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Jul 10, 2021

Researchers have taught a drone to recognize and hunt down meteorites autonomously

Posted by in categories: drones, robotics/AI, security

Planetary scientists estimate that each year, about 500 meteorites survive the fiery trip through Earth’s atmosphere and fall to our planet’s surface. Most are quite small, and less than 2% of them are ever recovered. While the majority of rocks from space may not be recoverable due to ending up in oceans or remote, inaccessible areas, other meteorite falls are just not witnessed or known about.

But new technology has upped the number known falls in recent years. Doppler radar has detected meteorite falls, as well as all-sky camera networks specifically on the lookout for meteors. Additionally, increased use of dashcams and security cameras have allowed for more serendipitous sightings and data on fireballs and potential meteorite falls.

A team of researchers is now taking advantage of additional technology advances by testing out drones and machine learning for automated searches for small meteorites. The drones are programmed to fly a grid search pattern in a projected “strewn field” for a recent meteorite fall, taking systematic pictures of the ground over a large survey area. Artificial intelligence is then used to search through the pictures to identify potential meteorites.

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