Weekly Roundup 4/7

A giant portrait of an young, unnamed victim of a drone strike was unveiled in Pakistan this week. Credit: from notabugsplat.com

A giant portrait of an young, unnamed victim of a drone strike was unveiled in Pakistan this week. Credit: From notabugsplat.com

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At the Center for the Study of the Drone

If an autonomous drone does something harmful, who is responsible? If two driverless cars collide, who pays? These are the kind of riddles that Ryan Calo, a leading expert on robotics and the law, thinks about everyday. In an in-depth interview with Arthur Holland Michel, Calo discusses privacy, robot insurance and the promiscuity of data.

News

A lawsuit against the U.S. government brought by family members of Anwar al-Awlaki, a Yemeni-American operative of al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula who was killed along with his son and a third U.S. citizen in two drone strikes in 2011, was dismissed by a federal judge. Judge Rosemary Collyer acknowledged the constitutional issues raised by the targeted killing of the three American citizens, but said that the matter was best left to the White House and Congress. (The Guardian)

The Central Intelligence Agency is unlikely to end its lethal covert operations programs anytime soon, according to Mark Mazzetti at the New York Times. Despite C.I.A. Director John Brennan’s announcement of his intention to transfer operations in 2013, the spy agency remains in control of the targeted killing program in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. A range of factors, including a number of recent U.S. military drone strikes that resulted in civilian casualties, are causing the delay.

According to former American drone pilot Brandon Bryant, a U.S. military base in Germany plays a crucial role in drone operations in the Middle East and Central Asia. Ramstein Air Base links the data transfer between drones and the operators at bases in the U.S. Bryant,  one of the few former pilots to speak publicly about his experiences, is an outspoken critic of U.S. drone operations. (Deutsche Welle)

In response to the rise in private drone use, the South African Civil Aviation Authority plans to take a hard line with operators who do not comply with airspace regulations. According to a statement by the SACAA, drone operators who fail to follow the rules could face a fine of $4,700, up to 10 years in prison or both. “Those that are flying any type of unmanned aircraft are doing so illegally; and as the regulator we cannot condone any form of blatant disregard of applicable rules,” said Poppy Khoza, Director of the Civil Aviation Authority. (News24)

A suspected North Korean drone crashed in South Korea. The small drone,which was equipped with a camera for capturing still photographs, was old-fashioned and rudimentary, according to South Korean officials. North Korea has been advertising its fledgling military drone program in recent months, displaying what appear to be large unmanned aircraft in a number of military parades. (CBS News)

An RQ-7 Shadow drone operated by the Pennsylvania Army National Guard crashed near an elementary school. The Shadow, a surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft that weighs 375 pounds, was destroyed in the accident. The drone was flying as part of an exercise at Fort Indiantown Gap. (Lebanon Daily News)

Meanwhile, in Australia, a triathlete participating in Geraldton’s Endure Batavia Triathlon sustained head injuries when she was struck by a falling drone. The cause of the accident remains unclear, but Warren Abrams, the owner of the drone, who had been hired to film the event, believes that the it was hacked, causing it fall to the ground. (ABC)

Two American congressmen, Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Walter Jones (R-NC), introduced a bill  that would require the White House to submit annual reports on the number of individuals killed in drone strikes. The Targeted Lethal Force Transparency Act would also require the Obama administration to prepare a report on drone strikes that have taken place in the past five years. “We’re just asking for raw numbers—not where the strikes took place or when,” Rep. Schiff told the Washington Post.

Residents of Deer Trail, Colorado voted against a measure that would have permitted civilians to shoot down drones that entered the town’s airspace. The proposed law, which was submitted by resident Phillip Steel, required residents to purchase a $25 drone-hunting permit before being able to fire at unmanned aerial vehicles. (Bloomberg News)

Commentary, Analysis and Art

Drone Adventures, a nonprofit organization that explores humanitarian applications of drones, teamed up with a researcher at the University of Tokyo to create aerial maps of cleanup efforts in areas affected by the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The Economist published a special report on U.S. military drones and how the technology could change warfare.

At The Strategist blog, Rosalyn Turner considers the different models of stealth fighter drones currently under development.

At Foreign Policy Magazine’s The Best Defense blog, Captain Adam Thomas of the U.S. Marine Corps suggests that the proliferation of small unmanned systems should motivate all nations to invest heavily in anti-drone defenses.

At The Diplomat, Ankit Panda analyzes of North Korea’s investment in unmanned systems technology.

At Open Democracy, Paul Rogers considers the recent report by the U.K.’s House of Commons on drones and the ongoing efforts to make the military program more transparent.

At TIME Magazine, Paul Thompson writes about how the U.S. military is seeking to stay ahead of its potential adversaries in the use of drones as the technology proliferates.

At Air Force Magazine, Aaron Church considers the future of the Air Force drone program.

The Open Source Imagery and Geospatial Intelligence blog published satellite photos of the Taranis, a stealth fighter drone made by BAE Systems, at a base in Australia.

At Mother Jones, Asawin Suebsaeng explains how the recently-released Captain America blockbuster film is a critique of President Obama’s terror suspect “kill list.”

A giant portrait of a young, unnamed victim of a drone strike was unveiled in Pakistan. The portrait, titled “#NotABugSplat,” is the result of a collaboration between a group of artists and the British human rights organization Reprieve.

After a San Francisco resident posted a Craigslist notice when he found a lost drone, Kashmir Hill of Forbes runs through “What To Do If You Find A Lost Drone.

Know Your Drone

The U.S. Navy is testing advanced unmanned systems that allow full-size helicopters to operate autonomously in difficult environments. “I want [the drone] to … eventually tell the Marine, ‘This is where I’m landing and unless you don’t like that, leave me alone,” Max Snell, the project’s manager, told Reuters.

South Korea is considering acquiring a low-altitude radar system to detect North Korean drones. (Global Times)

The U.S. Air Force released a new report envisioning the role that drones will play in the next 25 years. The report, titled RPA Vector, outlines the current operational capabilities of the Air Force and the challenges that accompany a strategic refocusing on the Asia-Pacific region. (AF News)

Popular quadcopter drone maker DJI has unveiled a drone with an in-built air traffic control system. The system prevents the drone from flying into restricted airspace, such as airports, and allows the operator to set altitude and range limits in order to comply with FAA regulations. (The Verge)

Researchers at RMIT University are working with the Australian Department of Defense to develop bio-inspired drones that can ride thermals in order to conserve energy and fly longer. (Gizmag)

Mapbox has put together a step-by-step guide for how to create 3-D mapping imagery from images collected by a drone.

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