Texas A&M building a Drone Program for Public Safety

Lost hikers found, swimmers rescued with a deployed floatation device, wildfires located from above. Headlines about emergency responders using small, unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) are increasingly common around the world, but the need for accurate, reliable information to inform the many decisions that must be made to implement this exciting new technology effectively can be hard to come by, and expensive.

Texas A&M now offers a five-hour, 0.5 CEU credit online course designed to enable emergency managers to make strategic decisions about starting a sUAS program. The course is unique in that it is not about flying, passing a Part 107 license, or using mapping software but rather about how to define missions for sUAS, train and equip for those missions, and understand the legal, regulatory, and community support ramifications. It specifically covers the types of missions that different small UAS have been used for, what are the practical considerations in buying a small UAS or working with a drone company, what kind of manpower and administrative impact sUAS will have, and best practices for training and deploying. The course distills lessons learned by the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue members’ deployments to more than 15 disasters, starting with Hurricane Katrina (2005) and including Fukushima Daiichi, as well as nearly 400 sorties at Hurricanes Harvey and Irma–all at the request of local agencies, and closely coordinated with existing assets.

While aimed at emergency professionals, the course offers valuable insights for independent operators looking to serve emergency responders. The course can be taken online, or in conjunction with hands-on classes that are also being offered. The course costs $200, and is the first in an online certificate program being co-developed by Texas A&M Humanitarian Robotics and AI Laboratory and Florida State University Center for Disaster Risk Policy in conjunction with the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue, a nonprofit organization created to study and implement robotic technology in disaster and emergency response.

To learn more or register, see http://teesedge.tamu.edu/modules/shop/index.html?action=section&OfferingID=81&SectionID=81  Contact [email protected] for more information about the course and online delivery mechanisms. Contact [email protected] for classroom versions of the class or to have a tailored, hands-on class.

The Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue is a nonprofit corporation 

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Elon Musk: Mark Zuckerberg’s understanding of AI is “limited”

Bill Pugliano & Justin Sullivan, Getty Images


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There aren’t many people in the world who can justifiably call Mark Zuckerberg a dumb-ass, but Elon Musk is probably one of them.

Early on Tuesday morning, in the latest salvo of a tussle between the two tech billionaires over the dangers of advanced artificial intelligence, Musk said that Zuckerberg’s “understanding of the subject is limited.”

I won’t rehash the entire argument here, but basically Elon Musk has been warning society for the last few years that we need to be careful of advanced artificial intelligence. Musk is concerned that humans will either become second-class citizens under super-smart AIs, or alternatively that we’ll face a Skynet-like scenario against a robot uprising.

Zuckerberg, on the other hand, is weary of fear-mongering around futuristic technology. “I have pretty strong opinions on this. I am optimistic,” Zuckerberg said during a Facebook Live broadcast on Sunday. “And I think people who are naysayers and try to drum up these doomsday scenarios… I just don’t understand it. It’s really negative and in some ways I think it is pretty irresponsible.”

Then, responding to Zuckerberg’s “pretty irresponsible” remark, Musk said on Twitter: “I’ve talked to Mark about this. His understanding of the subject is limited.”

It’s a little unfair to call Zuckerberg’s understanding “limited”—Facebook has arguably put a lot more time, money, and research into AI than Musk’s companies. I suspect the real bone of contention between the two nerds has more to do with time scales: Zuckerberg’s stance on AI is that it will massively improve the human condition (and probably Facebook ad revenues) in the short term, but Musk is more concerned with what happens further down the line, when it’s too late to put the sentient robot cat back in the bag.

In reality, a balanced approach that takes a little from column M and a pinch from column Z, is probably the best way forward. There is already too much momentum in the twinned domains of automation, robotics, and artificial intelligence for Musk’s concerns to be taken too seriously—but that doesn’t mean we have to blindly accelerate into a future powered by initially helpful Zuckbots.

Now read about how the artificial intelligence Singularity isn’t just around the corner

This post originated on Ars Technica UK

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The hardest refresh requires both a Mac keyboard and a Windows keyboard as a security measure, like how missile launch systems require two keys to be turned at once.

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