The Drone Center’s Weekly Roundup: 5/2/16

Paul Trillo’s “Chromacity.”

Paul Trillo’s “Chromacity.”

At the Center for the Study of the Drone

From April 11 to 15, the United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons convened hundreds of delegates from member states and non-governmental organizations for its third annual meeting to debate lethal autonomous weapons. Here’s a summary of what was discussed and what wasn’t.


A U.S. drone strike in southern Yemen reportedly killed a local leader of al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula. Abu Sameh al-Zinjibari was killed along with five aides as they were traveling in a vehicle northeast of the port city of Aden. (Reuters)

The Connecticut House of Representatives passed legislation that bans the weaponization of drones. If the bill is signed into law, violators could be charged with a Class C felony and face up to 10 years in prison for arming an unmanned aircraft. A similar bill is being considered in the Connecticut State Senate. (Hartford Courant)

Meanwhile, the City of Cleveland passed legislation allowing local law enforcement to cooperate with the Federal Aviation Administration to enforce drone regulations. (WKYC)

Two individuals were charged in Britain for using a drone to make illegal deliveries to inmates at His Majesty’s Prison Swaleside in Eastchurch. (BBC)

Commentary, Analysis and Art

At the Lexington Institute, Daniel Gouré argues that the U.S. Air Force should reconsider its acquisition strategy for unmanned systems and place greater emphasis on reducing the costs of maintaining its large fleet of drones.

At Foreign Policy, Micah Zenko argues that drone strikes do not cause fewer civilian casualties than air strikes by manned aircraft.

Also at Foreign Policy, James Bamford takes a look at the proliferation of unmanned systems among states and non-state actors.

At the Verge, Ben Popper writes that, contrary to certain claims from earlier this month, Chinese drone maker DJI is not in the habit of sharing data from drone users with the Chinese government.

In an in-depth article at Fast Company, Ainsley O’Connell takes a look inside the U.S. Air Force program to train drone pilots.

At SkyTango, 14 journalism professors and drone users discussed how drones could benefit journalism.

In the Royal United Services Institute Journal, Tara McCormack examines the debates in the British parliament over the use of drones in counterterrorism operations.

At the Financial Times, Ben Bland writes that the ever-growing number of robots in China’s manufacturing industry could have consequences for its economy.

Also at the Financial Times, Jonathan Margolis argues that the development of sensible regulations for drones is impeded by the “fear factor.”

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) is pushing the Department of Homeland Security to allow the Coast Guard to acquire its own land-based drones for surveillance. (Military Times)

At Above the Law, Jon Pfeiffer takes a look at whether it is legal for paparazzi to use drones.

At the South China Morning Post, Mark Valencia describes how the use of unmanned undersea vehicles could escalate tensions between the U.S. and China in the South China Sea.

In Chromaticity, filmmaker Paul Trillo uses colored smoke bombs attached to drones to create choreographed dances. (Visual News)

At the White House Correspondents Dinner, comedian Larry Wilmore joked about President Obama and drone strikes. (Washington Post)

At Al Jazeera, Rosie Scammell takes a look at the challenges that aid organizations face in using drones to help find refugees.

Know Your Drone

The Turkish military conducted a live firing test from an armed variant of the Bayraktar drone. (Daily Sabah)

Meanwhile, Turkish military drone maker Vestel Group announced that it will produce an armed drone. (Daily Sabah)

U.S. firm Alta Devices has developed an efficient solar cell technology that it claims is ideal for powering high-altitude long-endurance drones. (Clean Technica)

Textron Systems, an American defense contractor, has attached a quadcopter system to its Aerosonde unmanned aircraft, allowing the drone to take off and land vertically. (UPI)

Meanwhile, Textron is developing a variant of its Shadow unmanned aircraft that will be capable of operating beyond visual line of sight. (Defense News)

A startup is crowdfunding an attachment that allows DJI Phantom consumer drones to float on water. (Gizmag)

Contractor Undersea Solutions Group has successfully carried out an endurance test of its Proteus optionally-manned undersea vehicle. During the test, the submersible operated for 720 hours. (UPI)

China’s National Defense University has unveiled an unmanned ground police vehicle. The AnBot has an endurance of up to eight hours, can travel at speeds of up to 11 mph, and is equipped with a non-lethal electroshock weapon. (Popular Science)

Google has been awarded a patent that reveals new details about its proposed drone delivery system. According to the patent, the delivery drones would issue vocal commands to nearby humans such as “Caution: Stay Back.” (Quartz)   

Defense contractor Israel Aerospace Industries has unveiled the ROTEM-L, a quadcopter loitering munition. (Popular Mechanics)

Meanwhile, U.S. drone maker AeroVironment announced that it has begun production of the Switchblade, a loitering munition drone. (AeroVironment Press Release)

Battery maker Kokam has developed a high energy battery system for unmanned aircraft. (Unmanned Systems Technology)  

Drones at Work

Two students at Ball State University have launched an app called Droning About that allows people to find and hire nearby drone pilots. (Indy Star)

Dezeen profiled architect Ammar Mirjan, who is developing swarms of drones that can build structures out of bricks.

Bulgaria’s Defense Ministry has banned drones in Sofia during its Army Day parade on May 6. (Novinite)

The Lancet explores the use of drones in the health sector.

The Russian Ministry of Defense has begun testing the United 40, a medium-altitude, long-endurance surveillance drone developed by Abu Dhabi-based company Adcom Systems. (IHS Jane’s 360)

The U.S. Navy has equipped its USS Coronado, a littoral combat vessel, with an MQ-8B Fire Scout drone. (USNI News)

The Paris police issued a design brief calling for bids for small surveillance drones. (Vice News)

A Canadian drone services firm plans to use drones for surveying damage from the recent earthquake in Ecuador. (CBC)

A Swiss team of researchers has developed a drone for search and rescue missions. (Foreign Policy)

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization is using drones in the Philippines to identify farmland that is most at risk from natural disasters. (FAO)

ISIS is reportedly tying sheets across streets in Raqqa in an attempt to hide its members from drones. (Newsweek)

In Lithuania, police are using drones to find illegal alcohol distilleries. (Euronews)

A fisherman used a drone to help him catch a tuna fish. (YouTube)

U.S. firm Intuitive Machines has developed a radar-equipped drone for surveying polar ice caps. (The Verge)

An emergency management office in Indiana has received permission from the FAA to fly a small drone for first responders. (Fox 59)

Industry Intel

The U.S. Army awarded Northrop Grumman a $83.4 million contract to provide contractor support for the Hunter tactical drone. (Contract Announcement)

Meanwhile, Textron Systems received an $116.5 million contract to provide the Army with 24 new RQ-7 V2 Shadow tactical drones. (Press Release)

The U.S. Navy awarded Raytheon Corp. a $21.6 million contract to continue to update the software onboard the MQ-8 Fire Scout drone. (Contract Announcement)

Zero Zero Robotics, a Chinese company, raised $25 million from investors to build a self-flying drone that can be folded and carried easily. (TechCrunch)

A report by CB Insights found that funding totals for drone startups in the first quarter of 2016 did not meet expectations.

5D Robotics, a sensor technology company, acquired Aerial MOB, an aerial cinematography provider. (Press Release)

Willis Programs, part of Willis Towers Watson, has partnered with the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International to develop DroneGuard, an all-in-one insurance package for members of AUVSI. (Press Release)

The U.K.’s Ministry of Defence awarded General Atomics Aeronautical Systems International a $605 million contract for 20 Certifiable Predator Bs, the latest variant of the MQ-9 Reaper. (IHS Jane’s 360)

For updates, news, and commentary, follow us on Twitter. 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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