Weekly Roundup 7/16/18

Project Wing delivery drones. Credit: Project Wing/Alphabet

July 9, 2018 – July 15, 2018

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Top Stories

A U.S. Air Force maintenance manual for the MQ-9 Reaper drone was reportedly stolen by an unidentified hacker and posted for sale on the dark web. According to the cybersecurity firm Recorded Future, the manual was burgled from the home Internet network of an Air Force captain. The theft did not appear to be the work of a foreign power. In a statement, an Air Force spokesperson said that it is investigating the incident. (Wall Street Journal)

Alphabet, the parent company of Google, has created a new independent drone delivery business. Project Wing, which previously built and tested delivery drones under Alphabet’s X unit, will graduate from a research experiment to a business akin to Waymo, the self-driving car firm. Alphabet simultaneously created a company from a separate X project that seeks to use unmanned balloons to provide Internet to remote locations. (Bloomberg)

The Israeli military fired on two drones flying from Syria. According to the Israel Defense Forces, the first drone flew six miles into Israeli territory before it was downed by an Israeli missile, while the second drone was likely intercepted as it approached the border. (Associated Press)

Meanwhile, the Israeli military carried out multiple airstrikes in the Gaza Strip. In a statement, the IDF said that the strikes targeted Palestinian groups responsible for launching incendiary kites. According to Palestinian media, at least some of the strikes were carried out by drones. Multiple people are reported to have been injured. (Times of Israel)

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration warned drone users not to trust third-party vendors who offer drone registration services. In a statement, the FAA said that some vendors could charge as much as $150 for submitting drone registrations, which cost $5 to submit personally. (Forbes)

Know Your Drone

The U.K. Royal Air Force has launched a demonstrator project to study how drone swarms could be used to complement manned fighters in denied airspace operations. (Jane’s)

Israeli firm Elbit Systems unveiled the Hermes 900 StarLiner, a medium-altitude long-endurance drone designed for operations in civilian airspace. (Reuters)

The U.S. Navy has issued a request for information for an armed drone that can be used in close range operations. (Jane’s)

Consumer drone startup Airlango launched the Mystic, a foldable quadcopter camera drone. (CNET)

Bulgarian startup Dronamics unveiled the Black Swan, a fixed-wing cargo drone. (The Drive)

The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory has scheduled the first test flights for its XQ-58A Valkyrie, a low-cost combat drone that could be used in tandem with traditional fighter aircraft. (FlightGlobal)

Meanwhile, Russia’s Sukhoi Design Bureau is reportedly planning to begin flight testing its Okhotnik combat drone later this year. (Popular Mechanics)

Swiss startup Drone Harmony unveiled an app that automates drone tower inspection operations. (The Drive)

Researchers from University of Zurich and Intel are developing a delivery drone prototype capable of autonomously navigating complex environments. (New Scientist)

Facebook has confirmed that it recently cancelled an effort to develop a helicopter drone capable of providing cellular service during natural disasters. (The Verge)

A design student at the Royal College of Art has developed a drone that uses air blowers in place of propellers. (Dezeen)

The U.S. Air Force has issued a solicitation for a large four-by-four unmanned ground vehicle and an unmanned motorcycle with a sidecar. (FBO)

Drones at Work

U.S. drone maker General Atomics Aeronautical Systems flew a SkyGuardian drone from North Dakota to Gloucestershire, England, the first transatlantic crossing by a medium-altitude long-endurance drone. (New Atlas)

The U.S. Air Force awarded its first ever “R” device, an award for remotely piloted aircraft, to aircrews from the 432nd Wing at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada. (Air Force Magazine)

The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International has launched an advocacy committee for the maritime unmanned systems industry. (Press Release)

A Connecticut federal court has found a U.S. Navy contractor guilty of stealing trade secrets after he uploaded thousands of documents related to the design of underwater drone prototypes to his personal Dropbox account. (New York Post) For more on the theft of drone trade secrets, click here.

