Weekly Roundup 11/19/18

A computer-generated image of the Aurora Flight Sciences Odysseus solar-powered drone. Credit: Aurora/YouTube

November 12, 2018 – November 18, 2018

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Top Stories

An investigation by the Associated Press has estimated that approximately one-third of individuals killed in U.S. drone strikes in Yemen in 2018 were civilians. Figures compiled by AP and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism also suggest that the number of drone strikes in Yemen increased under the Trump administration.

The government of Australia has selected the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems MQ-9 Reaper for its air force. In a statement, Defence Minister Christopher Pyne said that Australia would buy between 12 and 16 Reapers that will be scheduled to enter into service by 2022. It is the first sale of the strike-capable U.S. drones to a country in the Asia-Pacific region. (9 News)

In an audit of the the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s process for issuing waivers to drone users for certain operations that are otherwise prohibited under the current regulations, the Agency’s Office of Inspector General found that the FAA is struggling to manage the volume of requests it is receiving. The Office of Inspector General has issued eight recommendations for improvements to the waiver process. (Unmanned Aerial)

Aurora Flight Sciences unveiled a high-altitude solar-powered drone designed to stay aloft for up to three months. The Odysseus has a 74-meter-long wingspan and is slated to begin flight tests in Puerto Rico in February 2019. Aurora is a Virginia-based subsidiary of Boeing that specializes in unmanned and autonomous systems. (Aviation Week)

The U.K. Ministry of Defense launched Autonomous Warrior 2018, a large military exercise for robots and unmanned systems technology. The month-long exercise will test different prototype unmanned vehicles, with one of the main events being an evaluation of autonomous resupply vehicles. (Press Release)

Know Your Drone

Belorussian firm Belspetsvneshtechnika unveiled a production-ready model of the Centaur, an armed unmanned ground vehicle. (Jane’s)

Chinese firm Zhongbang Intelligent Technology unveiled a prototype for the Marine Lizard, an armed unmanned amphibious vehicle. (Jane’s)

A team from Wageningen University has developed a winged micro-drone whose motion is modeled on the flight behavior of insects. (The Telegraph)

Chinese consumer drone startup Zero Zero Robotics unveiled the Hover 2, a lightweight autonomous multirotor camera drone. (CNET)

The U.S Marine Corps Rapid Capabilities Office has issued a Request for Information for technologies to build robots that can carry soldiers’ packs in operations. (FBO)

China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation has completed development of the AR-1B, a guided missile for use aboard combat drones. (Jane’s)

Estonian firm SKYCORP unveiled the e-Drone Zero, a hydrogen-powered quadcopter drone. (Unmanned Systems Technology)

Meanwhile, Singapore-based firm HES Energy Systems unveiled the HYCOPTER, a hydrogen-electric drone for commercial applications. (Press Release)

U.S. contractor Kratos Defense & Security Solutions has acknowledged four new development programs for tactical jet-powered drones. (FlightGlobal)

A team from the the Korea Institute of Science and Technology has developed a new high-density lithium metal ion battery that could significantly enhance the performance of small electric drones. (Unmanned Systems Technology)

French dronemaker Parrot unveiled the Parrot Bluegrass Fields, a drone system for precision agriculture operations. (Unmanned Aerial Online)

The U.S. Navy has begun licensing the design of the Nomad, a tube-launched rotary drone. (New Atlas)

Researchers at the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture have developed a thermal camera-equipped drone that can collect images to assess the health of lambs among large flocks of sheep. (ABC)

Drones at Work

The Royal Australian Navy is hosting a military exercise for maritime unmanned vehicles, including dozens of aerial drones and unmanned boats. (DST)

The Board of Supervisors of Upper Bern Township in Pennsylvania has repealed an ordinance prohibiting the use of drones over other people’s private property after a state bill that permits such operations was passed and put into effect. (Reading Eagle) For more on local drone laws, click here.

