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Planes without a pilot?: new tech redefines the future of flying



autonomous flight technology with Merlin labs

New autonomous flight startup says the sky will soon be filled with pilotless planes

Merlin Labs, the Tesla of planes

Aviation technology startup Merlin labs recently announced they’ve secured $25 million in funding for the development of their pilotless planes.

The company recently struck a deal with aviation services contractor Dynamic Aviation, with potential to expand their tech to commercial flights.

“What we’re working on is creating a truly autonomous digital pilot”

Merlin Labs CEO Matt George

As part of this deal, Merlin Labs will supply its autonomous flight technology to 55 of the contractor’s King Air aircraft. The company says it’s already conducting test flights with the first King Air plane.

Merlin Labs CEO Matt George said the company’s goal is to be able to fly planes totally unmanned. The new technology will use enable existing aircraft to “fly autonomously,” he said.

How does the technology work?

The autonomous flight technology that allows Merlin’s aircraft to fly without a pilot is pretty simple, George says.

“The reason that that autonomy up in the air is so much easier is that you have complete vision, at least in the United States, of everything that’s up in the sky, with ground based radar,” he said.

Merlin says it envisions the role of remote pilots as supervisory, monitoring dozens of aircraft in the sky at once. George says the “vast majority of tasks” will be left to autonomous software, including communication with air traffic control and navigation.

Safety of autonomous flying

Merlin Labs “doesn’t believe in remote piloting”. If the aircraft loses signal with the remote operator, then you would have “a huge chunk of metal hurtling through the sky,” he told The Verge.

It may come as a surprise that this autonomous flight technology is not quite as new as it seems. It’s actually quite common for planes to have some level of autopilot capability.

In 2016, the Department of Transportation’s Inspector General released a damning report. It called out the FAA for failing to ensure pilots receive enough training in manual flying.

George believes that pilotless planes will increase the overall safety of flying. This comes amid ongoing safety investigations into Tesla’s autopilot feature.

Natasha is an Associate Producer at ticker NEWS with a Bachelor of arts from Monash University. She has previously worked at Sky News Australia and Monash University as an Online Content Producer.


Meta responsible for a massive data leak



Meta responsible for a massive data leak as Irish regulator imposes fine

Irish regulator, the Data Protection Commission, has fined Meta $275 million dollars for breaching rules to protect user data.

An investigation found Meta’s Facebook was guilty of allowing sensitive user data to be accessed from the platform. After being downloaded it was later uploaded into an online hacker forum.

Users throughout 2018 and 2019 were most at risk of their private personal data being accessed and shared.

Meta admitted tools it had created to allow people to find their friends using their phone numbers was to blame. The function was removed from the platform soon after the breach was discovered in 2019.

Worldwide, the investigation also found that data was scraped from 533 million Facebook users from 106 countries. This included over 32 million records pieces of information form users in the U.S. and 11 million in the UK.

Even though the data is three or more years old, it may still be of use to cybercriminals keen to impersonate people to procure credit cards, mobile phones and make other online purchases.

This is yet another example of social media platforms being unable to adequately protect their users by devising and implementing preventative pre-emptive security measures.

While governments attempt to hold social media platforms like Meta accountable for the content they allow on their platforms and their lax data security measures, it remains to be seen whether the platforms will actually pay the fines being imposed. Moreover, will the fines result in any genuine change?

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Russian hacker takes down Vatican website



The official Vatican website was taken offline following an apparent hacking attack.

The suspect hack came after Russia criticised Pope Francis’ latest condemnation of the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

In an interview with a Jesuit magazine, the Pope had singled out troops from Chechnya and other ethnic minorities in Russia for their particular cruelty during the war.

Technical investigations into the hack are ongoing.

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META scales back its New York office



Social media giant Meta has opted to scale back its presence in New York, as the company tries to reduce costs through a slowing online ad market.

The company revealed it will be subleasing a small portion of its facilities at a commercial tower at Hudson Yards.

A statement from the company says:

“The past few years have brought new possibilities around the role of the office, and we are prioritising making focused, balanced investments to support our most strategic long-term priorities and lead the way in creating the workplace of the future.”

In October, Meta issued a weaker-than-expected forecast for the fourth quarter and indicated revenue will drop for the period.

As well, the company revealed it was laying off over 11,000 workers, taking steps to become a leaner and more efficient company.

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