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Researchers Are Developing Pothole-Repairing Drones

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Anyone who’s had to navigate around potholes knows how inefficient humans can be at fixing infrastructure—which is why one group of researchers at the UK's University of Leeds is now looking into enlisting fleets of drones to solve our repair woes.

The university is teaming up with the city of Leeds to develop fleets of drones designed to recognize and fix basic infrastructure issues. The key advantage the drones will have over human workers will be their ability to discreetly perform repairs in less-accessible areas. “Our robots will undertake precision repairs and avoid the need for large construction vehicles in the heart of our cities,” the university’s director of National Facility for Innovative Robotic Systems Rob Richardson told Popular Science.

The team will focus on developing three different types of repair drones. In addition to a watchful drone that can coast along the streets, identifying, repairing, and preventing potholes, they will also be working on a model that surveys and fixes damage to sewers and utility pipes, and a drone that can “perch” like a bird and fix hard-to-reach places. The team has just been awarded a grant of £4.2 million ($6.5 million USD) to begin research on the project, so there’s no saying when these fleets of repair drones will be ready to patrol the roads. For now, we’ll have to continue relying on passive-aggressive graffiti to get our potholes filled. 

[h/t: Popular Science]

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Animals
Truck Launches Thousands of Slime Eels Onto Oregon Highway
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It would be hard to say who had the worst Thursday: the truck driver whose rig released masses of slime eels onto U.S. 101 and its motorists, the slime eels themselves, or the crew who came to clean up afterward.

The truck hauling 7500 pounds of fish was just approaching traffic-stopping roadwork when its driver realized he couldn’t slow down in time. As the driver slammed on the brakes, his cargo was ejected, sailing and splatting into oncoming traffic and causing five collisions. One driver was injured. Many were disgusted.

Slime eels are not true eels at all, but jawless, spineless creatures called hagfish. Like so many of Mother Nature’s ugliest children, they’re considered a delicacy. These particular fish were on their way to Korea.

In the wild, hagfish live impressively disgusting lives, slithering into the bodies of dead and decaying sea creatures—they especially like entering through anuses—and eating their way out.

Each hagfish can secrete buckets of a super-slick slime when stressed. And boy, were these hagfish stressed. By the time the authorities arrived, it was far too late to wrangle them safely back into their container. The only thing left to do was scrape them up.

[h/t Alaska Dispatch News]

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technology
Los Angeles Testing Reflective Roads to Keep Neighborhoods Cool
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LA Street Services via Twitter

The urban heat island effect is a well-documented part of city living. Cities are simply hotter than their surrounding regions, thanks to their miles and miles of dark surfaces like asphalt roads, brick buildings, and black tar roofs that absorb heat during the day. When night falls, these hard surfaces release the heat they’ve been taking in all day, keeping cities several degrees hotter than their greener neighbors long after the sun has set. Green roofs and more parklands help, but they can't cancel out the enormous areas of paved surfaces in most metropolises.

In Los Angeles, authorities are combating the hot temperatures of the park-poor city by installing California’s first reflective road coatings designed to reduce temperatures, according to the Los Angeles Daily News and Curbed Los Angeles.

City workers spread CoolSeal coating on a street while residents look on
LA Street Services via Twitter

Called CoolSeal, the gray, reflective coating is designed to keep roads from absorbing heat, cooling their surroundings accordingly. So far, it has been installed on a half-block of road in Canoga Park, and 14 other Los Angeles neighborhoods will be piloting CoolSeal-coated roads by the end of June. To deploy it across the city will cost $40,000 a mile, according to current estimates, and the coating will last about seven years.

There is plenty of asphalt to cover, making the endeavor both expensive and very worthwhile. Los Angeles County has more than 21,700 miles of roads and 200 square miles of parking spaces, resulting in the greatest urban heat island effect in the state of California—increasing temperatures by up to 19°F in some places.

Earlier this year, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced an initiative to lower the average temperature in the Los Angeles area by 3°F over the next two decades. In a two-year test by the city and CoolSeal's manufacturer, the coating decreased average summer temperatures in the parking lot of a sports complex in the Sepulveda Basin recreational area from 160°F to 135-140°F.

A few gray roads could help make sure no one ever tries to fry an egg on the sidewalk again.

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