RF Deconfliction & the Tacocopter Conspiracy
We had a very busy time at the Ground Robotics Capabilities Conference last month. Seemed like everyone wanted to see our Technology suite. At the show itself, at least 9 vendors displayed AMREL OCUs, and many others had literature with our products mentioned. That’s just about half of the participants who are using our OCUs.
I spent a bit of time asking what was on people’s minds, and interoperability, specifically RF deconfliction (spectrum management), seemed to be the topic of the day. This month’s OCU Pros features a brief overview on this vital subject.
We also link to IEEE Spectrums “Robotics Trends for 2012.” It mentions telepresence, autonomy, smartphones as OS, and other issues that OCU Pros has covered.
Gesture Driven User Interface
“Silicon All The Way” focuses on the X-47B, an Unmanned Combat Aerial Combat System (UCAS) designed for US carriers. With a longer strike range than the more expensive F-35B, this unmanned system may be developed and deployed sooner rather than later. Especially interesting is the specifcation for the X-47B to understand the hand signals, so crews can direct it around the flight deck.
Of course, the big news this month was Unmanned Taco Delivery Systems. Google did another promotional stunt with their autonomous car. This time it drove a blind man to a taco stand.
What really caught everyone’s attention was an entrepreneur announcing the “tacocopter” service; tacos delivered to your door by quadrocopters. At last count, this story has more than 14,000 “likes” on Facebook times, and 4,000 retweets.
The “tacocopter” may seem farcical for a myriad of reasons, but it illustrates certain characteristics of the current state of the unmanned industry. For example, is this proposal for real? The media is divided on it, but what does it actually mean to say a plan for an unmanned system is “real”? How many times have you gone to a trade show, saw something that was cool, only to find out that it was vaporware? Is the tacocopter any more ridiculous than some proposals that got actual funding?
Many tacocopter news stories emphasized the FAA’s prohibition of UAVs in domestic air space, a very real issue for the unmanned community. The tacocopter entrepreneur avoided the temptation to criticize the government, stating “…I think it’s not totally unreasonable to regulate something as potentially dangerous as having flying robots slinging tacos over people’s heads…” Andrew Sullivan, on the other hand, quipped “Why does the government hate tacos?”
I am amazed at the variety of reactions to this story. The Atlantic drew marketing lessons for start-ups from it, Steven Colbert thought it was funny, and at least one website seriously argued that it was a “military psyops.”
Many unmanned system developers are looking for the “next big thing.” Telepresence, agriculture, household chores, and social support have all been suggested as the “killer app” that will open up the civilian market. Could be the future of unmanned systems belongs to tacos.
See you next month!