Could We Make New Organs?

Research is making impressive advances in using 3-D printing to fabricate living tissues, but it will be years before we can transplant printed organs into human beings.

Right now, more than 120,000 people in the United States require an organ transplant to survive, but there are far fewer donors—in January, for instance, only 2,577 transplants were performed. That’s why some scientists have been exploring the prospect of using 3-D printing or related technologies to make organs in a matter of days. Not only would this shrink the gap between supply and demand, but it could eliminate the need for donors altogether. And if built using a patient’s own cells, printable organs could also reduce the risk of transplant rejection.

Scientists are not close to this goal, but they are making steps in the right direction—such as printing accurate models of organ shapes and building passages for blood flow.


Research into printable organs falls within the broader field of bioprinting: the printing of any living structure made of cells. The most basic level of organ design begins with very thin, printed tissue that can be used to create a scaffold, a model of an organ that can’t yet function on its own but is more than just a plastic replica. In their early days, printed scaffolds were made from a synthetic material, and living cells were added later. But in the early 2000s, Anthony Atala, director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, helped streamline this process by developing a 3-D printer that could deposit the rubbery, synthetic model with tissue already layered on.

As bioprinting research pushes forward, the major challenge is no longer just creating these organlike structures but, rather, keeping them alive. Cells are incorporated into bio-inks that are printed layer by layer to create a swath of living tissue. It’s the same idea behind the back-and-forth motion of an ink cartridge in a traditional printer. But only cells printed on the outermost layers of the tissue can freely access oxygen and expel waste—processes vital to cell survival. Cells on the innermost layers suffocate and die.

The solution is to print not just a scaffold but also a tissue’s vasculature—a system of increasingly small pathways that can reach the innermost layers of cells, delivering blood and oxygen and carrying away waste.

Incremental progress

In 2014, Jennifer Lewis, a professor of biologically inspired engineering at Harvard University, successfully began printing vasculature in her lab. The main focus of Lewis’s research for now is on using 3-D-printed tissue equipped with blood vessels to test potential drugs for chemical toxicity in living tissue.

In hopes of making another step toward printing a fully functioning organ, Lewis is working on printing small regions of organs. Right now, she’s designing nephrons, the tiny units that make up the kidney: they allow the organ to remove waste from the body and filter blood, among other vital processes. Before Lewis can print a kidney, she has to figure out how to print a single nephron. But that “is at best still only a millionth of a kidney,” she cautions. “That’s the scale that this field is at right now.”

“I personally believe that at this point in history, organ printing is like a moon shot,” Lewis says. “We should drive toward that goal, no question about it, but we’re far away. We’re really far away.”

3-D-Printed Skin Leads the Way Toward Artificial Organs

Researchers claim that additive manufacturing can now produce functional skin, and the first internal organs may be ready within six years.

The initial hype surrounding 3-D printing may have started to fade, but researchers using the technique to create living tissue are showing encouraging results.

3-D printing parts of our anatomy is not a new idea. The basic premise: insert the correct cells into a polymer or gel, print them out into a 3-D structure, and then allow the cells to grow into a living entity. If such a feat can be achieved, it could provide a supply of organs for transplant patients and remove the need for donors.

This week, Spanish scientists from Madrid have published researchdescribing new hardware that’s capable of printing functional human skin. The device creates the individual layers of skin, such as the dermis and epidermis, one atop the other. It does that by depositing plasma containing skin cells into precise geometries that allow the cells to flourish.

The researchers claim that the end results will be suitable for both transplantation and lab testing of new products. Initial transplants into mice also suggest that it’s safe, though the synthetic skin has yet to be approved for use in humans. Other organizations, such as L’Oreal, are also attempting to create skin using similar approaches.

But while this success lines up alongside other notable achievements, such as creating blood vessels and even synthetic ovaries for mice, 3-D-printing techniques have yet to yield entire organs for use in humans. That’s largely because printing cells in complex geometries without killing them remains difficult. Because it is flat and neatly layered, skin lends itself to printing—but rendering a heart is rather more difficult.

So just how far away from 3-D-printed human organs are we, exactly? The Economist has just taken a look at the entire bio-printing landscape to establish that. It suggests that recent advances in producing some of the more simple organs mean that the first 3-D-printed livers and kidneys for human transplant could flop out of a device within the next six years.

