Autonomous drones learn to find “hidden” places where meteorites strike

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It’s easy to find big ones meteorites (or their craters) after they reach Earth, but the smaller ones remain neglected – scientists recover them by less than 2 percent. However, it could soon be a matter of sending a robot to do the job. The universe today reports which researchers have developed a system that has autonomous drones uses machine learning to find smaller meteorites at impact sites that are either ‘hidden’ (even if observers followed the crash) or simply inaccessible.

The technology uses a combination of revolutionary neural networks to recognize meteorites based on training images, both in network images and in scene images from the team’s collection. This helps AI to distinguish space rocks from ordinary rocks, even with a variety of terrain shapes and conditions.

The results are not flawless. Although the test drone correctly spotted the planted meteorites, there were some false results. It could take some time for robotic aircraft to become reliable enough to give accurate results on their own.

The implications for space science are significant if technology proves to be accurate. It would help scientists spot and potentially recover meteorites that are too small to find or too distant. This, in turn, could help pinpoint the source of the meteorite and identify the composition of the rocks. Simply put, drones could fill gaps in humanity’s understanding of the cosmic remains landing before our doorstep.

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