Police in Chiang Rai, Thailand are investigating a Thai TV station’s alleged use of a drone over the recent Wild Boars soccer team cave rescue operation. (The Straits Times)

Officials in Washington State announced that they have observed a spike in incidents involving drones flying near ferries operating in Puget Sound. (KOMO News)

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Oceans Canada are launching five Saildrone unmanned boats to collect data on fish stocks along North America’s west coast. (VC Star)

The Indonesian Navy is establishing an unmanned aircraft squadron to operate the service’s fleet of Boeing Insitu ScanEagle surveillance drones. (Jane’s)

The Vicksburg Police Department in Mississippi has been granted an authorization to operate a drone for public safety missions. (The Vicksburg Post)

A professional drone racer set a new record for the fastest small drone, clocking a Wingcopter XBR at 240 km/h at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. (Press Release)

A photographer in Ireland used a drone to discover a 5,000-year-old monument buried under a field.(The New York Times)

Mountain Rescue Aspen in Colorado used a drone to find a missing hiker. (The Aspen Times)

A man in Oregon crashed his drone after he was jumped on by two dogs. The drone caused a small grassfire that was quickly put out by firefighters. (CBS Los Angeles)

Industry Intel

The U.S. Navy awarded Northrop Grumman Systems a $41.2 million contract modification that increases the ceiling for MQ-4C Triton sustainment and support services. (DoD)

The U.S. Army has selected seven firms to compete for the long and medium-range reconnaissance drone program. (Shephard Media)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded Vector Solutions a $39,292 contract for the DJI Agras MG-1S drone. (FBO)

U.S. Drone maker Kratos Defense & Security Solutions delivered the first production BQM-177A Subsonic Aerial Target drone to the U.S. Navy. (Unmanned Systems Technology)

The government of Japan is reportedly considering acquiring the Northrop Grumman MQ-8C Fire Scout for its Izumo-class amphibious assault ships. (Defence Blog)

AirMap has partnered with Skyguide, a Swiss air navigation firm, to develop a drone traffic management system for Switzerland. (AIN)

Meanwhile, AirMap has partnered with Space53, a Dutch drone test center, to work on a drone traffic management system for the Netherlands. (Press Release)

Indian conglomerate DCM Shriram Industries is establishing India’s first private sector production facility for military unmanned aircraft in Kota. (Hindustan Times)

Spanish utility firm Iberdrola SA invested approximately $586,000 in Arborea Intellbird SL, a drone manufacturer that specializes in utility inspections. (Bloomberg)

Commentary, Analysis, and Art

A report by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point examines the origins, design, and tactics of the Islamic State’s drone program.

In a letter to the editor of The Chicago Tribune, Claude Walker argues that Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s concerns about drone threats are “misplaced.”

Meanwhile, in a letter to the editor of The Washington Post, Marc Rotenberg argues that, in fact, more controls are needed for drones operated by government agencies, not hobbyists.

At the Electronic Frontier Foundation, India McKinney argues that the U.S. Congress should not give the government authority to shoot down privately-owned drones.

At Gizmodo, Sidney Fussell considers whether it may be necessary to take steps to regulate drones operated by law enforcement agencies.

At Motherboard, David Axe writes that a U.S. Air Force effort to develop an improved cockpit for drone pilots likely won’t reduce the moral stress of participating in lethal operations.

The Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies released a policy paper that calls for greater investment into manned-unmanned teaming technologies. (PDF)

At National Defense Magazine, Jon Harper explores the range of potential consequences of the Trump administration’s new drone export policies.

At FlightGlobal, Garrett Reim writes that the loosened export rules may not be enough to give U.S. military drone manufacturers a boost in international sales.

A report by drone firm DroneDeploy finds that there has been an increase in the number of software applications offering drone imagery analysis tools. (datanami)

In an interview at Black Enterprise, Jae S. Brown speaks about how he is working to grow the influence of minority communities within the drone industry.

At CNBC, Mike Juang writes that drone use in the construction industry is growing faster than in other sectors.

At Arutz Sheva 7, Gary Willig reports that at least one of the drones that entered Israeli airspace from Syria had Iranian origins.

At C4ISRNET, Kelsey Atherton looks at what a recent demonstration of a new Belarusian unmanned ground vehicle tells us about its capabilities.

At Defense News, Andrew Chuter writes that U.K. military officials doubt that the technology to build a capable unmanned fighter jet is mature enough.

At Aviation International Online, Chris Pocock writes that Italian defense firm Leonardo has made progress on the Solo unmanned helicopter.

At East Pendulum, Henri Kenhmann investigates reports that a Chinese-made strike-capable drone recently crashed in Yemen.

At The Drive, Joseph Trevithick writes that the commendation of two U.S. Air Force drone units reveals new details about U.S. drone operations.

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