This week on WDD’s HotSpot:

  • The U.S. Navy has successfully completed landing and deck maneuvers with its new X-47B unmanned combat aerial vehicle in concert with an F/A-18 fighter. The deck-based operator used newly developed deck handling control to manually move the aircraft out of the way of other aircraft, allowing the F/A-18 to touch down close behind the X-47B’s recovery. The X-47B performed multiple arrested landings, catapults, flight deck taxiing and deck refueling operations. The Navy will continue X-47B flight operations over the next year to refine the concept of operations to demonstrate the integration of unmanned carrier-based aircraft within the carrier environment and mature technologies for the future Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike system.
  • Researchers at the University of Houston have developed a technology that allows a material to automatically read its environment and adapt to mimic its surroundings. The optoelectronic camouflage system was inspired by the skins of cephalopods, a class of marine animals including octopuses, squid and cuttlefish, which can change coloration quickly, both for camouflage and as a form of warning. The flexible skin of the device is comprised of ultrathin layers, combining semiconductor actuators, switching components and light sensors with inorganic reflectors and organic color-changing materials in such a way to allow autonomous matching to background coloration.
  • A Canadian team has outlined the possible coping mechanisms that might be needed following loss or theft and the security problems that users might face. The researchers point out that the same anxieties apply equally to lost or stolen laptops, tablet computers and other digital devices. Their findings suggest that an awareness campaign might be needed to encourage general users to make their devices more secure and that organizations must enforce certain features on their employees and members to protect sensitive data that might be on those devices beyond their direct control.
    *Zhiling Tu, Yufei Yuan, Norm Archer. Understanding user behaviour in coping with security threats of mobile device loss and theft. International Journal of Mobile Communications, 2014
    Cyborg Moth ‘Biobots’
  • North Carolina State University researchers have developed methods for electronically manipulating the flight muscles of moths and for monitoring the electrical signals moths use to control those muscles. The work opens the door to the development of remotely-controlled moths, or “biobots,” for use in emergency response. Here’s how it’s going to work: Electrodes will be attached to a moth during its pupal stage, which is the stage when a caterpillar is in a cocoon undergoing metamorphosis into its winged adult stage. By attaching electrodes to the muscle groups responsible for a moth’s flight, the research team is able to monitor electromyographic signals, which the electric signals the moth uses during flight to tell those muscles what to do. The moth is connected to a wireless platform that collects the electromyographic data as the moth moves its wings. To give the moth freedom to turn left and right, the entire platform levitates, suspended in mid-air by electromagnets. A short video describing the work is available at

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