ICARUS project aims to track migration of 100,000 animals — from space

Imagine you were able to track the movement of animals all over the planet using thousands of tiny smart transmitters, with the data being crunched and collated on the International Space Station, before being disseminated to scientists back on Earth. For any researchers who have had to capture individual animals, tag them, and then later recapture them to retrieve the data, it sounds almost impossibly futuristic — but it’s just about here.

Part of the long-running International Cooperation for Animal Research Using Space (ICARUS) project, the 16-years-in-the-making initiative seeks to deploy a range of sensors that will allow for real-time biodiversity monitoring on a truly global scale. These sensors include a GPS module, accelerometer, magnetometer, and temperature, pressure, and humidity chips. They also boast solar panels and on-board batteries, and can be attached to just about any creature out there. And because miniaturization is continuing, by 2025 the team hopes they will be small enough to be unobtrusively attached to desert locusts.

“The system offers a dramatic change in the global reach, cost, and weight of GPS tags that allow us to document animal movements and migrations,” Walter Jetz, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Yale and key team member, told Digital Trends. “Up to now, global-scale GPS tracking has been limited to tags that were an order of magnitude heavier, restricting it to only the largest 10 percent or so of birds or mammals. Once the system is fully up and running, we will be able to study much more of biodiversity, and do so much more cost effectively.”

Researchers at Max Planck and the Max Planck-Yale Center, which have led the project, have several projects in mind for the sensors. However, the technology will also be open to individual researchers hoping to take advantage of the astonishing breakthrough.

“Some of the most important insights, such as global change imprints on animal distributions, may only arise after years of work,” Jetz continued. “But we expect new discoveries – think previously unknown migration routes or migration hotspots — to happen very quickly, perhaps already in the first year or two.”

The cutting-edge animal-tracking system was installed on the International Space Station earlier this month. Pre-order of the first sensors is possible now, with the initial deliveries planned for early 2019. By next year, the plan is to have 1,000 transmitters in the field, with that number eventually growing to 100,000.

Emerging Tech

Life after launch: Inside the massive effort to preserve NASA’s space artifacts

The Apollo 11 mission put a man on the moon, but NASA didn’t necessarily preserve every step of the process. Researchers are trying to rescue the history on Earth and on the moon.
Emerging Tech

Like the real thing, this robot ant colony is more than the sum of its parts

Researchers have built a robot ant colony, consisting of tiny 10-gram robots which are able to communicate with one another, assign roles among themselves, and work together to complete tasks.
Emerging Tech

Stay up to date on Tropical Storm Barry's path with these apps and websites

Looking to track Tropical Storm Barry as it makes landfall and heads into the southeastern U.S.? We've assembled a list of the best hurricane tracking apps and websites to stay ahead of the storm, and out of harm's way.
Computing

Here's everything you need to know about buying your next laptop

In this laptop buying guide we'll explain exactly what all of the current offerings are all about and why you need them (or don't). Broken down by cost, operating system and features, this guide will help you get what you need.
Emerging Tech

Genetically modified plants could help get to the root of climate change

Researchers have been investigating ways to engineer plants so that they grow with more robust and deeper roots, capable of storing increasing amounts of carbon underground for longer.
Photography

With object tracking, the lightweight DJI Ronin-SC is still heavy on features

Designed for mirrorless cameras, the DJI Ronin-SC packs several features from the Ronin-S -- and then some -- into a lighter, one-handed gimbal. Despite the smaller size, the DJI Ronin-S adds new object tracking and expanded remote control.
Emerging Tech

IBM’s Wimbledon-watching A.I. is poised to revolutionize sports broadcasts

IBM has developed a smart A.I. with an appreciation for what makes a great tennis match like the recent epic at Wimbledon. Here's how IBM developed it -- and why tools like it are the future of sport broadcasting.
News

SpaceX’s Starhopper rocket bursts into flames during tests

SpaceX ran into trouble Tuesday evening when a small fire erupted from the engine of a prototype rocket it was testing at the company’s facility in Boca Chica, Texas. It's not clear if the fire caused any damage to the rocket itself
Emerging Tech

Buying on a budget? Here's all the best tech you can snag for $25 or less

We live in a world where you can get a cheeseburger for $1, a functioning computer for $5, and thousands of HD movies for $10 -- so it stands to reason that you should be able to pick up some pretty sweet gear for $25.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Emoji Day, Apollo 11 broadcast, drone flamethrowers

On this episode of DT Live, we discuss the top stories in tech, including Emoji Day festivities, the extended battery life of the new Nintendo Switch, an Apollo 11 real-time broadcast, and a functional flamethrower attachment for drones.
Emerging Tech

6 questions we have about Elon Musk’s Neuralink brain interface technology

Elon Musk's Neuralink sounds like an exciting leap forward for human-computer relations, but brain implants raise the specter of Black Mirror-esque privacy invasions. We have a few questions about how this would work.
News

Canadian medical project demonstrates the health care potential of smart homes

A medical project involving smart homes demonstrates the technology's potential in treating mental illness and providing patients with a level of independence previously thought impossible.
Emerging Tech

Implant restores sight in blind patients by beaming images directly to the brain

Engineers have developed a neural implant which could help restore vision for completely blind people by bypassing non-functioning optical nerves and inputting images directly into their brains.
Deals

Ride in style with the Xiaomi Mi electric scooter for $97 less post-Prime Day

Scooters started out as a plaything for kids. But now they are larger and have become a common and efficient means to commute, like the Xiaomi Mi electric scooter. It's available on Amazon as a post-Prime Day deal for $97 less.