opens the door to limitless learning and entertainment. Develop programming skills, get familiar with AI technology, and enjoy thrilling FPV driving with games and competition. From young learners to tech enthusiasts, get ready to discover endless possibilities with the RoboMaster S1.

  • Robot SpaceBok direka untuk beroperasi dalam persekitaran bergraviti rendah

    We’ve seen robots that can walk, trot, run, and even do backflips, but now a student team is working on a rover robot prototype that hops about like a springbok. Designed and built by students from ETH Zurich and ZHAW Zurich, the SpaceBok being tested at ESA’s ESTEC technical center in the Netherlands is designed to travel in lunar gravity by controlled bounds into space where all four legs leave the ground.

    When the Apollo 11 mission landed on the Moon, one of the tasks given to Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin was to practice how to move about on the Moon under one-sixth of Earth gravity. Though both astronauts had already trained under simulated lunar gravity, there was no substitute for the real thing, so as part of the two and a half hours of the first-ever Moonwalk, the two men spent a surprising amount of time gamboling about the Sea of Tranquility like a couple of toddlers.

    The astronauts found that conventional walking in a pressure suit wasn’t very practical in lunar gravity where one could jump 3 ft (1 m) high with ease. Instead, they learned that they could get around very well by adopting a loping gait or hopping with both feet together like a kangaroo.

    According to the Swiss team, the SpaceBok could jump up to 2 m (6.6 ft) vertically on the Moon, which means it could move with surprising speed – a bit like a galloping horse, or a springbok in a hurry. However, when a quadruped runner takes on a gait where all four legs break contact with the ground, stability becomes a real issue as it is now, essentially, a tiny spacecraft on a tiny ballistic trajectory. It is now in the realm of dynamic walking. That’s essentially when walking becomes controlled falling down.

    “Instead of static walking, where at least three legs stay on the ground at all times, dynamic walking allows for gaits with full flight phases during which all legs stay off the ground,” says project leader Hendrik Kolvenbach. “Animals make use of dynamic gaits due to their efficiency, but until recently, the computational power and algorithms required for control made it challenging to realize them on robots. For the lower gravity environments of the Moon, Mars or asteroids, jumping off the ground like this turns out to be a very efficient way to get around.”

    Like its terrestrial African counterpart, SpaceBok uses legs with incorporated springs that act as energy storage units to absorb the impact of each landing, then reuses the force for the next jump. In addition, it’s equipped with something a springbok doesn’t have – a reaction wheel that allows itself to orient itself the same way a satellite does.

    So far, the team has managed to get the SpaceBok to make repetitive jumps to heights of up to 4.3 ft (1.3 m) under simulated lunar gravity. They’ve also set up test facilities that mimic the extremely low gravity of asteroids, where the robot would spend much more time in flight.

    To do this, they used ESA’s Orbital Robotics Bench for Integrated Technology (ORBIT) at the agency’s Orbital Robotics and Guidance Navigation and Control Laboratory. Described as the flattest floor in the Netherlands, it’s an epoxy surface measuring 15.7 by 29.5 ft (4.8 by 9 m) and bordered by flat walls. The team took SpaceBok and mounted it on its side on a free-floating platform, so it could jump from wall to wall, which acted as the floors. As it floated across, it used its reaction wheel to pivot so it always landed feet “up.”

    “The testing went sufficiently well that we even used SpaceBok to play a live-action game of Pong, the video game classic,” says, Kolvenbach.

    Later tests will place SpaceBok in environments that will include obstacles, hilly terrain, and realistic soil, which will then be followed by outdoor testing.

    The video below shows SpaceBok hopping about.

    Source: ESA

  • MIT robot performs Bottle Cap Challenge

    You’ve probably already seen, or even participated in, the Bottle Cap Challenge. It’s the viral challenge of the week where people try to unscrew a bottle cap with a 360-degree kick.

    MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) didn’t want to be left out. So it got in on the fun using its RoboRaise robot that can mirror a user’s motions and follow non-verbal commands by monitoring arm muscles.

