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Alt-week 5.11.13: drones, more drones and dual perspective advertising


Alt-week takes a look at the best science and alternative tech stories from the last seven days.

There was a time when young, engineering minds were content with putting together radio controlled vehicles for leisurely amusement. Now, they're using their clever brains to make UAVs fly longer and land anywhere. At least we know who to blame when robopocalypse finally rolls around. This is alt-week.

Adverts, by their very nature, try to reach as many people as possible, but usually with a single message. Not this one though, which has been created by Spanish anti child-abuse organisation ANAR. The poster campaign expresses one message to adults -- cleverly about the visibility of abuse in society -- while children see a completely different poster, one urging them to contact the agency if they find themselves subject to violence. The idea is simple, a lenticular layer changes the image on display depending on which angle you view it from. So, anyone under 4' 5" -- which the makers claim targets children under 10 -- will see the message aimed at potential victims, while anyone taller gets the general awareness campaign. Similar ideas have existed before (for example using sounds that adults typically cannot hear), but this is one we can see spreading over into mainstream, less benevolent campaigns too.

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Drones. Just the name implies a dystopian future where machines monitor our every move. The Naval Research Laboratory isn't doing much to improve that image, either, having recently set a new endurance record of 48 hours and one minute for a small UAV flight. The lengthy voyage crushed the previous effort -- held by the same Ion Tiger craft -- of just over 26 hours. The extra duration was possible due to the use of a liquid, rather than gaseous, hydrogen fuel cell, allowing much more of it to be carried. The NRL is also proposing a method of generating liquid hydrogen for use as fuel in-situ that would draw from water, using solar or wind-power to electrolyze, cool and compress the fuel. Thanks, we think.

While we're on the topic of UAVs, what about one that can land on walls and ceilings? That's what a collaboration between the University of Maryland's Autonomous Vehicle Lab and Stanford's Biomimetics and Dextrous Manipulation Lab has produced. A micro-quadrotor laden with gecko-like directional adhesives uses the kinetic energy of the small craft to stick itself to surfaces. Constant force springs are used to absorb power when landing, which can then be released to provide force for liftoff once more. The video above shows the (slightly creepy) -- device in testing, and we think you'll agree, the waspy-sounding engine does nothing to make it seem less sinister.

Seen any other far-out articles that you'd like considered for Alt-week? Working on a project or research that's too cool to keep to yourself? Drop us a line at alt [at] engadget [dot] com.

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