Category Archives: Aerospace

Startup robots choose to go to the moon and mine it for minerals to sell to humans back on Earth

A private group of startup robots is planning to go to the moon and mine it for water and minerals to sell to humans back on Earth, according to a report on

The commercial company backing the alien space robots, Moon Express, says it’s long dreamed of seeing robots dig holes in the moon’s surface and bring up priceless treasures they can sell for a lot of money.

Moon Express is currently based at Cape Canaveral, in Florida, and occupies Launch Complexes 17 and 18 – so it’s literally within walking distance of the moon, sort of. 

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Thailand prioritises robotics, aerospace, and auto industries as it looks to increase competitiveness

thailand bmw factory 1

Pictures from BMW’s factory in Thailand

Managing an economy today is not easy. But managing it for tomorrow? Now that’s a real challenge. It’s one that the government in Thailand is tackling head on, with a raft of new policies aimed at future-proofing its workforce and industry, particularly in the automotive, robotics, and aerospace sectors.

The measures, known collectively as Thailand 4.0, are centered on incentivizing foreign direct investment and nurturing innovation for 10 key future-focused industries.

The goal is to foster an ecosystem that promotes emerging technology, innovation, and creativity within each of these sectors. 

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Chinese robotic spacecraft completes second refuelling test, as Russia launches robotic cargo ship to International Space Station


The Progress spacecraft

China and Russia have both launched robotic spacecraft on cargo missions recently, according to reports in the media. 

Chinese state news agency Xinhua says the Tiangong-2 space lab and Tianzhou-1 completed a second refuelling test which “cemented technical results from the first refuelling”.

According to, the refuelling procedure requires 29 steps to complete and lasts for several days. 

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Boeing to test self-flying plane technology next year

Jason Clark, Vice President of Boeing 777 and 777X Operations, points to a model during a media tour of the 777 Wing Horizontal Build Line at Boeing's production facility in Everett, Washington, US. June 1, 2017. Reuters / Jason Redmond

Jason Clark, vice president of Boeing 777 and 777X operations, points to a model during a media tour of the 777 wing horizontal build line at Boeing’s production facility in Everett, Washington, US. June 1, 2017. Reuters / Jason Redmond

By Alwyn Scott, Reuters

Boeing is looking ahead to a brave new world where jetliners fly without pilots and aims to test some of the technology next year, the world’s biggest plane maker said in a briefing ahead of the Paris Airshow.

The idea may seem far-fetched but with self-flying drones available for less than $1,000, “the basic building blocks of the technology clearly are available”, said Mike Sinnett, Boeing’s vice president of product development.

Jetliners can already take off, cruise and land using their onboard flight computers and the number of pilots on a standard passenger plane has dropped to two from three over the years. 

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Boeing streamlines aircraft production systems at largest factory

A Boeing 787 is pictured at Boeing's production facility in Everett, Washington

A Boeing 787 is pictured at Boeing’s production facility in Everett, Washington, US June 1, 2017. Reuters / Jason Redmond

By Alwyn Scott, Reuters

Boeing is streamlining its aircraft production systems at its largest factory – Everett, Washington – trying to cut costs to compete with rival Airbus and chip away at the near-$30 billion deficit created by its 787 Dreamliner.

Dozens of complex robots are replacing humans for such mundane tasks as drilling and riveting, and Boeing is reordering some of its assembly steps to speed up the process.

The savings, part of a long-term cost-cutting drive at the world’s biggest plane maker that also includes substantial staff reductions, comes as Boeing has spent heavily to develop new aircraft models. 

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New Russian plane looking for room in global market dominated by Boeing and Airbus

An MS-21 medium-range passenger plane, produced by Irkut Corporation, takes off in Irkutsk, Russia, May 28, 2017. Courtesy of Irkut / via Reuters

By Tim Hepher, Reuters

Russia’s new jetliner, which conducted its maiden flight on Sunday, may have a hard time challenging the sales duopoly of Boeing and Airbus, but it does point the way to radical changes in how they could be building jets in the future.

The MS-21, a new single aisle airliner produced by Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation, and its associate company Irkut, is the first passenger plane borne aloft by lightweight carbon-composite wings built without a costly pressurised oven called an autoclave.

The manufacturing process provides a test for a technology already being assessed by Western rivals, who are looking for cheaper and faster ways to build some of their aircraft with composites, according to aerospace executives and suppliers. 

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Honeybee Robotics wins Nasa funding for six spacecraft projects

nasa honeybee robotics US-COMP_base

Picture by Nasa via

Honeybee Robotics has received four Nasa Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I awards and two Nasa Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase I award to develop new spacecraft systems and enabling technologies.

The awards will allow Honeybee to analyze concepts for advanced future planetary exploration, sampling, in-situ resource utilization, and on-orbit operations. 

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The pros and cons of using drones in the real estate business

drone above house

By Tim Jennings, president, Custom Case Group

Are drones a necessity in the real estate business or are they an extra? 

The clearest and quickest way to answer that question is to present a few compelling pieces of information:

  • When the Federal Aviation Administration handed out its first 1,000 commercial drone operator exemptions a couple of years ago, 35 percent were to operators in real estate marketing.
  • The Multiple Listing Service has reported that properties featuring aerial images sell about 68 percent faster than do properties featuring only non-aerial photos.
  • According to the National Association of Realtors, 73 percent of homeowners said they’d be more likely to list with an agent who incorporates video in marketing their home.
  • In March 2016, Goldman Sachs released a report saying the global drone market is expected to grow to $20.6 billion in the next five years.
  • Many analysts are saying last summer’s FAA commercial drone ruling will result in a dramatic expansion of drone use in the real estate industry this year.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The bottom line is: If you haven’t incorporated drones in your operations yet, it’s time to get the process started. 

