Now Arriving:  Autonomous Flight

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Air Travel on Demand? Autonomous Flight Technology is Taking Off

Imagine a world in which a chair-sized drone delivers life-saving food and water to a disaster site, or urgently needed medical supplies to mountainous terrain. That’s the future envisioned by robotics startup Near Earth Autonomy, which is developing technology for autonomous flight. 

Sanjiv Singh, Near Earth’s chief executive officer, intends to establish the Pittsburgh region as a global leader in autonomous flight much as other startups such as Argo and Aurora have built the region’s reputation in autonomous driving. 

To date, the company’s flight operations team has conducted more than 5,000 test flights and plans hundreds of thousands more to demonstrate the technology’s capabilities. Eventually, the systems could deliver passengers as well as cargo via drones that range in size from small drones to full-sized helicopters. 

“Our mission is to build a world where you can get anything, anytime, anywhere just as easily as you can download digital content on your smartphone today,” Singh says. The goal is not only to improve lives, but also to possibly save them through the technology — and to make something ordinary out of the seemingly impossible.

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Tech Meets Healthcare in AI Project Designed to Detect Childhood Asthma

Technology originally used to monitor infrastructure on the International Space Station is now applying the same concept to help detect childhood asthma. 

The project is a joint effort by Highmark Health and Allegheny Health Network working in concert with Bosch Research. The idea is to use artificial intelligence to develop information out of audio patterns, such as coughs, that are too low to detect on existing smartphone apps. 

Christopher Martin, director of research and development for Bosch’s Research and Technology Center – in a Flyover Future feature – says the region’s ecosystem made the project possible: Highmark brings in clinicians, domain experts and data scientists, while Bosch has worked with Carnegie Mellon for years, including a partnership with CMU spinoff Astrobotic that led to the role with the space station. 

The project has already completed a simple proof of concept, and Highmark expects to start enrolling patients this month.

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“The launch of the new AlphaLab Health space will build on traction that’s growing, and we’re excited to help the next generation of life sciences companies … fundamentally accelerating the time it takes to get products on the market.”

Megan Shaw, life sciences managing director at Innovation Works — on the ribbon-cutting for Pittsburgh’s AlphaLab Health, a life sciences startup accelerator

Technology could make the seemingly impossible ordinary