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Tesla Sued for $2 Billion

Nikola says Tesla stole its patents. Also, Lockheed upgrades spy drone and researchers fingerprint cars.

Lockheed Upgrades Spy Drone

Lockheed Martin has upgraded its spy drone. The Indago unmanned aerial system is a collapsible quadrotor drone that weighs less than five pounds. While the foldable design makes it easy to transport, it can be deployed in 2.5 minutes without any tools.

The drone was designed for a number of applications, like firefighting and first response, as well as mapping, surveying and for inspections.

This week, Lockheed upgraded the Indago UAS with high resolution infrared sensors that enable day or night operations. The Indago 3's infrared system is called Noctis, and it includes two FLIR infrared cameras that deliver real-time video and photo capabilities.

The drone can fly missions for up to 50 minutes, travel at 25 mph, and according to the company, capture images from more than 1,000 feet away. Its inconspicuous design also makes it hard to spot from the ground.

Sensor Prototype Fingerprints Your Car

Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have created a prototype of a new sensor platform that fingerprints vehicles.

The researchers recently tested the sensor array as they work to find a way to more accurately identify passing vehicles, they also want it to consume less power, be cheaper, and at the same time less invasive than other methods that rely heavily on image data. The idea is to come up with algorithms that will take data from these roadside sensors, such as electrical pulses and audio signals, and make it easier to identify vehicles, like those sought in AMBER Alerts or other crimes. It could also help achieve a better understanding of evolving traffic patterns. 

According to the researchers, they are trying to use machine learning to process data pulled from sensors and create a vehicle’s unique signature or fingerprint. Next the team is working to upgrade the sensors to be able to capture larger vehicles, like autonomous semis, and to improve matching algorithms.

Tesla Sued for $2 Billion

Speaking of semis, the hits just keep on coming for Tesla as the company was just sued for $2 billion for patent infringement by the other half of the company's namesake. The company was sued by Nikola Motor, a start-up that recently committed to build a one million square foot facility to build hydrogen-electric semi-trucks. 

According to the Verge, Buckeye, AZ-based Nikola says that Tesla copied its patents to create its all-electric semi. Tesla responded right away and said that the lawsuit has no merit. However, Nikola pointed to specific similarities in the front fenders, door location, wraparound windshields, and aerodynamic design.

The company also claims that Tesla attempted to poach Nikola's chief engineer mere months before the company released its hydrogen semi-truck. The company sent a cease and desist letter back on November 7th, which Tesla promptly ignored. If you look at the two truck designs side-by-side, the similarities are striking.

Nikola says that it has about $8 billion in preorders for more than 8,000 trucks. The new facility could create 2,000 new jobs; however, construction won't begin until 2019.

This is Engineering By Design. 

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