Weekly Roundup 5/21/18

U.S. Marines recover an RQ-21A Blackjack during an exercise in Rena, Norway last week. Credit: Sgt. Joselyn Jimenez

May 14, 2018 – May 20, 2018

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At the Center

In an interview with National Defense Magazine, Center for the Study of the Drone co-director Dan Gettinger discusses the reasons behind U.S. Special Operations Command’s growing spending on a variety of small unmanned aircraft.

Top Stories

Mark Anderson, a former employee of AeroVironment, is suing the military drone maker for allegedly covering up an incident in which, according to the plaintiff, another employee transported a drone armed with explosives aboard a commercial airliner on a domestic U.S. flight. Anderson says that he was fired for reporting the incident to the Department of Defense. (Bloomberg)

In testimony before the U.S. Senate Homeland Security Committee, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen said that the Department of Homeland Security needs new authorities to track and disable drones that pose a threat to public safety. A number of U.S. Department of Defense facilities already have authority to disable intruding unmanned aircraft. (Reuters)

The U.S. Navy has disbanded an office dedicated to overseeing drone development projects. In an April memo, a Navy official said that the office of the deputy assistant secretary for unmanned systems, which was established in 2015, has fulfilled its mission. (Inside Defense)

According to Gizmodo, multiple employees at Google have resigned over the company’s involvement in Project Maven, a U.S. military program that applies artificial intelligence to aerial footage from drones.

Know Your Drone

A Russian deputy defense minister announced that the Russian military is evaluating four new types of drones, including a strike system. (Jane’s)

Researchers at MIT have developed a virtual reality system to train drones to avoid obstacles. (Press Release)

Meanwhile, another team at MIT has developed an unmanned glider that can both fly and travel along the surface of the water like a sailboat. (Press Release)

In an exercise in California, an autonomous UH-1H helicopter called the Autonomous Aerial Cargo Utility System made a successful cargo delivery to a contingent of Marines in a remote area. (Unmanned Systems Technology)

French robot maker TECDRON unveiled the Sentinel, an unmanned ground vehicle designed for use by firefighters and emergency responders. (Shephard News)

Danish firm MyDefence has developed a wearable drone detection device for special operations forces. (Shephard News)

Israel’s Defense Ministry announced that it has developed a multirotor drone designed to drop malodorant on protesters. (The Jerusalem Post)

YouTube creators deDrone built a drone out of pizza crust. (Motherboard)

Drones at Work

Authorities in Mecca are planning to use drones to monitor the crowds at this year’s Ramazan at Al-Haram Mosque. (Geo News)

Firefighters in New Mexico used a drone to help find a group of hikers who had become stranded in Otero Canyon. (ABC News)

Hong Kong’s Civil Aviation Department has said that it received 60 complaints against drone operators in 2017, an uptick from 2016. (South China Morning Post)

Southend Airport in the U.K. tested a drone detection system for identifying rogue drones and locating their operators. (BBC)

The Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency in California has begun using drones to monitor communities with high crime rates. (CBS Sacramento)

U.S. firm Workhorse Group is launching its drone delivery pilot program in Loveland, Ohio. (Freight Waves)

A Czech drone services firm announced that it has mapped Asia’s largest copper mine in Mongolia. (Drone Life)

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration announced that it is establishing new restrictions on civilian drone use over three naval facilities around the country. (Press Release)

Researchers at Phetchaburi Rajabhat University are testing drones equipped with speakers to drive wild elephants away from built-up areas. (The Nation)

Ada County in Idaho has adopted an ordinance restricting the use of drones in the community. (Idaho Press-Tribune)

U.S. utility company CPS Energy has begun using drones to conduct routine infrastructure inspections. (T&D World)

Industry Intel

The U.S. Air Force awarded General Atomics Aeronautical Systems a $206 million contract to upgrade 122 MQ-9 Reaper drones with extended range capabilities and new communications kits. (Military Aerospace)

The U.S. General Services Administration announced that it intends to award General Atomics Aeronautical Systems a $46.1 million contract for support services for the MQ-9 Reaper. (FBO)

The U.S. Navy awarded Northrop Grumman a $45 million contract for materials and parts for the MQ-4C Triton. (DoD)

The U.S. Defense Logistics Agency awarded L3 Technologies a $9.2 million contract for unmanned aerial vehicle spare parts. (DoD)

Alta Devices will supply solar technology for the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory’s Hybrid Tiger drone. (Naval Technology)

Sierra Nevada Corporation will join a team led by Dynetics to execute Phase 3 of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Gremlins drone swarms program. (C4ISRNET)

Insitu announced that it will partner with the University of Alaska Fairbanks for the FAA’s UAS Integration Pilot Program. (Shephard News)

The U.S. Department of Interior awarded four U.S companies contracts for contractor-operated drone services to support fire operations, search and rescue, and emergency management. (DOI)

Israeli drone firm Airobotics has partnered with RockBlast to provide inspection drones to the mining industry in Chile. (Shephard News)

Robot Aviation partnered with telecommunications firm Telenor and the Andoya Space Center to create a test site for using drones for emergency response in Svalbard, Norway. (Unmanned Systems Technology)

Drone services firm PrecisionHawk has partnered with Hazon Solutions, a Virginia-based company that provides drones for infrastructure inspection. (Commercial Drone Professional)

Saildrone, a U.S. startup that builds unmanned surface vehicles for environmental monitoring, raised $60 million in a Series B funding round. (Unmanned Systems Technology)

Stock prices for military drone makers AeroVironment and Kratos Defense and Security Solutions dropped due to legal trouble and weak first-quarter sales. (Barron’s)

Commentary, Analysis, and Art

At the Los Angeles Times, Thomas Black writes that the price of commercial drone services has plummeted due to intense competition and consolidation in the industry.

A new report by Drone Wars UK looks at the growing number of countries that are developing or using armed drones.

At the Drive, Joseph Trevithick writes that the U.S. Marine Corps’ RQ-21 Blackjack drones are flying more than expected in Iraq and Syria.

Also at the Drive, Tyler Rogoway looks at the ways that Israel used small drones during the Gaza protests.

In a podcast at the Center for a New American Security, Paul Scharre and Michael Horowitz discuss the Trump administration’s new drone export policy.

Fox4News reports that city officials in Dallas are evaluating whether drones might be a better buy for the police department than a new manned helicopter.

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