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NASA Announces 2014 Unmanned Aircraft Airspace Operations Challenge – The Daily Orbit

September 27, 2013

Drones, drones, and more drones.

Basing forensics on bacteria.

Amazon’s got new tablets coming your way.

And we’re on fire on the Daily Orbit!

Hello and welcome to the Daily Orbit. I’m Emerald Robinson.

Drones start your engines. NASA and Development Project Inc. have opened registration for the 2014 Unmanned Aircraft Airspace Operations Challenge. What’s the prize? $500,000 big ones. In April 2014, teams across the nation will compete to meet technology challenges in making unmanned aircraft capable of integration into our national airspace. NASA says the challenge is a great way to get the private sector involved in answering tough technology questions and brings a diversity of people together to address the advancement of unmanned flight. But get those apps in early! Early registration is $5,000 but jumps to $9,000 with late registration. You can go to uasaoc.org for more info and to register. Nothing like a little competition to stimulate innovation.

Another company has its sights set on unmanned flight. Boeing revealed that it has retrofitted retired fighter jets to turn them into drones. They tested an F-16 jet that had been collecting Arizona dust for the last 15 years. The jet flew unmanned from Florida to the Gulf of Mexico, controlled from the ground by two US Air Force pilots. It performed a series of maneuvers including one commonly used in combat to evade attack. They said the unmanned plane could carry out maneuvers at speeds that would be problematic for a pilot. Boeing said the flight test and landing went beautifully and next up is live fire testing at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico.

And here’s a tech minute for you tech junkies. Amazon announced three new Kindle Fire tablets: an 8.9” and 7” Kindle Fire HDX and a lower-end Kindle Fire HD. They have faster hardware, better screens, improved software and a new look. The HDX boasts a much higher resolution than the previous Fires with color improvement and a faster processor. The new Fires are ready for work with improved productivity apps like e-mail and document reading and included security features. And they work with your Samsung TV, Xbox or Playstation to turn your big screen into a second screen. Prices start at $139 for the HD and go up to $329 for the HDX. So many tablets, so little time… or well money.

I’m addicted to those crimes shows where they’re like “time of death 3:00am based on the last text message.” A new study led by the University of Colorado Boulder suggests that forensic scientists could use the microbial clock to determine time of death. One of the first questions asked – which you would know if you watch Law and Order – is what time did the victim die? But current techniques, like timing of last text messages, aren’t reliable. A microbial clock is essentially a succession of bacterial changes that occur postmortem as bodies move through the decay process. And researchers say these patterns are consistent in corpses post-mortem, and this technique could be complementary to current techniques. Can’t you see David Caruso saying “looks like she died at 5:05pm yesterday according to the microbial clock.”

[ Fire alarm goes off ] Can somebody please make it stop! Sometimes technology is in need of a serious update. Case in point, smoke alarms and one company is answering the call. Nest, the company known for the smart Nest Learning Thermostat, announced that they have developed a smart smoke detector that will be called “Protect.” Maybe not so clever, but appropriate. There’s still no release date, but the company says it will include a carbon monoxide detector, and a motion sensor so you can wave to turn it off. Thank God! Can never get regular ones to turn off!

And that’s it for the Daily Orbit.

Background Images Credit: Thinkstock.com



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emerald robinson

Emerald Robinson is the host of the Daily Orbit, Red Orbit's daily video news program. Known for her Southern charm and a quick wit, Emerald made her television debut on the daytime drama The Young and the Restless. Since then she has appeared in many feature films and TV programs, including a tour as host of Auto Trader New Car Review for WheelsTV.

Read more about Emerald here ...