Skipper

Innovation Lab: Self-flying Firefighters, Robo-Leeds and Spy Trees

Tim Maytom

At Mobile Marketing we're proud to help tech companies showcase their cutting-edge solutions, whether it's on our website, in our magazine or at our Mobile Marketing Summits. Giving a platform to companies that are breaking new ground in their market brings audiences one step closer to the ideas and developments that will shape tomorrow.


In that spirit, our Innovation Lab feature takes a step beyond the world of apps, ads and handsets with slightly bigger screens, in order to share some of the tech world's innovative ideas. They might be interesting, disruptive or just outright strange, but these are the stories that have caught our eye over the past week.

Autonomous Helicopter Tests Fire-fighting Capabilities


2015 has been one of the worst years on record for wildfires in the US, devastating millions of acres of land, disrupting businesses and communities and leaving thousands of people homeless and displaced. Lockheed Martin has partnered with aerospace manufacturer Kaman to work on a new tool aimed at preventing these disasters.

The K-MAX self-flying helicopter was originally developed for use in Afghanistan, but the chopper has been converted to gather water from lakes and ponds then dump it on blazes to stop the spread of fires. The helicopter can hold 6,000lbs of cargo while working at sea level, and take 4,000lbs up to heights of 15,000 feet.

By following pre-subscribed GPS routes, the helicopter can operate in difficult conditions round the clock, with human controllers able to remotely handle the more precise task of picking up and dumping water.

"AS a career firefighter, I've seen time and again the calls for aerial support when visibility is down or the wind is too high to safely operate," said Brad Koeckertiz, UAS program manager for the Office of Aviation Services at the Department of the Interior. "Putting this technology in place will increase safety for people on the ground and in the air."

leeds clarence dockLeeds Employs Robots to Become 'Self-repairing City'
The School of Civil Engineering at Leeds University has begun work on a fleet of civil service robots and drones that will aim to transform the northern city into a self-repairing metropolis of the future.

The robotics research project has just received £4.2m in funding to create a legion of autonomous machines that would be able to fix infrastructure issues around the city, with a focus on everyday problems like burst or damaged utility pipes, pot-hole repairs and broken street lamps.

The team will work with Leeds City Council and the UK Collaboration for Research in Infrastructure and Cities to ensure the robots are thoroughly trialled and tested before being set loose to make improvements around the city.

"We want to make Leeds the first city in the world to have zero disruption from street works," said Professor Phil Purnell, who is leading the research team. "We can support infrastructure which can be entirely maintained by robots and make the disruption caused by the constant digging up of roads in our cities a thing of the past."

Smart Beer Mug Will Call You a Cab When You've Had One Too Many


Smart mugs, bottles and cups are becoming a trend among startups looking for a simple project, but the ePint, which is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, goes a little further than most by helping you call a taxi at the end of the night.

As well as some fairly standard features like Bluetooth connectivity, a weight sensor to track liquid volume and some colour-changing LEDs, the ePint aims to support you in having a good night and getting home safely.

By connecting with an accompany app, the mug can work out if you're watching a sporting event and then light up whenever your team scores, or when you finish a drink. And because it can keep track of how many drinks you've had over the course of an evening, if you're over the limit the mug can suggest a cab ride and call one for you with a simple press of a button.

rainforest connectionHow Your Old Phone Can Save The Rainforest
If you've been looking for an ethical way to dispose of an old device, look no further. Rainforest Connection will take your old device and transform it into a way to safeguard almost a square mile of endangered rainforest, preventing illegal logging and doing the equivalent of taking 3,000 cars of the road a year.

The company wipes your phone's memory then refits it with a solar panel array to let it run in perpetuity. The retrofitted device is then attached to the top of a tree in an area threatened by illegal logging. There, the phone's microphone can detect the sound of a chainsaw from up to a mile away.

When the mic hears a chainsaw start up, the phone sends a message to local authorities who are in charge of protecting the forest, enabling them to arrive on the scene within a few minutes and prevent too much damage being done.

J-Pop Inspired Customisable Robot Will Dance For You Now


If your Roomba is proving a little disappointing in the entertainment stakes, then Japanese electronics company DMM has the perfect robot for you. The Premaid AI is modelled on Japanese pop stars and designed to dance around on tabletops for you.

The robot doesn't just freestyle to music or repeat the same patterns either. DMM will be releasing software alongside the robot that will enable users to create what they call 'dance data', making the robot fully programmable and able to adapt to different music styles.

The company is also providing patterns for different clothing for the Premaid AI, as well as 3D printer blueprints for additional add-ons, including different heads and body parts, meaning owners will be able to tailor their robot dancer precisely to their own desires.