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Meteorite-Hunting Drones Could Help Find Freshly Fallen Space Rocks

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A hovering drone searches for space rocks.

A team of researchers has been trialing the use of drones and machine learning to find meteoric rocks shortly after their blazing journey through the atmosphere.

Credit: B. Christopher/Alamy

A team of scientists used drones and machine learning (ML) to try to find just-landed meteorites, as part of a study funded by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Researchers from the University of California, Davis (UCD) flew a camera-outfitted consumer drone over a dry lake bed in Nevada, where meteorites may have hit following a meteor fireball in 2019.

ML software studied aerial images for objects resembling dark-colored space rocks, as well as for intentionally placed meteorite specimens.

The flagged specimens turned out to be terrestrial rocks.

UCD's Robert Citron said, "If we can improve our ability to search more of these small falls, then we can gain a lot more data connecting meteorite samples to their tracked incoming trajectories."

From New Scientist
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Abstracts Copyright © 2021 SmithBucklin, Washington, DC, USA


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