3-D-Printed Artificial Heart Beats Like the Real Thing But Isn’t Much Use Yet. 

It pumps blood using ventricles like those of a real heart, but it begins to degrade after just 3,000 beats.

It looks like a real heart. It moves like a real heart. And while it won’t be taking over the job of a real heart any time soon, it does hint at a future of smaller and more human-like artificial organs.

This new silicone heart was developed by researchers at the Functional Materials Laboratory at ETH Zurich in Switzerland. It’s built using 3-D printing techniques, which are increasingly popular for creating synthetic organs, in order to create an internal structure that mimics that of a real human heart, with right and left ventricles.

Unlike the real thing, though, it also includes a central chamber that can be inflated and deflated by an external pump—essentially acting as the muscle. But there’s a bigger limitation than its need for external drive. As the team reports in the journal Artificial Organs, the silicone begins to degrade after 3,000 beats—equivalent to about 45 minutes, which would make it little use in practice.

Even so, the device does suggest that it might be possible to create better artificial hearts in the coming years. Most current devices use mechanical approaches to pump blood, which can develop faults and can damage the blood they’re pumping. An artificial heart more closely based on human physiology could overcome those issues.

Then again, the best alternative might be to build whole new biological organs from scratch in the lab—but that’s still a little way off yet.

Researchers Use Eye-Tracking Technology to Assess Wrong-Patient Errors

R&E researcher examines the value of pairing photographs with radiographs in detecting wrong-patient errors.

New RSNA-funded research shows that patient photographs paired with radiographs may reduce wrong-patient errors and improve image assessment without increasing interpretation time.

With a 2015 Canon U.S.A./RSNA Research Medical Student Grant, Alex Chung, MD, and colleagues used eye-tracking technology to assess the visual attention of radiologists examining radiographs with and without paired photographs.

Despite protocols that require ensuring patient identity by checking two unique identifiers whenever a procedure is done, radiographs taken in emergency departments (EDs) or intensive care unit settings are at a higher risk of wrong-patient identification errors because patients often cannot provide the unique identifier information.

While previous research has demonstrated that a paired photograph of the patient taken simultaneously at the time of the radiograph increases the detection rate of wrong-patient errors, there is some concern that the photos are a distraction or may increase interpretation time.

“Our specific aim was to incorporate eye-tracking technology and objectively quantify the degree of distraction posed by photographs,” said Dr. Chung, a transitional year resident at Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta.

Eye-Tracking Technology Yields Results

The study comprised 10 radiologists (six male, four female) from the University of Arizona specializing in a variety of areas including general, abdominal, cardiothoracic and pediatric radiology. Dr. Chung and colleagues obtained patient data (radiographs and photographs) at Emory University and conducted the eye tracking observer study at the University of Arizona.

The subjects reviewed 21 portable chest radiographs in two phases. First, the images were provided without patient photographs and the radiologists were asked to note the placement of various tubes and lines. To prevent recall bias, Dr. Chung and his team allowed at least three weeks to pass before performing the next review. In the second phase, the images were paired with photographs and subjects were asked to perform the same task noting placement of lines and tubes.

Eye-tracking technology measured how long the subjects focused on various areas of the image and the total time spent looking at each case. The technology also noted the distraction rate, or number of times the subjects’ eyes scanned off the radiograph either to view image labels, or in the second phase, to view the photograph.

In both phases, the images were presented on an LCD display, ambient room lighting levels were controlled, the average distance between the observer and the screen was 35 cm, and the eye-tracking equipment sampled eye positions every one-sixtieth of a second with an accuracy of 0.4 degrees and a precision of 0.34 degrees.

The findings from both studies showed that overall time spent viewing the cases did not increase with the addition of the photograph.

“Radiologists compensated by integrating the examination of the photo into their search by decreasing, somewhat, their time on the x-ray image,” said Elizabeth Anne Krupinski, PhD, professor and vice chair for research in the Department of Radiology and Imaging Science at Emory University, who supervised Dr. Chung’s research.

After each phase, the subjects completed a survey collecting demographic information and answering questions about how they acquire patient information, their opinions about the photographs and which body areas they would like included in patient photographs.

