Weekly Roundup 2/24

The Fendi Drone Cam. Credit: Fendi
The Fendi Drone Cam. Credit: Fendi

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At the Center for the Study of the Drone

On February 4, we held “Rules of Engagement: The Legal, Ethical and Moral Challenges of the Long War,” a panel discussion featuring Charles Blanchard, former general counsel of the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army; Robert Grenier, former director of the CIA Counterterrorism Center and Kenneth Anderson, professor of law at Washington College of Law. Here’s the transcript.

Russia has announced a new plan to accelerate its acquisition of military drones. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told reporters that Russia plans to spend $9 billion on unmanned systems by 2020. Russia currently imports drones from a number of countries including Israel and the United Arab Emirates. (Defense News)

In an interview with Defense News, Senator John McCain (Republican-Arizona) vowed to push a stalled initiative to transfer of drone operations from the CIA to the Department of Defense.

Pedro Rivera, a journalist and drone hobbyist based in Connecticut, is filing a complaint with the Hartford Police Department. Rivera claims that his First and Fourth Amendment rights were violated when officers confronted him for flying his drone over the scene of a fatal car accident. Rivera was suspended for a week from his job at WFSB radio station while police further investigated the incident. (Motherboard)

A Las Vegas-based law firm has launched a practice devoted to legal issues related to the development and use of drones. Fennemore Craig Jones Vargas follows Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP, a New York law firm that was the first to set up a drone law practice late last year. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

An 18-year-old man will appear in a French court for using a drone to create an aerial video of the city of Nancy. In this unprecedented case, Nans Thomas will be tried for “endangering the lives of others.” (Huffington Post)

Meanwhile, a member of the French Foreign Legion was arrested for flying a small drone around the Eiffel Tower. (Europe 1)

The U.S. Air Force is experimenting with electrical charges as a way to stimulate the brains of drone pilots during long shifts, according to The Boston Globe. “We found that people who receive the stimulation are performing consistently,” said R. Andy McKinley, a researcher leading the study at Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.

Commentary, Analysis and Art

At Foreign Affairs, Sarah Kreps and Micah Zenko contend that armed drones lower the threshold for the use of force, and argue that international proliferation of lethal drone technology “could seriously threaten international security.” As an early adopter of lethal drones, the U.S. “must take the lead in regulating their use and export,” argue Kreps and Zenko.

At The Daily Show, Jon Stewart says that the targeting killing of U.S. citizens is President Obama’s “aerial citizen reduction programs.”

U.K. news service Channel 4 News examines activity-based intelligence, a data management methodology that allows intelligence officers to identify patterns of human behavior among massive volumes of information collected by drones.

Human Rights Watch released a report on a December U.S. drone strike in Yemen. According to witnesses interviewed by the rights organization, the strike hit a convoy heading to a wedding, killing up to 12 civilians. The authors of the report call on the U.S. to conduct an investigation into the strike.

In an op-ed for The Huffington Post, Representative Alan Grayson, an outspoken critic of U.S. targeted killing policies, welcomes the news that drone strikes in Pakistan have declined in recent months.

At Foreign Policy, Sarah Knuckey argues that the debate on drones has reached a stalemate. “At this point, it almost feels scripted,” writes Knuckey.

Open Source Imagery Geospatial Intelligence blog posted a satellite photo of what appears to be a MiG Skat—Russia’s most advanced drone—at a range northwest of Moscow.

At Forbes, Loren Thompson criticizes the Pentagon’s decision to phase out the manned U-2 spy plane in favor of the Global Hawk drone.

At Politico, Kevin Robillard argues that the FAA is on the verge of losing regulatory control of the burgeoning domestic drone market and the increasing use of drones for commercial ventures.

At The Atlantic, Rachel Feltman explains why drones are the “future of sports photography.”

Italian fashion house Fendi will be providing a live aerial video stream of the Milan Fashion Week via drone. (The Guardian)

At The Diplomat’s Flashpoints blog, Andrew Kwon predicts that South Korea will invest heavily in unmanned systems and automated weapons as its aging population struggles to maintain the country’s military manpower.

Welsh-born singer John Langford’s new song “Drone Operator,” from his upcoming album Here Be Monsters, is a first-person-perspective on drone warfare. “So don’t call me a coward, I know what is allowed /I’m like a god with a thunderbolt sitting on a big white cloud./I’m a drone operator, with targets to scan./I sit drinking coffee, with one eye on the ground in the tribal lands.”

Know Your Drone

A Syrian rebel living in Turkey is building a remote-controlled robot that retrieves victims of sniper fire. Ahmad Haidar, a computer programmer and former member of a group of rebel hackers, was inspired to create the armored, unmanned ground vehicle after he witnessed a failed attempt to rescue a woman shot by a sniper in Aleppo. (The Guardian)

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is holding a conference to initiate the development of airspace management systems that will allow the military to deploy both manned and unmanned aircraft side by side in complex configurations. (Popular Science)

Dutch engineers have developed what they claim is the smallest and lightest autonomous drone with flapping wings ever made. The DelFly Explorer weighs 20 grams and can remain airborne for nine minutes. (Business Insider)

Researchers at Virginia Tech are studying how bats fly in the hopes of eventually developing microdrones that use bat-like wings for flight. (Science Recorder)

Brazil has announced that it will deploy a fleet of unmanned bomb disposal ground drones at the upcoming World Cup. (Robohub)

Korea Aerospace Industries has started taking orders for its Devil Killer drone, a 1.5m-long unmanned aerial vehicle that can loiter over a target for several hours before converting itself into a precision guided bomb. (IHS Janes)

Researchers at the University of Texas NanoTech Institute are developing powerful robot muscles out of fishing line. (iO9)

The General Atomics Avenger, a weaponized medium-altitude drone with a 1,800-mile range, is operationally ready, according to Wired.com. The Avenger’s long range could theoretically permit the U.S. to continue its targeted killing campaign in Pakistan after the troop withdrawal from Afghanistan at the end of the year.

Starting this summer, the United States Navy will equip ships with lasers and electromagnetic rail guns to counter asymmetric threats like drone swarms. (Real Clear Defense)

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