Weekly Roundup 5/27

Former LAPD Commissioner and current NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton in 2009. In a hearing last week in New York City, Bratton expressed an interest in acquiring drones. Credit: Los Angeles Times

Former LAPD Commissioner and current NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton (far left) in 2009. In a hearing last week in New York City, Bratton expressed an interest in acquiring drones for the NYPD. Credit: Los Angeles Times

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News

The U.S. Senate confirmed the appointment of former Department of Justice official David Barron to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. Barron’s appointment was temporarily derailed when it became known that he co-authored at least one of the memos authorizing the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen, in a 2011 drone strike in Yemen. The American Civil Liberties Union and several U.S. senators opposed the appointment and deplored the lack of transparency surrounding drone strikes. (MSNBC)

Meanwhile, the White House may soon release the controversial memos that justified the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki. Two unnamed officials within the Obama administration told the Associated Press that the Justice Department likely won’t challenge a U.S. Court of Appeals decision that requires the release of the memos.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau reported that  on March 19 a commercial aircraft narrowly missed what is believed to have been a small drone. According to ABC News, the plane’s crew spotted the object and made evasive maneuvers, avoiding it by just 20 meters. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority has opened an investigation into the incident.

The Louisiana State Senate passed a bill that includes a provision prohibiting the operation of drones over chemical or nuclear plants. According to the proposed legislation, violators could face a $500 fine or a six-month jail sentence. The clause was attached to a bill that outlaws pointing lasers at manned aircraft. The new rules are the state’s first drone laws. (Times-Picayune)

A report from the House of Representatives suggests that the Federal Aviation Administration may not be sufficiently prepared to regulate domestic drone use. As a result, the House Appropriations Committee is prepared to allocate $10.9 million to researching unmanned aerial vehicles, $2 million more than the F.A.A. initially asked for. According to Jason Koebler at Motherboard, Congress appears worried that the F.A.A. will miss its own deadlines for integrating drones in the national airspace.

In a hearing at the New York City Council Public Safety Committee, Commissioner Bill Bratton said that the NYPD is considering experimenting with drones. The city has budgeted $500,000 for microphones attached to surveillance cameras to trace gunshots, a program that Bratton said could, in the future, incorporate unmanned aerial vehicles. “I’m supportive of the concept of drones, not only for police but for public safety in general,” said Bratton. (New York Daily News)

Commentary, Analysis and Art

Roma Drone, a convention of drone manufacturers and hobbyists, was held last week in Italy.

At the Center for a New American Security, Paul Scharre published “Robotics on the Battlefield – Part 1: Range, Persistence and Daring,”which examines the unmanned systems that operate successfully in contested environments.

On the one-year anniversary of President Obama’s major counterterrorism policy speech at National Defense University, Micah Zenko at the Council on Foreign Relations compiles a list of commentary on the administration’s targeted killing campaign.

In the Washington Post, Sen. Bob Corker, R-TN argues that Congress must revise the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force. “Both the Obama and Bush administrations have stretched the resolution’s authority well beyond its words,” writes Mr. Corker.

Meanwhile, at Just Security blog, Harold Koh argues for an end to the “forever war” and an eventual repeal of the AUMF.

At War on the Rocks blog, Andrew Metrick examines the significance of the debate over the U.S. Navy’s unmanned stealth fighter drone program.

The National Post interviewed Matt DeHart, a former drone pilot and member of the hacker collective Anonymous.

At the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Alice Ross and Jack Serle show that most U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan hit private homes.

At The New Yorker, Ian Crouch remarks on the prominent role that drones play in the new season of “24,” a television series about counter-terrorism. “The new ‘24’ is making a more nuanced argument: now the United States’ vulnerability stems from its very obsession with security,” writes Crouch.

Meanwhile, the Daily Beast’s Andrew Romano considers why Hollywood produces predominantly negative portrayals of drones.

elevenplay, a Japanese dance group, uses three drones in a performance in Tokyo. (YouTube)

Hausfrau Magazine editor Stephen Kosloff describes being hit in the head by a flying drone at a recent Gizmodo party in New York. Kosloff concludes that “drones make bad party toys.” (The Awl)

And in the latest issue of her home-making magazine, Martha Stewart reveals that she owns a drone. “I love getting overhead shots of the gardens and livestock,” she writes. (Yahoo!)

Know Your Drone

CNN has put together a step-by-step guide for creating beautiful aerial drone footage.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have coupled a quadcopter drone with Google’s Tango 3-D computer vision software. The system allows the drone to navigate 3-D environments without direct input from a human being. (Tech Crunch)

Motherboard’s H.F. Bhojani takes a tour of UPenn’s Grasp Laboratory, which is developing small quadcopter drones that are able to autonomously swarm in complex formations.

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