Following the first study, all subjects indicated that they would be significantly likely to contact the referring provider if they detected a critical result. After the second study, the subjects were asked to indicate how much more likely they were to call the referring provider if an important finding was detected with the photographs present than without. Seven providers reported no difference, two reported slightly more, and one reported significantly more when photographs were present.

“This research shows that having photographs may help communicative and empathic dimensions of the interpretation process as well,” Dr. Chung said.

“This study was important, because it was the first of its kind to assess the impact of providing patient photographs during image interpretation on the way radiologists search images for findings,” Dr. Krupinski said.

Results May Personalize the Reading Experience

The research findings also show promise for the patient-radiologist relationship, said Srini Tridandapandi, PhD, MD, MBA, a radiologist at Emory University who helped develop the technology to add photographs to radiographs.

“With widespread adoption of PACS over the last couple of decades, we have ‘lost the patient’ and such photographs may help bring the patient back to the radiologist,” said Dr. Tridandapandi, who also served as Dr. Chung’s mentor.

Dr. Chung agreed, noting that this preliminary study provides a firm rationale for conducting a clinical study. “In the future, a study that explores whether the diagnostic accuracy of the reports is affected by the presence of photographs is warranted,” he said.

Dr. Chung credits the RSNA Research Medical Student Grant program with helping him develop grant writing skills and providing support for securing protected time at his institution. He plans to conduct additional research as he pursues a career in academics.


VR Can Be Used to Help Automated Driving Systems Make Ethical Traffic Decisions

The ability to engineer decision-making using machine-learning algorithms could offer an acceptable path toward handing over the car keys to self-driving systems.

 The ability to engineer decision-making using machine-learning algorithms could offer an acceptable path toward handing over the car keys to self-driving systems.
The age of self-driving cars is upon us. Companies including Google, Ford, Waymo, Lyft, Uber, and Volvo are all already testing them in cities around the world, with semi-autonomous cars already available for sale. But while the future of automated driving seems assured, so far there’s no consensus on how to incorporate moral decision-making into computer systems that would inform how they operate.

Portable scanner to reveal nutritional value of foods

A portable food scanner could tell you how much fat is in the food you eat. Image: Shutterstock/ gkrphoto
A portable food scanner could tell you how much fat is in the food you eat. Image: \

A personal scanner that reveals the nutritional value of your food could soon be helping you to eat healthily, thanks to a EUR 1 million prize that is being offered to the inventors who come up with the best working prototype. 

The scanner will be able to identify whether your sausages, burgers or croissants contain too much fat and salt, and even pick out traces of nuts or gluten.

It’s one of five Horizon Prizes where money is offered to inventors and developers who create a specific technology.

‘Healthy eating is a key way of limiting certain diseases like obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases,’ said EU project officer Gerald Cultot, who was involved in designing the terms of the prize.

‘There are these fitness apps which tell you how much energy you have spent, but you don’t have that many apps that tell you how much you have consumed, so it’s really about going to the other side of the spectrum and helping people to better measure their food intake,’ he said.

‘It’s really about going to the other side of the spectrum and helping people to better measure their food intake.’

Gerald Cultot, European Commission

The EUR 1 million prize will be split into a maximum of three awards – EUR 800 000 for the winner, and EUR 100 000 each to the first and second runner-ups.

In order to win the prize, the prototype needs to be able to analyse food composition, nutrition facts and potentially harmful ingredients such as allergens.

That’s a major issue because about 17 million Europeans suffer from food allergies, with 3.5 million of them less than 25 years of age, according to the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Horizon Prizes

The idea behind the Horizon Prizes is that they could attract people who might not apply for a standard research project, which are usually awarded to international research consortiums.

The foodscanner prize follows a prize for a bacteria test announced in February, prizes for better sharing of wireless bandwidth and for higher speed optical data transmissionannounced in March, and materials that can improve the air quality of cities in April.

‘With the prize contest we want to bring people to join our programmes that usually wouldn’t apply,’ said Barbara Kowatsch, an EU officer who has helped develop the new funding instrument.

The prizes are seen as an ongoing method for the EU to stimulate innovation. Next year’s prizes will be announced in the autumn. ‘Every year we target to have ambitious prizes in areas related to societal challenges,’ said Kowatsch.

Virus or bacteria? Soon a test could tell you

Over two fifths of Europeans do not know that antibiotics are ineffective against viral colds and flu. Image: Shutterstock/Mark Lorch
Over two fifths of Europeans do not know that antibiotics are ineffective against viral colds and flu.

