Drones (not Amazon’s) and robots in the news

Set aside your excitement — or skepticism — about Amazon.com’s drone-delivery plans and read about a couple of other pieces of drone and robot news:

• First, special deliveries by drone aren’t exactly a new thing. Four people were reportedly arrested recently on suspicion of attempting to smuggle contraband into a Georgia prison. The method of choice was a remote-controlled helicopter. The goods: tobacco and cell phones, according to NBC News.

The BBC points out that a similar attempt was made recently in Canada, where drone flyovers are apparently becoming commonplace. As the prices of drones have fallen, the devices have become the best way to smuggle drugs into prisons, said Stephane Lemaire, president of Quebec’s correctional officers’ union, to the Ottawa Sun. The union is calling for tighter security at prisons.

• Can a robot make us feel safe? This week, Silicon Valley-based Knightscope plans to unveil a security bot — a robot that can keep watch at businesses, schools and neighborhoods, according to the New York Times. The K5 Autonomous Data Machine is equipped with a video camera, a microphone, GPS and more. On its website, the company touts its bot not only as a crime-prevention tool, but also a predictive one. It has sensors that record data to be processed through Knightscope’s “predictive analytics engine.” The video of the K5 unit can be found on YouTube, and we’ve embedded it below.

Privacy concerns? Why yes, of course. “This is like R2-D2’s evil twin,” Marc Rotenberg, director of the Electronic Privacy and Information Center, told the New York Times. “This is the kind of pervasive surveillance that has put people on edge.”

Photo at top: R2-D2 at the entrance of the Millennium Falcon Experience for “Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination,” at the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose in October. (Patrick Tehan/Bay Area News Group)


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