Syrian chemical weapons
Specialists have started destroying the chemical weapons which killed hundreds of Syrians and made others desperately ill last August. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons brokered a deal to disarm the deadly arsenal after rockets filled with the nerve gas Sarin were fired on towns near Damascus. The first consignment including sarin and mustard gas has left the Syrian port of Latakia on board a Danish naval vessel.
They will be transported onto the former US merchant ship MV Cape Ray to be made safe using what's known as a Field Deployable Hydrolysis System. One reason they are being deactivated at sea is that no country wanted to take on the deadly chemicals. This may signal the first stage of a more hopeful future for the citizens of Syria this year.
DARPA robotics challenge
DARPA believes robots will also be a part of a safer future. It has released footage of its recent challenge in which teams competed to develop robots that can help humans respond to natural and man-made disasters.
Robots shaped like bugs, spiders, cars and people took part in eight rescue-themed challenges, inspired by events like the Fukushima reactor disaster. They had to negotiate difficult terrain, move obstacles from their path, climb stairs and smash through walls. The robots even chilled out afterwards by playing football!
This year's winner was a team from Google called Schaft which outscored its rivals on the eight challenges by a wide margin. It seems Terminator was wrong; robots will be helping us in our darkest hour, not fighting us.
AirMule tactical UAS
Flying robots could also be giving humans a helping hand in the future. Tactical Robotics Limited is carrying out test flights on its AirMule remotely operated tactical aircraft. It is designed to be used to deliver supplies or evacuate casualties from combat or natural disasters.
It has rotor blades contained within its body in addition to traditional forward-facing props that enable it to take off and land vertically. This means it can land in obstructed terrain, like woods or cities, and as it's unmanned it can be used to assess the situation in nuclear, biological or chemical emergencies.
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