German car parts maker ZF has received approval to use drones to deliver components around its factory premises. (Digital Trends)

Satellite imagery from earlier this month appears to show a Divine Eagle high-altitude long-endurance drone at Malan air base in Xinjiang, China. (Jane’s)

Japanese mobile phone carrier KDDI is planning to begin using drones to search for missing hikers during the upcoming climbing season on Mt. Fuji. (The Japan Times)

The U.S. Department of Transportation has announced that it is launching an audit of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability, which enables drone operators to obtain rapid approval for a range of low-risk drone operations. (AV Web)

The government of Laos has launched a registration program for commercial drone operations. (The Nation)

The Greater Manchester Police in the U.K is launching a drone program for a range of operations, including potentially tracking criminal suspects. (The Daily Star)

Sergej Miaun was convicted of making an unsafe drone flight, the first such conviction in the U.K, following an incident in which Miaun’s drone flew ‘narrowly underneath’ a police helicopter searching for missing woman. (The Independent)

The government of Australia has amended two standing federal laws in order to establish penalties for drone use near or over prisons and juvenile detention facilities. (iTnews)

Industry Intel

Google parent company Alphabet will shut down Schaft, a Tokyo-based subsidiary that sought to develop bipedal robots. (Nikkei Asian Review)

South Korea awarded Northrop Grumman a contract to provide logistical support for the RQ-4 Global Hawks that are expected to be delivered to its Air Force next year. (UPI)

Bulgaria’s VMZ Sopot has reportedly partnered with Israel’s Aeronautics to produce drones. (Reuters)

Ukrainian Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak denied a report from earlier this month that Ukraine had agreed to purchase the Turkish-made Bayraktar-TB2 drone. (Defence Blog)

U.K. startup Animal Dynamics raised more than $7 million to build autonomous military robots in a Series A round led by Oxford Sciences Innovation. (Drone Below)

Indonesia is re-starting a process for acquiring a medium-altitude long-endurance military drone after disagreements over production and funding, among other issues. (Jane’s)

A report by the Russian Ministry of Defense states that it has acquired over 1,800 unmanned aircraft over the past six years. (Infodron.es)

Israel’s Elbit Systems announced that it has been awarded a $167 million contract to provide drones to an unnamed country in the Asia-Pacific region. (Times of Israel)

Commentary, Analysis, and Art

An investigation by Maggie Michael and Maad al-Zikry at the Associated Press examines how a U.S. drone strike mistakenly killed several Yemeni civilians earlier this year.

At The New York Times Magazine, Kelsey D. Atherton explores the implications of lethal autonomous weapon systems.

At Small Wars Journal, Doug Livermore considers the risks associated with competing visions of how autonomous weapons will be used on the battlefield.

In a report for the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, George Woodhams and John Borrie consider the implications of armed drones for inter-state conflict escalation. (PDF)

A report by Peter Burt at Drone Wars UK examines the ways in which the British Ministry of Defence is prioritizing the development of autonomous weapons.

A report by the U.S. Congressional Research Service examines how the combination of robotics and artificial intelligence could transform military operations.

A report by Johanna Polle at the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg examines the proliferation of larger military drones in Europe. (PDF)

At Wired, Eric Niiler looks into the ways in which police can extract user data from commercial drones.

At Jane’s, Michael Fabey describes how the U.S. Navy is pushing to accelerate the development of unmanned maritime systems.

At Inside Defense, Rachel Cohen examines whether the U.S. Air Force could be retooling the MQ-9 Reaper to fight in high-end conflicts. Center Co-director Dan Gettinger was interviewed for this story.

At War on the Rocks, Andrea Gilli and Mauro Gilli argue that it is unlikely that China has closed the gap with the U.S. in terms of drone technology.

At Lawfare, Asfandyar Mir examines the relationship between civilian harm and counter-terrorism strategy in U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan.

At Defense News, Jen Judson writes that U.S. robot maker Endeavor is eyeing contracts for future Army robot programs.

At the Hindustan Times, Shishir Gupta writes that a potential deal to acquire Predator drones is a top priority during Indian Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s visit to the U.S. in December.

At USNI News, Megan Eckstein looks at how the U.S. Navy is exploring ways of enabling submarines to launch unmanned undersea vehicles.

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