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Researchers at Queens University are developing a new robotic system to service more than 8,000 satellites now orbiting the Earth, beyond the flight range of ground-based repair operations. Currently, when the high-flying celestial objects malfunction or simply run out of fuel they become space junk cluttering the cosmos.

These are mechanical systems, which means that eventually they will fail - Electrical and Computer Engineering professor Michael Greenspan, who leads the Queens project.

But because they are many thousands of kilometres away, the satellites are beyond the reach of an expensive, manned spaced flight, while Earth-based telerobotic repair isnt possible in real time.

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A Texas Tech University curator and an aeronautical engineer from the University of Florida have developed a 30-inch robotic spy plane modelled after a 225 million-year-old pterodactyl.
The drone, featuring a strange design of a rudder at the nose of the craft instead of the tail, would gather data from sights, sounds and smells in urban combat zones and transmit information back to a command centre.

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Dragonflies might not be high on the list of things you'd expect to see on Mars or Titan.
But the ExoFly, a robot designed to imitate a dragonfly's hovering, jerky flight, could act as a guide for planetary rovers once they land. It would be sent out first to explore the terrain and then direct the rover to any sites of interest by the easiest route, says team member Tanja Zegers of the University of Utrecht, the Netherlands. The work will be presented at the European Planetary Science Congress in Munster, Germany, this week.

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New underwater robot can hover in place
MIT researchers have designed a new robotic underwater vehicle that can hover in place like a helicopter -- an invaluable tool for deepwater oil explorers, marine archaeologists, oceanographers and others.

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Stanford computer scientists have developed an artificial intelligence system that enables robotic helicopters to teach themselves to fly difficult stunts by watching other helicopters perform the same manoeuvres.
The result is an autonomous helicopter than can perform a complete airshow of complex tricks on its own.

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War casualties are typically kept behind tightly closed doors, but one company keeps the mangled pieces of its first casualty on display. This is no ordinary soldier, thoughit is Packbot from iRobot Corporation.
Robots in the military are no longer the stuff of science fiction. They have left the movie screen and entered the battlefield. Washington University in St. Louis's Doug Few and Bill Smart are on the cutting edge of this new wave of technology. Few and Smart report that the military goal is to have approximately 30% of the army be robotic forces by somewhere around 2020.

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At a desert test site in Texas, a street battle rages between US soldiers and local "insurgents". It's much like any other training exercise, except the soldiers are accompanied by a Mule (Multifunctional utility/Logistics & Equipment), an armed robot the size of a Humvee. The insurgents are positioned overlooking an intersection, a potential kill zone. The commander pulls out what looks like a PlayStation gamepad and the Mule is sent forward.
It presents a tougher challenge than the typical human soldier. The Mule can fire Javelin anti-tank missiles and has a turret-mounted machine gun, in addition to a digital "eyeball" with laser and heat-recognising target acquisition systems for aiming its weaponry. It is semi-autonomous, using GPS to navigate and localised perception to avoid trees and buildings. Its six wheels are on pneumatic legs, enabling it to climb over cars and barriers.

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iRobot today won a $3.3 million contract to build a shape-shifting, flexible robot for dangerous or hard to reach combat duties.
The robot is part of the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agencys (DARPA) Chemical Robots (ChemBots) program that seeks to build soft, flexible, mobile objects that can identify and manoeuvre through openings smaller than their static structural dimensions.

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Antarctic Robots
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A pair of lightweight, robotic planes have made the first unmanned flights over Antarctica's icy expanses.
Driven by propeller, the machines made 20 low-altitude sorties, including four over the Weddell Sea.
The unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) were launched by catapult but flew autonomously until landing.
During some of the test flights the machines were fitted with miniaturised instruments to collect data for use in predictive climate models.

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A sea-going robotic glider that harvests heat energy from the ocean has been tested by US scientists.
The yellow, torpedo-shaped machine has been combing the depths of seas around the Caribbean since December 2007.

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