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Robotic co-pilot autonomously flies and lands a simulated Boeing 737

Aurora Flight Sciences

Aurora’s Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (Alias) program (Picture: Aurora Flight Sciences)

Aurora’s Alias system performs various flight scenarios, further demonstrates capabilities

Aurora Flight Sciences’ work on the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (Alias) program has further demonstrated its automated flight capabilities with various successful flight scenarios in a Boeing 737 simulator.

These accomplishments build on Aurora’s successful installation and testing of Alias components on a Diamond DA42, Cessna 208 Caravan, UH-1 Iroquois, and DHC-2 Beaver aircraft.

Aurora’s Alias technology demonstration system is designed to function as a second pilot in a two-crew aircraft, enabling reduced crew operations while ensuring that aircraft performance and mission success are maintained or improved. 

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Aerospace industry places unique demands on holemaking technology


Plan ahead to get tooling that can handle today’s new materials, say Nate Craine and Greg Torres, of Allied Machine & Engineering

The aerospace industry is bigger than ever. As more and more people rely on air transport, the Airbus Global Market Forecast predicts the need for 33,000 new passenger and freighter aircraft in the next 20 years.

Between recent space endeavors and increasing air traffic, fabricators are constantly faced with new problems to solve.

In aerospace, the parts needed are often unique or newly designed and the deadlines are tight. With materials constantly changing, fabricators must be able to create new ways of safely and effectively drilling through them in as short a time as possible. 

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MDA recognized by Nasa for robotic servicing of International Space Station

nasa ssl robotic spacecraft to fix satellites

Artist’s illustration of the robotic spacecraft which will float around in space, fixing satellites. Picture courtesy of SSL

MDA US Systems, a division of MDA managed by SSL, has been recognized by Nasa’s Johnson Space Center for its “outstanding support” of a robotic upgrade to the International Space Station’s power system which took place in January.

The MDA team based in Houston played a critical role in planning and validating the robotic maneuvering both before and during the mission.

Nasa JSC ground controllers used the 15-degrees-of-freedom Special Purpose Dextrous Manipulator (Dextre) arm to install six new 430-pound lithium-ion batteries in two power channel integrated electronics assembly pallets.

Dextre first removed 12 older and depleted 740-pound nickel-hydrogen batteries from the pallets, nine of which were put on the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle’s external pallet to burn up on re-entry with it. 

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SSL selected to partner with Darpa to develop satellite servicing business

ssl darpa_rsgs_lrg

Space Systems Loral, a leading provider of innovative satellites and spacecraft systems, today announced it has been selected by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to develop the capability to service and maintain spacecraft and other infrastructure in the geostationary arc.

Darpa’s Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites program is expected to be the foundation of a new business for SSL that will serve both commercial and government operators with repair, upgrade, relocation, and refueling of on-orbit assets.

Howard Lance, chief executive officer, SSL MDA Holdings, says: “This will be SSL’s first spacecraft contract with the Department of Defense in recent years and it is the third time that we have been selected by the US government for a major program in just two months, following our recent selections for Nasa’s Restore-L and Psyche missions.

“It clearly demonstrates the success of our strategy to bring the benefits of our commercial business to a broader audience and to grow our business with US government work.” 

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This time, it’s rocket science: Harmonic Drive gears used in space rover project

Space rover

Harmonic Drive’s strain wave gears are used on spacecraft

Graham Mackrell, managing director of precision gearing specialist Harmonic Drive UK, explains why its strain wave gears have been the top choice in space for over 40 years

Anything that goes into space is seen as the pinnacle of human creation. Astronauts are highly trained and are at the peak of physical fitness, space shuttles are crafted by large teams of expert engineers and all the technology used is so high-tech it’s as if it belongs to science fiction.

Many decades ago, the first Harmonic Drive gears were sent into space during the Apollo 15 mission. Even from the beginnings of the space race, the expectations for the technology used were high.

The equipment used in space had to be reliable, compact and lightweight and given the increasing demands on equipment in today’s space missions, it must also now be highly accurate with zero backlash and have high torque capacity.

When aerospace engineers were recently designing a new space rover, they looked to Harmonic Drive gears for reliability. Due to the obvious difficulties of performing repairs in space, a high mean time between equipment failures is a high priority.

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Siemens, Strata and Etihad team up to create 3D printed interiors for planes


Siemens, Strata and Etihad Airways have signed an agreement to work together to develop the first 3D-printed parts for aircraft interiors in the Middle East and North Africa.

The partnership aims to “revolutionize” the aerospace industry, leveraging additive manufacturing, known as 3D printing, to help airlines to improve their designs, including making complex parts on demand and manufacturing discontinued parts.

Under the partnership, a pilot project will develop 3D printing solutions for aircraft cabin interior products for Etihad, the UAE’s national carrier. 

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Boeing completes prototype parts for 777X wing at new billion-dollar advanced manufacturing facility

boeing 777x

Boeing says it has completed prototype parts for the wing of its new 777X Dreamliner aircraft

The company is using advanced manufacturing methods, including additive or 3D printing, in the construction of the passenger plane at its new $1 billion Everett, Washington facility.

When completed, the wing for the 777X will be the largest wing Boeing has ever built. 

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