If you have a cough and a runny nose, it’s hard to know whether you’re suffering from a viral or bacterial infection – and that’s important because it determines whether you need to take antibiotics or not.

Now there could be a test that will tell you if your symptoms are caused by a virus or bacteria during a visit to your doctor, thanks to a EUR 1 million prize that is being offered to the inventor who comes up with the best working prototype.

‘Upper respiratory tract infections like the common cold and bronchitis are a major reason for the prescription of antibiotics although these infections are often caused by viruses and in that case antibiotics are not necessary and not effective,’ said Birgit Van Tongelen, an officer at the EU’s Directorate-General for Research and Innovation who was involved in developing the idea for the prize.

The overuse of antibiotics is a major problem because it is making them less effective by allowing bacteria to develop resistance to them. It is estimated this causes 25 000 deaths per year and over EUR 1.5 billion in healthcare expenses and productivity losses in Europe alone.

Over two fifths of Europeans do not know that antibiotics are ineffective against viral colds and flu, according to an EU survey.

‘These infections are often caused by viruses and in that case antibiotics are not necessary and not effective.’

Birgit Van Tongelen, an officer at the EU’s Directorate-General for Research and Innovation

The prize, which is being launched on Thursday, aims to help solve that by giving doctors a way to prove to patients that their infection is viral or bacterial, and convince them that antibiotics won’t help in case of viral infections.

The winning test must ideally work in less than 30 minutes, be simple to use and not too intrusive, and a panel of at least seven specialists will chose the winner at the end of next year.

The UK-based Longitude Prize launched an award to develop a rapid test for multiple infections that can provide information on the type of bacteria and level of antimicrobial resistance. The prize will be awarded at the end of 2019.

Garage scientist

Horizon Prizes are challenge-based awards which offer cash to whoever can most effectively meet a defined challenge. They are called inducement prizes because the aim is to stimulate innovation and encourage people to come up with unconventional solutions to problems that matter to European citizens.

The theory behind the prizes is to attract people who might not have applied for a standard research project, which are usually awarded to international research consortiums. ‘The idea is to also attract the scientist in their garage,’ said Van Tongelen. ‘Any individual can apply.’

The antibiotics prize is one of five Horizon Prizes where money is offered to inventors and developers to solve a specific problem.

German SME CureVac beat 12 other contestants to win the first innovation inducement prize in 2014 for its RNActive technology, which could enable vaccines to be made that won’t spoil if they are left out of the fridge.

This Futuris video looks in depth at the CureVac project:

In addition to the antibiotics prize, the five prizes launched this year include EUR 3 million for a materials-based technology to remove pollution from the air and EUR 1 million for a device that can scan food.

A robotic doctor is gearing up for action

A new robot under development can send information on the stiffness, look and feel of a patient to a doctor located kilometres away. Image credit: Accrea

A robotic doctor that can be controlled hundreds of kilometres away by a human counterpart is gearing up for action.

Getting a check-up from a robot may sound like something from a sci-fi film, but scientists are closing in on this real-life scenario and have already tested a prototype.

‘The robot at the remote site has different force, humidity and temperature sensors, all capturing information that a doctor would get when they are directly palpating (physically examining) a patient,’ explains Professor Angelika Peer, a robotics researcher at the University of the West of England, UK.

Prof. Peer is also the project coordinator of the EU-funded ReMeDi project, which is developing the robotic doctor to allow medical professionals to examine patients over huge distances.

Through a specially designed surface mounted on a robotic arm, stiffness data of the patient’s abdomen is displayed to the human, allowing the doctor to feel what the remote robot feels. This is made possible thanks to a tool called a haptic device, which has a soft surface reminiscent of skin that can recreate the sense of touch through force and changing its shape.

During the examination, the doctor sits at a desk facing three screens, one showing the doctor’s hand on the faraway patient and a second for teleconferencing with the patient, which will remain an essential part of the exchange.

The third screen displays a special capability of the robot doctor – ultrasonography. This is a medical technique that sends sound pulses into a patient’s body to create a window into the patient. It reveals areas of different densities in the body and is often used to examine pregnant women.

Ultrasonography is also important for flagging injuries or disease in organs such as the heart, liver, kidneys or spleen and can find indications for some types of cancer, too.

