The Drone Center’s Weekly Roundup: 2/9/15


Crocs is using drones to deliver shoes to shoppers in Japan. Credit: Slash Gear.

At the Center for the Study of the Drone

In late February, the Obama administration announced that it would ease long-standing restrictions on the sale of U.S. armed drones to foreign nations. The news provoked a flurry of commentary from observers who either lauded or criticized the decision. What will it mean for military drone proliferation, and what countries are lining up to buy armed drones? Here’s what you need to know.


A possible U.S. drone strike reportedly killed two people in Yemen. The strike, which took place in the southern Shabwa province, targeted two individuals suspected of being members of al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula. (Reuters)

Approximately 10 unidentified aircraft thought to be drones were spotted flying over Paris. Police are investigating whether these incidents are connected to the numerous drone sightings last month. According to Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, there have been as many as 60 drone sightings over sensitive sights in Paris and across France since last October. (Sky News)

Meanwhile, four journalists who were reportedly preparing to fly a drone in Paris were detained by police. The four worked for Bayerischer Rundfunk, a German public broadcasting company, and were about to film footage for a story about the mysterious drone flights taking place in Paris. Three Al Jazeera journalists were arrested last month for attempting to fly a drone over the city’s Bois de Boulogne park. (Quartz)

In Rome, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that the alliance is preparing to increase drone surveillance flights over Libya in light of the deteriorating situation there. The drones, which are based at Naval Air Station Sigonella in Sicily, will begin operating over Libya next year. (Stars and Stripes)

At least two dozen activists were arrested during an anti-drone protest at the entrance to Creech Air Force Base in Nevada. The demonstration, which was organized by a coalition of peace and faith-based groups including Veterans for Peace and Code Pink, drew roughly 150 activists. (Las Vegas Review-JournalFor an interview with Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin, click here.

New Zealand could become the first country to allow domestic drone operators to fly drones beyond line of sight, if proposed rules submitted by the Civil Aviation Authority to the Transport Minister are approved. A report produced by Economic Consulting and Aviation Safety Management Systems estimates that New Zealand could collect as much as NZD $190 million per year in revenue and cost savings by allowing beyond-line-of-sight operations. (New Zealand Herald)

A new report by the U.K.’s House of Lords E.U. Committee calls for compulsory registration of all civilian domestic drone operators. The committee recommended that a database be created of businesses and professional operators and suggested that the registry might also eventually include non-commercial users. The report warns against stifling what it states could potentially become a growth industry and offers a number of recommendations for the safe integration of unmanned aircraft. (BBC)

The Washington State House of Representatives passed a bill that restricts drone use by individuals and law enforcement, along with several other bills that strengthen privacy protections. The bill would make it a misdemeanor for a private citizen to use a drone to spy on another individual and would require police to obtain permission before acquiring drones. The bills will now be considered by the State Senate. (Associated Press)

Meanwhile, in the U.S. Senate, Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA) and Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) introduced legislation that would require individuals and businesses applying for a drone permit from the Federal Aviation Administration to explain how the drone will be used and what kinds of data it will collect. (Associated Press)

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration is requesting public comment on privacy issues relating to domestic drones. The initiative is a result of a February 15 presidential memorandum that requires federal agencies to solicit input from the public regarding drone use by government and commercial entities. (NTIA)

Commentary, Analysis and Art

At the Washington Post, David Ignatius argues that the strategy of killing leaders of terrorist organizations will not be enough to stop the Islamic State.

At War on the Rocks, Paul Scharre describes the advantages of deploying swarms of autonomous robots in the battlefield.

At TomDispatch, Pratap Chatterjee considers why U.S. drone pilots are quitting the Air Force in record numbers, and wonders whether flying drones may well produce a “new form of mental disturbance.”

On Veterans Radio, Sam LaGrone and Dan Gettinger discuss laser weapons systems and how they could be used to shoot down drones. For more on anti-drone lasers, click here.

At Just Security, Harold H. Koh argues for a sunset clause in the proposed Authorization for Use of Military Force against ISIL.

At The New Yorker, Amy Davidson takes a look at how President Underwood fares on the issue of drone strikes in the latest House of Cards season.

At Bloomberg News, Alan Levin examines an insurance company in Colorado that has already written policies on 2,600 drones.

