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Scientists Are Teaching Drones to Find Lost Hikers

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Scientists in Switzerland are developing drones that can pick out forest trails as skillfully as an expert hiker. The drones use a color camera to identify footpaths through wooded areas and are equipped with deep neural network software (the same technology that allowed Google Deep Dream to create those nightmare images) that has been programmed to recognize the signs of a trail and to avoid overhanging branches and vegetation. Though the drones are still in development, they could one day help rescue teams find lost hikers.

According to Entrepreneur, the artificially intelligent drones are a step up from others because they are able to fly below the tree canopy, keeping close to hiking and biking paths where travelers are most likely to get lost. They are also autonomous and can even identify overgrown paths better than some humans.

"Interpreting an image taken in a complex environment such as a forest is incredibly difficult for a computer," explains Dr. Alessandro Giusti, one of the researchers from the Dalle Molle Institute for Artificial Intelligence working on the project, in a press release. “Sometimes even humans struggle to find the trail!"

Researchers believe that, eventually, drones will work in conjunction with search and rescue teams to reduce the workload of rescue workers and help hikers get rescued faster. “Many technological issues must be overcome before the most ambitious applications can become a reality. But small flying robots are incredibly versatile, and the field is advancing at an unseen pace,” says Luca Maria Gambardella, director of the Dalle Molle Institute for Artificial Intelligence. “One day robots will work side by side with human rescuers to make our lives safer."

[h/t Entrepreneur]

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Washington, D.C. Residents Pay Tribute to Fallen 325-Year-Old Oak Tree
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Washington, D.C. is perhaps most famous for its historic monuments and buildings, but residents of the city’s Northwest quadrant recently took time to mourn the death of a centuries-old tree, according to NPR.

The sturdy red oak in D.C.’s Shepherd Park neighborhood was 75 feet tall and its trunk was 5.5 feet wide, with sweeping branches that soared over the porch of an adjacent home. Experts believe it first took root in the late 1600s, making it around 325 years old.

Washington, D.C. wasn’t founded until 1790, so the tree predated the creation of the city. Over the centuries, it stood tall amid countless wars, presidents, and national triumphs and tragedies—but it recently fell victim to the ravages of time and gravity when a large section of its cracked trunk splintered off and fell to the ground.

Nobody was injured and property damage was minimal, but the arduous cleanup process took a six-member crew eight hours to complete, according to The Washington Post. They deployed a 100-ton crane to remove the tree—a job that cost $12,000, as two of the tree's base parts weighed 17,000 pounds and 14,000 pounds, respectively.

All that remains of the tree is its stump, which provided experts clues about its age through its rings. John Anna of Adirondack Tree Experts, the company tasked with removing the tree, told the Post that the red oak was one of the oldest trees he’d seen in his 30-year regional career. As for locals, many had enjoyed its shade for years and felt like they’d “lost a member of [the] family,” a former neighborhood resident named Ruth Jordan told the Post.

[h/t NPR]

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Paris to Turn Its Parks and Gardens into 24-Hour Summer Attractions
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If you're visiting Paris this summer, consider packing a picnic basket. As Travel + Leisure reports, city officials will launch a two-month initiative in July to keep 16 of the metro area’s largest parks and gardens open 24 hours a day.

Called "Les Jardins Nocturnes" (the Night Gardens), the event will run from July 1 through September 3. Nature lovers can enjoy moonlit green spaces like the Parc des Buttes Chaumont—which has a Roman temple replica perched atop a cliff, overlooking a man-made lake—and the sweeping green lawns of the Parc Montsouris in the city’s 14th arrondissement.

More than 130 of Paris’s smaller parks and gardens are already open to the public during the evening. Once Les Jardins Nocturnes begins in July, nearly half of all of the city's green spaces will go 24/7. According to officials, the seasonal initiative is intended to help Parisians enjoy the city’s natural attractions after work, and take summer strolls during the cooler evening hours.

City parks aren’t always the safest places at night, which is why security teams will be deployed to keep an eye on late-night patrons. But while you're embarking on evening nature excursions, make sure to mind your manners: In 2016, Paris launched a similar parks program, and nearly 700 residents near the Parc Montsouris signed a protest petition complaining about excessive noise and litter.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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