Thursday, August 16, 2012

FLASHBACK: DARPA to Develop Humanoid Robot Systems (2012)

Another day. Another DARPA. Another DARPA story that is. This time the story is about DARPA's plan to develop humanoid robots to help with disaster relief.

The Department of Defense’s strategic plan calls for the Joint Force to conduct humanitarian, disaster relief and related operations. The plan identifies requirements to extend aid to victims of natural or man-made disasters and conduct evacuation operations. Some disasters, however, due to grave risks to the health and wellbeing of rescue and aid workers, prove too great in scale or scope for timely and effective human response. The DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) will attempt to address this capability gap by promoting innovation in robotic technology for disaster-response operations.

I remember this part of the Animatrix movie (click the link above to watch that movie). I believe it was in The Second Renaissance Part I when the humans decided to build humanoid robots to do its work. If a movie can be any guide to real life, then we know what will ultimately happen once these DARPA-bots are operational. They will fight humanity to the death!

The initial solicitation is outdated, but the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) webpage has updated information and it says the program is set to launch in October, 2012.


Solicitation Number:
Notice Type:
Special Notice
Added: Apr 12, 2012 8:47 pm

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Tactical Technology Office (TTO), intends to award a sole source contract to Boston Dynamics Inc. (BDI), of Waltham, Mass. For the contract, BDI will develop and build a set of humanoid robot systems for use by performers in both phases of the DARPA Robotics Challenge program. This effort will develop approximately 8 identical platforms consisting of two legs, torso, on board computing, two arms with hands, and a sensor head. BDI will deliver these robots to DARPA so they can be provided to the top software development teams based on the results of the Virtual Disaster Challenge. Boston Dynamics will also provide in the field support and as required maintenance to the delivered systems.

The U.S. Army under its Protection Ensemble Test Mannequin (PETMAN) program developed, with Boston Dynamics, a humanoid robot with advanced range of motion and strength. This effort was then the basis of work done by BDI under the DARPA DSO M3 program on a platform named Atlas to increase its mobility. These two efforts have combined to develop a one of a kind humanoid robot with state of the art capability. DARPA has been a lead researcher in ground robotics over the last few decades. In addition it has tracked developments in this area outside the agency. Of the few existing humanoid robots, BDI was deemed to be the sole viable supplier for providing the necessary robotic platform capability within the specified timeframe.

The proposed contract action is for supplies or services for which the Government intends to solicit and negotiate with only one source under authority of FAR 6.302-1 "Only one responsible source and no other supplies or services will satisfy agency requirements." As the legged robot leader, Boston Dynamics Inc. possesses unique knowledge and capabilities required to carry out the required research effort. No other source would be capable of satisfying the requirements for an affordable end-to-end solution necessary to meet the Government's needs.

This notice of intent is not a request for competitive proposals and no solicitation is currently available. However, interested parties may identify their interest and capability to respond to the requirement. Responses received within forty-five (45) days after date of publication of this notice will be considered by the Government. Information received will be considered solely for the purpose of determining whether to conduct a competitive procurement. A determination by the Government not to compete this proposed effort on a full and open basis is solely within the discretion of the Government. Interested parties may identify their interest and capability to meet the requirements by submitting a white paper and past performance data by no later than 28 May 2012 to The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Attn: Mr. Christopher Glista, Contracts Management Office (CMO), 3701 North Fairfax Drive, Arlington, VA 22203-1714 or via email to Questions shall be submitted to the above email address.

Contracting Office Address:
3701 North Fairfax Drive
Arlington, Virginia 22203-1714
Primary Point of Contact.:
Chris Glista

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Dallas Requests State of Emergency Aerial Spraying to Combat West Nile Virus Outbreak

I have never been a fan of aerial chemical spraying. I remember when I was a kid in Memphis, the mosquito-spraying trucks would drive through our neighborhoods wantonly spraying chemicals to kill the mosquitoes. The neighborhood would always smell nasty for many hours after the spraying. I have no idea what chemicals I was inhaling nor the effects. Perhaps it was harmless, but perhaps it has caused side effects that I may never know. I do not trust my government to make the correct decisions when it comes to my well-being, so I am always suspicious when the government introduces chemicals into the environment for some alleged beneficial purpose.

Nevertheless, for anyone living in Dallas, Texas, you may soon be bombarded (if not already) with aerial spray as the Mayor has declared a state of emergency. The virus has already killed 10 people...

Many of those who died were in frail health and had underlying medical conditions.

“I think this is the right thing to do. I cannot have any more deaths on my conscience because we didn’t take action,” [Mayor] Rawlings said.

The city has seen 111 reported infections that caused 65 hospitalizations.

As part of this site's public service to any visitors from the Dallas-Fort Worth area, I will post the information links from the Mayor's page as they are posted there.

West Nile Aerial Spraying

STAY TUNED for specific days and times aerial spraying will occur.

The Texas Department of State Health Services is working closely with Dallas-area public health and emergency management officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concerning the extremely high number of human cases of the disease in Dallas County.

“The disease poses an immediate public health threat to Dallas County. We need to use all possible tools, including aerial spraying, to fight this outbreak,” said Dr. David Lakey, DSHS commissioner. “We will support the decisions made by local officials as we work together to confront this situation.”

Aerial spraying is a very effective and safe way to kill adult mosquitoes in large, densely populated areas. For people concerned about exposure during aerial spraying, health officials suggest the following precautions:

  • Minimize exposure. Avoid being outside, close windows and consider keeping pets inside while spraying occurs.
  • If skin or clothes are exposed, wash them with soap and water.
  • Rinse homegrown fruits and vegetables with water as a general precautionary measure.
  • Cover small ornamental fish ponds.
  • Because the chemical breaks down quickly in sunlight and water, no special precautions are suggested for outdoor swimming areas.

DSHS contracts with Clarke, a private environmental products and services company, for aerial application of mosquito control products. The product is called Duet, which is labeled and approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for use in outdoor and residential areas. The active ingredients are in the same chemical family as products currently being used for ground spraying in the Dallas area. The product would be applied at very low dosages – less than an ounce per acre – by small, twin-engine aircrafts flying at approximately 300 feet above ground overnight.

Texas has more than 380 state-confirmed cases of West Nile illness for 2012, including 16 related deaths. Texas is on track to have the most cases of West Nile illness since the disease first emerged in the state in 2002. Humans can contract West Nile virus from a mosquito bite. The virus can cause serious illness or death.



Warm Seawater in Long Island Sound Forces Shutdown of Connecticut Nuclear Plant

Image subject to license

I will keep my eyes on this story to see when Unit 2 of the Millstone Power Station reopens. A power station being offline during the summer is never a good thing. However, the power station was closed last Sunday, because the water used to cool the reactors comes from Long Island Sound and the current water temperature is too hot. Unit 2 provides 840 megawatts of electricity at the 2,100 megawatt power station, so some serious energy capacity is offline!

Water from Long Island Sound is used to cool key components of the plant and is discharged back into the sound. The water cannot be warmer than 75 degrees and following the hottest July on record has been averaging 1.7 degrees above the limit, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said.

The federal agency issued an ‘‘emergency license amendment’’ last week, allowing Millstone, a subsidiary of Dominion Resources Inc., to use an average temperature of several readings.