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Teaching drones to hunt down human screams + Lunar Lantern: a beacon of humanity

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Scientists are teaching drones to hunt down human screams (engineering)

INTRO: If someone created a flying machine capable of tracking you down by listening for your voice, you might be creeped out. But what if you were pinned under a pile of rubble after a natural disaster and first responders couldn't locate you? Maybe then, a human-seeking drone wouldn't be such a terrible idea.

That concept is the focus for engineers at Germany's Fraunhofer FKIE institute, who've built a drone prototype designed to find people by detecting human screams and listening for other signs of distress.

One of the lead engineers, Macarena Varela, showcased their progress last week at an annual conference hosted by the Acoustic Society of America. While it's easy to imagine human-seeking drones in a Sci-Fi horror movie, Varela says the gadget would be ideal for post-disaster scenarios, such as earthquakes, hurricanes, and wildfires.

They could hover over an area that rescue crews have difficulty getting to and pinpoint where people may be trapped. "(Drones) can cover a larger area in a shorter period of time than rescuers or trained dogs on the ground," Varela said. "If there's a collapsed building, it can alert and assist rescuers. It can go places they can't fly to or get to themselves."

Unmanned aerial vehicles or drones are commonly used for search and rescue missions when disasters strike. Most often, they take aerial images of structural damage. Some have thermal imaging capabilities to scan for body heat, while larger drones can deliver medical supplies and other goods to people in isolated areas.

But researchers are finding more novel uses for an extra set of eyes in the sky - and noses. The University of Washington imagines drones that use smell to locate disaster survivors. The Aerospace Corporation is working on drones that can visually identify dogs and share their location with rescue teams. The University of Zurich developed a drone to change shape midflight to fit into oddly-shaped crevices.

Locating people using aerial acoustics presents its share of challenges. An auditory system would need to decipher between human cries and sounds that often happen in nature, such as animal calls and wind.

It might also need to recognise patterns associated with kicking, clapping or other ways people try to get the attention of rescue teams. Engineers at FKIE took those situations into account when building out their concept drone... (MORE)

The Lunar Lantern could be a beacon for humanity on the Moon (architecture)

INTRO: In October of 2024, NASA’s Artemis Program will return astronauts to the surface of the Moon for the first time since the Apollo Era. In the years and decades that follow, multiple space agencies and commercial partners plan to build the infrastructure that will allow for a long-term human presence on the Moon. An important part of these efforts involves building habitats that can ensure the astronauts’ health, safety, and comfort in the extreme lunar environment.

This challenge has inspired architects and designers from all over the world to create innovative and novel ideas for lunar living. One of these is the Lunar Lantern, a base concept developed by ICON (an advanced construction company based in Austin, Texas) as part of a NASA-supported project to build a sustainable outpost on the Moon. This proposal is currently being showcased as part of the 17th International Architecture Exhibition at the La Biennale di Venezia museum in Venice, Italy.

The Lunar Lantern emerged from Project Olympus, a research and development program made possible thanks to a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract and funding from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC). Consistent with ICON’s commitment to developing advanced construction technologies, the purpose of Olympus was to create a space-based construction system that will support NASA and other future exploration efforts on the Moon... (MORE)

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