‘The system allows a doctor from a remote location to do a first assessment of a patient and make a decision about what should be done, whether to transfer them to hospital or undergo certain treatments,’ said Prof. Peer.

The robot currently resides in a hospital in Poland but scientists have shown the prototype at medical conferences around the world. And they have already been approached by doctors from Australia and Canada where it can take several hours to transfer rural patients to a doctor’s office or hospital.

With the help of a robot, a doctor can talk to a patient, manoeuvre robotic arms, feel what the robot senses and get ultrasounds. Image credit: ReMeDi

With the help of a robot, a doctor can talk to a patient, manoeuvre robotic arms, feel what the robot senses and get ultrasounds.

‘This is to support an initial diagnosis. The human is still in the loop, but this allows them to perform an examination remotely,’ said Prof. Peer.


The ReMeDi project could speed up a medical exam and save time for patients and clinics. Another EU-funded project – United4Health (U4H) – looks at a different technology that could be used to remotely diagnose or treat people.

‘We need to transform how we deliver health and care,’ said Professor George Crooks, director of the Scottish Centre for Telehealth & Telecare, UK, which provides services via telephone, web and digital television and coordinates U4H.

This approach is crucial as Europe faces an ageing population and a rise in long-term health conditions like diabetes and heart disease. Telemedicine empowers these types of patients to take steps to help themselves at home, while staying in touch with medical experts via technology. Previous studies showed those with heart failure can be successfully treated this way.

These patients were given equipment to monitor their vital signs and send data back to a hospital. A trial in the UK comparing this self-care group to the standard-care group showed a reduction in mortality, hospital admissions and bed days, says Prof. Crooks.

‘The human is still in the loop, but this allows them to perform an examination remotely.’

Professor Angelika Peer, University of the West of England, UK

A similar result was shown in the demonstration sites of the U4H project which tested the telemedicine approach in 14 regions for patients with heart failure, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). For diabetic patients in Scotland, they kept in touch with the hospital using text messages. For COPD, some patients used video consultations.

Prof. Crooks stresses that it is not all about the electronics – what matters is the service wraparound that makes the technology acceptable and easy to use for patients and clinical teams.

‘It can take two or three hours out of your day to go along to a 15 minute medical appointment and then to be told to keep taking your medication. What we do is, by using technology, patients monitor their own parameters, such as blood sugar in the case of diabetes, how they are feeling, diet and so on, and then they upload these results,’ said Prof. Crooks.

‘It doesn’t mean you never go to see a doctor, but whereas you might have gone seven or eight times a year, you may go just once or twice.’

Crucially, previous research has shown these patients fare better and the approach is safe.

‘There can be an economic benefit, but really this is about saving capacity. It frees up healthcare professionals to see the more complex cases,’ said Prof. Crooks.

It also empowers patients to take more responsibility for their health and results in fewer unplanned visits to the emergency room.

‘Patient satisfaction rates were well over 90 %,’ said Prof. Crooks.

Printed solar cells thinner than your hair could power your phone

Nanotechnology could give us extremely thin solar panels that could power phones. Image credit: Flickr/ Kārlis Dambrāns

Extremely thin printable solar panels could power your phone and are amongst a range of new ways nanotechnology is opening the door to a clean energy and waste-free future.

Nanotechnology, a science that focuses on understanding materials on an atomic scale, is helping researchers and businesses introduce new technologies that could transform our economy into a greener, less wasteful one.

‘Nanotechnology as a field has an enormous role to play in moving our planet to sustainable and intelligent living,’ said Professor Martin Curley from Maynooth University in Ireland, speaking on 21 June at the EuroNanoForum conference, in Malta, organised by the Maltese Presidency of the Council of the European Union and co-funded by the EU.

He explained to an audience of businesspeople and researchers that nanotechnology holds the potential to spark ‘an explosion of innovation’.

One area where this innovation could have its biggest impact is with how we generate, use and consume energy.

Speaking at a session dedicated to nanotechnology in clean energy generation, Prof. Alejandro Pérez-Rodríguez, from the department of electronics at the University of Barcelona, Spain, said solar energy and photovoltaic (PV) technology itself could be considered a nanotechnology sector.

