November 1, 2013

Rather than make the drone heavy-duty, creators at the Ecole Polytechnique Federerale de Lausanne decided to keep Gimball lightweight by allowing it to ricochet off obstacles.     Photo: Courtesy of EPFL News/YouTube

Watch: Crash-Proof Flying Rescue Robot

For use in disaster situations

Inspired by insect flight, Swiss scientists from the Ecole Polytechnique Federerale de Lausanne (EPFL) created a flying rescue robot called Gimball that is resistant to crashes thanks to a protective spherical roll-cage. The robot can safely bump into obstacles while being piloted remotely through disaster areas, such as burning forests.

Typically, search and rescue robots are put out of commission by major collisions, says co-creator Adrien Briod. Thanks to Gimball's rotating flexible frame, it can return from chaotic environments with its pieces intact—which include a motion sensor, a camera, an altimeter, a magnetic compass, and a micro-controller processor.

The drone is remotely controlled, but Briod told BBC News that the the EPFL aims to incorporate artificial intelligence capabilities into Gimball so it can perform complex tasks by itself.

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Arapahoe Basin Ski Area. Even though Colorado voters legalized marijuana use in 2012, this ski area is enforcing a zero-tolerance policy regarding recreational consumption on their slopes.     Photo: Justinknabb/Flickr

Ski Slopes Split on Marijuana Use

Colorado's ski areas differ on enforcement

Two weeks into ski season, Colorado's 22 ski resorts leasing land from the federal government are split over whether or not to allow marijuana consumption on the slopes. While the state's voters legalized the drug last year, the Forest Service does not tolerate marijuana in ski areas. While some resorts are enforcing a zero-tolerance policy regarding toking on the slopes, others will accept it.

On opening week, Arapahoe Basin began enforcing a zero-tolerance policy.

"Already I have kicked several people out of here and taken their ski passes for smoking in public," Chief Operating Officer Alen Henceroth wrote on A-Basin's blog. "Those passes will be gone for a very long time."

But not all slopes are enforcing federal substance prohibition laws. Last year Wolf Creek Ski Area decided to overlook marijuana use among patrons as long as it did not pose a safety hazard; that policy returns this year.

As Wolf Creek CEO Davey Pitcher put it to the Denver Post: "Our patrol's job is not to bird-dog everybody when they smell marijuana."

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    Photo: Erik Mandre / Shutterstock.com

80-Year-Old Fights and Escapes Bear

(And is thrown off a cliff in the process)

When Russian shepherd Yusuf Alchagirov wandered out to a field in Kabardino-Balkaria last week, his intent was to pick raspberries. Instead, the 80-year-old ended up brawling with a bear.

According to the Guardian, the animal behaved aggressively, but the old man fought back, kicking and headbutting with enough force to knock it off balance—which, of course, irritated the bear. So much so, in fact, that the animal “tossed him off a cliff and sauntered away,” according to a television interview.

The shepherd, who sustained bruises, bite wounds, and four broken ribs, was hospitalized briefly.

"I got off easy," he says. "It would have killed me if I'd chickened out." Alchagirov celebrated his recovery with three traditional pies. 

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