Two-thirds of respondents in a poll by the digital marketing firm Walker Sands reported that they expect to be able to receive deliveries by drone within five years. (Forbes)

At the Royal Aeronautical Society, Tim Robinson provides a step-by-step guide to becoming a drone entrepreneur.

At the Harvard Business Review, Larry Downes argues that the FAA erred by not including rules for microdrones—aircraft weighing less than 4.4 lbs—when it released a draft of rules for commercial drone operations last month.

The Latvian Presidency and European Commission hosted the “Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems: Framing the Future of Aviation” conference in Riga. (YouTube)

Diana Marina Cooper examines Canada’s rules for operating drones beyond visual line of sight.

At Euronews, Guilhem de Marliave discusses drone regulations in France.

At Defense One, Patrick Tucker takes a look at the robots that will be participating in the Pentagon’s Robotics Grand Challenge this summer.

At Caixin, Li Xuena, Wang Xinci and Zhang Boling report that robots are replacing human industrial workers in China.

Precision Hawk, a company that manufactures drones, created a graphic of drone laws around the world.

At Motherboard, Jason Koebler checks out the “world’s first drone dogfight” in a dusty warehouse in Brooklyn.

At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Mark Zuckerberg played down Facebook’s plan to deliver Internet using high-flying drones.

At Wired, Klint Finley profiles SkyWard, a company that offers software to help domestic drone operators navigate local regulations.

Also at Wired, Angela Watercutter considers the ways in which drones will revolutionize the film industry.

The NYC Drone Film Festival brought together a selection of dazzling aerial videos from across the globe. (Today)

And Audi mocks Amazon’s plans for delivery drones in a Hitchcock-inspired advertisement. (YouTube) For more on Hitchcock and drones, click here.

Know Your Drone

Sundar Pichai, a senior vice president at Google, announced at the Mobile World Congress that the Internet company’s lightweight, solar-powered drone will begin flight tests later this year. (The Verge)

A company is hoping to raise funds on Kickstarter to create a waterproof drone called the Splash Drone. (Engadget)

In this year’s Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiment, microdrones such as the tiny Black Hornet PD-100 were a big hit, according to

The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency has awarded aircraft manufacturer Sikorsky an $8 million contract to develop autonomous systems to allow helicopters to be operated by fewer crew members. (Press Release)

The World Economic Forum highlighted sense and avoid drone technology as one of 10 emerging technologies of 2015.

Defense contractor Northrop Grumman announced that the cost per flight hour of its Global Hawk high-altitude surveillance drone has dropped considerably. The Global Hawk’s cost per flight hour had been a matter of contention in budgetary battles. (Press Release)

A French Star Wars fan turned his quadcopter into a TIE interceptor, as seen in Return of the Jedi. Videos of this design, as well as of his Millennium Falcon drone, are on YouTube. (Popular Mechanics)

The Vestel Karayel, a Turkish drone, performed multiple flight tasks autonomously with a 51 kg payload, passing a critical flight test. (Defense News)

Drones at Work

In the first FAA-approved use of drones for newsgathering, CNN took to the air above Selma, Alabama in anticipation of the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery civil rights marches. (CNN)

Entrepreneur Christopher Catrambone is using the CamCopter S-100 helicopter drone to rescue migrants in the Mediterranean. (Gizmodo)

A British company is looking to replace beach lifeguards with drones in order to achieve a faster response time. (Express and Echo)

Police in Sweden will begin testing ways of integrating drones into SWAT teams and bomb squads. (Newsweek) For more on police drones, click here.

The U.S. Navy is using underwater drones in the Arctic to assess the pace of melting ice. (

In Japan, shoemaker Crocs is experimenting with using drones to deliver shoes to shoppers. (CBC)

SkyCam Algeria used a drone to capture aerial images of diverse landscapes and historic landmarks in Algeria. (Huffington Post)

RYOT used a drone to go fishing. (Facebook)

The Weekly Drone Roundup is a newsletter from the Center for the Study of the Drone. It covers news, commentary, analysis and technology from the drone world. You can subscribe to the Roundup here.

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Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College a research and education initiative that brings together creative thinking and perspectives from a wide variety of academic fields to help the public better understand the drone and its implications.
Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College a research and education initiative that brings together creative thinking and perspectives from a wide variety of academic fields to help the public better understand the drone and its implications.

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