The Drone Center’s Weekly Roundup: 3/2/15
At the Center for the Study of the Drone
As a Department of Homeland Security shutdown started to look increasingly likely, we wondered what that would mean for the Customs and Border Protection’s drone program. Would the drones be furloughed? Or will they keep flying?
A U.S. drone strike in Yemen reportedly killed four suspected members of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The strike targeted two vehicles in the southern Shabwa province. While local security officials identified the men to Reuters as militants, a statement by AQAP contradicted reports that the strike took place at all.
French police are investigating a series of nighttime drone flights over landmarks and restricted locations around Paris. Over the course of two consecutive nights, drones were spotted flying above the Élysée Palace, the Invalides, the Eiffel Tower, and the U.S. Embassy. According to an unidentified government spokesperson, the French authorities “are mobilised on a matter which is and should be taken seriously.” (The Guardian)
Meanwhile, in an apparently separate incident, three Al-Jazeera journalists were arrested for flying a drone in the Bois de Boulogne park without a permit. The journalists were reportedly testing drones for newsgathering. It is against the law in France to fly drones without a permit. (New York Times)
Australia acknowledged that members of its military have begun training on the MQ-9 Reaper drone. “It would be remiss of Australia not to continue to develop our knowledge of this technology,” said Junior Minister Darren Chester in a statement. This follows the Obama administration’s announcement that it is lifting a ban on the export of armed drones. (Wall Street Journal)
The U.S. Secret Service announced that it will launch a series of drone exercises in the Washington, D.C. area. In a short press release, the Secret Service said that the exercises will take place in “normally flight restricted areas.” The announcement comes weeks after a hobbyist crashed a quadcopter on White House grounds. (Washington Post)
The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating a spike in the number of drone sightings by pilots of manned aircraft. According to CBS News, there were on average two reported sightings every day for the first few weeks of this year, far more than during the same period last year.
The City Council of Berkeley, California passed a one-year moratorium on the use of drones by the police department, declaring the city a “No Drone Zone.” The 7-1 decision exempts the Fire Department, but only in emergencies. Last year, the Sheriff of Alameda County purchased two drones. (Contra Costa Times)
3D Robotics, a company that manufactures small multi-rotor consumer and commercial drones, raised $50 million in a round of fundraising led by Qualcomm. “The incredible pace of innovation in the smartphone industry is transforming many adjacent industries, including drones,” said co-founder Chris Anderson in a statement. (Forbes)
Commentary, Analysis and Art
At the Guardian, Chris Woods examines the psychological strain experienced by military personnel who fly drones. “Research confirmed that many of the stresses experienced by personnel were being amplified by poor working environments,” writes Woods. For more on the challenges faced by drone pilots, click here.
At Wired, Jeffrey Marlow explains how adventurous drone pilots are changing the nature of exploration.
At Rhizome, Adam Rothstein calls for a common open system for drones, similar to the early PC systems.
At Lawfare, Alexander Velez-Green looks at the lethal robot sentry guarding South Korea’s northern border, arguing that “killer robots” could help stabilize conflict zones. For more on “killer robots,” click here.
The New America Foundation hosted its “Future of War” conference, which featured several discussions of drones and robotic technologies.
Meanwhile, the New America Foundation released a new project identifying the countries that are producing or have acquired drones.
At Defense One, Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider argue that the proliferation of armed drones will require new international standards to govern their use.
Meanwhile, in an ongoing series on drone myths at the RAND blog, Lynn E. Davis, Michael J. McNerney, and Daniel Byman argue that it will be difficult, if not impossible, to develop international norms to govern the use of this technology.
At Breaking Defense, Peter Lichtenbaum and Rachel Stohl propose that the Obama administration’s decision to lift the ban on exporting drones “actually raises the level of scrutiny over the technology.”
At Reuters, Stanley Carvalho reports that armed drone exports could lead to a rise in the acquisition of armed drones by Gulf states.
At War on the Rocks, Paul Scharre continues the “Coming Swarm” series, arguing that by investing innumerous low-cost robotic systems, the U.S. military could give a new meaning to the concept of mass on the battlefield. For more on drone swarms, click here.
At War is Boring, Joseph Trevithick examines the U.S. Air Force’s drone program during the Vietnam War.
At Drone Wars UK, Chris Cole takes a look at what drone crashes around the world could reveal about military operations.
In the Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf considers the drone scare in France and what it could mean if commercial drones were weaponized.
At CNN, Drew Griffin and David Fitzpatrick report on the Customs and Border Protection drones, writing that the steep cost of each arrest brought about through the use of the drones casts doubt on the value of the program.
At Slate, Margot Kaminski writes that there is much progress to be made in developing privacy rules that protect individuals against domestic drones.
Also at Slate, Faine Greenwood offers tips on how to travel overseas with a drone “without causing an international incident.”
At BBC News, Regan Morris profiles Jordi Muñoz, one of the founders 3D Robotics.
At Business Insider, Marcelo Ballve has a few take-aways from Business Intelligence’s latest report on the commercial drone market.
At Muckrock, Shawn Musgrave reports that the FBI will follow President Obama’s order to federal agencies to release details on drone activities.
At the Baltimore Post-Examiner, Anthony C. Hayes interviews Dan Fesperman, the author of the novelUnmanned, about the effects of drone flying on pilots.
In City of Drones, architect Liam Young and musician John Cale create a digital visualization of what it might feel like to fly around a future city with a drone. “The visual language of City of Drones is based on the mechanics of machine vision,” Young told the Creators Project.
3D Robotics released a beginner’s guide to taking aerial shots with drones.
Know Your Drone
Portuguese company Tekever has demonstrated a system for controlling drones using only your mind. (Forbes)
The Australian Air Force announced that it is hoping to enter into a joint development program with the U.S. Navy for the Triton high-altitude long endurance surveillance drone. (IHS Jane’s 360)
Chinese defence company Norinco has unveiled a lightweight missile designed to be mounted on combat drones. (IHS Jane’s 360)
Students at Simon Fraser University have developed a 3D-printed quadcopter for first responders. (Vancouver Sun)
Italian aerospace company Piaggio announced the successful maiden flight of its medium-altitude long endurance military drone, the Hammerhead. The Italian Air Force has said that it will buy three Hammerheads. (Defense News)
Drone company Perceptiv has unveiled an $800 tracking system that allows filmmakers to use drones as aerial dollies. (TechCrunch)
A team at the Australian Research Centre for Aerospace Automation has created an emergency automated landing system for unmanned aircraft. (Phys.org)
Bloomberg takes a closer look at the crash-proof disaster response drone that recently won the $1 million grand prize at the Drones for Good competition.
A German startup has created a device that blocks all wifi-connected surveillance devices that may snoop on your home, including drones. (Daily Dot)
Drones at Work
Wright State University is partnering with Ohio/Indiana Unmanned Aircraft Systems Center to research the potential uses of drones in emergency situations. (Dayton Business Journal)
Photographer Tomás Thibaud used a drone to film the first wildlife bridge in Latin America. (New Scientist)
Adnear, a Singapore-based company, is using drones that intercept cell phone signals in order to deliver targeted advertisements. (Forbes)
At Drone Girl, Sally French spoke with Sonja Betschart, the chief marketing officer at Pix4D, about using drones to map Brazil’s Christ the Redeemer statue.
Drones are increasingly being used to photograph weddings, but not everyone is convinced that these machines are an appropriate guest. (Washington Post)