    There is a slight twist, however. As you can see in the video below, RoboRaise, which is a Baxter robot from Rethink Robotics, doesn’t have feet and can’t perform a 360-degree kick. RoboRaise takes its cues from MIT’s Joseph DelPreto, who is wearing small sensors on his right arm. Following his lead, RoboRaise uses its soft gripper to unscrew the bottle cap from the stand, successfully completing the Bottle Cap Challenge.

    DelPreto said he could envision RoboRaise being used in manufacturing and construction settings, or even as an assistant around the house. Here is a little bit about how RoboRaise works. For more in-depth details, check out this MIT News article.

    “The project builds off [an] existing system that allows users to instantly correct robot mistakes with brainwaves and hand gestures, now enabling continuous motion in a more collaborative way. “We aim to develop human-robot interaction where the robot adapts to the human, rather than the other way around. This way the robot becomes an intelligent tool for physical work,” says MIT Professor and CSAIL Director Daniela Rus.

    “EMG signals can be tricky to work with: They’re often very noisy, and it can be difficult to predict exactly how a limb is moving based on muscle activity. Even if you can estimate how a person is moving, how you want the robot itself to respond may be unclear.

    “RoboRaise gets around this by putting the human in control. The team’s system uses noninvasive, on-body sensors that detect the firing of neurons as you tense or relax muscles. Using wearables also gets around problems of occlusions or ambient noise, which can complicate tasks involving vision or speech.

    “RoboRaise’s algorithm then processes biceps activity to estimate how the person’s arm is moving so the robot can roughly mimic it, and the person can slightly tense or relax their arm to move the robot up or down. If a user needs the robot to move farther away from their own position or hold a pose for a while, they can just gesture up or down for finer control; a neural network detects these gestures at any time based on biceps and triceps activity.

    “A new user can start using the system very quickly, with minimal calibration. After putting on the sensors, they just need to tense and relax their arm a few times then lift a light weight to a few heights. The neural network that detects gestures is only trained on data from previous users.”

    Will other robots get in on the Bottle Cap Challenge? If so, they better hurry up as it won’t be long before the internet is onto the next viral challenge.

  • Amazon continues work on mobile home robot as it preps new high-end Echo, says report

    Amazon is still working on a mobile home robot, according to a report from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman. It’s also planning to add a high-end Echo to its lineup of Alexa devices.

    We first heard about Amazon’s plans to build a wheeled home robot in April last year. The project is reportedly codenamed “Vesta” (after the Roman goddess of the hearth), and rumors suggest it’s a sort of “mobile Alexa” that’s able to follow users around their homes.

    Today’s report doesn’t add significantly to this picture, but it seems Amazon is still keen to build the mobile device. It was apparently slated to launch this year but wasn’t ready for mass-production. Engineers have reportedly been pulled from other projects to work on Vesta, and Gurman reports that prototypes are “waist-high and navigate with the help of an array of computer-vision cameras.” They can also be summoned using voice commands.

    This (admittedly vague) description is actually pretty close to some existing products. A startup named Temi sells a “personal robot” with similar functionality, for example. Temi the robot is waist-high, has a built-in screen for displaying information, and can be controlled using Alexa. With a starting price of $1,999, though, it’s not really targeted at consumers, but more at companies that want to use the bot as a guide in their shops and offices.

    Along with its mystery robot, Amazon is also reportedly working on a high-end Echo device that’s due to be released next year. Bloomberg says the cylindrical speaker is wider than existing Echo products in order to fit in extra speaker components, and it could launch alongside a high-fidelity version of Amazon’s music streaming service.

    As is always the case with such reports, these products might never actually see the light of day. A mobile home robot is a particularly difficult sell. Over the past year, a number of companies offering home robots have collapsed, including Anki, the makers of the cute and caterpillar-tracked Vector bot, and Jibo Inc, the company behind the social bot Jibo.

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