‘In all PV technologies and devices we put some nanotechnology … If we want to move to devices with higher functionality, lower weight, higher flexibility, different colours, then we need to integrate more nanotechnologies into their materials and architecture.’

At the same session, Artur Kupczunas, co-founder of Saule Technologies, explained how his company is using nanotechnology to print solar panels using perovskite crystals, a cheap and highly sensitive mineral that was first found in the Ural Mountains of Russia in 1839.

They produce thin layers of solar cells that are somewhere near one-tenth of the thickness of a single human hair. This innovation could greatly reduce the cost of producing solar energy while transforming any surface into a solar panel, from walls and road-side barriers to the surface of your smartphone.

‘The most interesting factor is the (reduction of) overall costs,’ said Kupczunas, explaining that this means the technology could be easily scaled out across the market.

Fuel cell

At the same session, John Bøgild Hansen, a senior scientist from Haldor Topsøe, a Danish chemical engineering company, explained how they have been using nanotechnology to look at the atomic level of gases in order to better understand their properties.

This knowledge contributed to creating a fuel cell for greener biofuel production. Their process extracts pure hydrogen from plant materials while reusing any CO2 emissions created during the process to help power the production cycle, preventing any fossil fuels entering the atmosphere.

This, he believes, is a way to ‘break the bottleneck’ on biofuels which currently struggle to get public and private support.

‘If we want to move to devices with higher functionality, lower weight, higher flexibility, different colours, then we need to integrate more nanotechnologies into their materials and architecture.’

Prof. Alejandro Pérez-Rodríguez, University of Barcelona, Spain

‘If we want the conveniences we have today from liquid energy carriers (oil, natural gas etc.) for transport … hydrocarbons (biogas) are the best,’ he said.

Storing wind and solar energy during unstable weather is another gap in our sustainable energy future.

Professor Magnus Berggren and his team at Sweden’s Linköping University are looking into using nanotechnology to harness the molecular properties of a plastic conductive material called PEDOT:PSS. They combine this knowledge with nanocellulose, a product made from plants or oil, to create an organic material that stores energy.

‘If we make a (PEDOT:PSS) battery the size of a refrigerator it can store (enough energy for) the needs of a family in a house or an apartment for a day,’ he said.

Because of its ability to charge quickly, it could be a way to compensate for the under- or over- production of wind and solar energy during calm or cloudy days. This, in turn, could break cities’ dependency on fossil fuels.

‘You need to store when you are over-producing and release when you are under-producing,’ Prof. Berggren explained.


Nanotechnology also has the ability to make technology smaller, extend the life-cycle of electronics, improve manufacturing processes, all of which would mean less waste has to go to the landfill.

Speaking at one of the sessions, Joe Murphy, from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, an association in the UK dedicated to promoting waste as a resource, explained nanotechnologies ‘may enable us to create a new material palette’ that allows future products to be recycled more easily.

‘At the moment we have a lot of barriers to recycling … nanotechnology may enable us to do more,’ he said.

NASA picks research teams to tackle advances in drone, self-driving car tech

The three chosen research teams will perform feasibility studies on projects aimed at advancing autonomous systems in self-driving cars and drones.


NASA has selected a trio of research teams to perform feasibility studies on projects aimed at advancing autonomous systems in self-driving cars and drones.

The research will span three key areas of autonomous technology, including certification of self-driving cars and Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS); the development of new methods to verify whether remote-piloted drones are fit to fly before each flight; and how to use quantum computing and communication tech to create a jam-free network that can support hundreds of thousands of drones flying each day.

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NASA said the studies are expected to take between 24 and to 30 months to complete.

“Our idea is to invest a very modest amount of time and money into new technologies that are ambitious and potentially transformative,” said Richard Barhydt, NASA’s acting director of the Transformative Aeronautics Concepts program.

“They may or may not work, but we won’t know unless we try.”

NASA’s targeted selection of the research teams shows how the organization is trying to tackle the technology segments in need of refinement in order to make autonomous systems operate at scale. The organization has also become aggressive in its push for technological advances in drone systems and finding ways to use them for Mars exploration.

For instance, NASA’s Mars Electric Reusable Flyer project is using technology from autonomous robots and self-driving vehicles to develop visual odometry algorithms and Simultaneous Linearization and Mapping (SLAM) algorithms that will allow drones to navigate and recharge autonomously in the often unpredictable conditions on Mars.