Weekend Roundup 7/21

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News Trending Now

In Pakistan, a U.S. drone strike killed 2 suspected Taliban militants, while a Pakistani Air Force strike killed an additional 17. The Pakistani government, which has been protesting against U.S. drone operations in Pakistan, did not coordinate its strike with the U.S. (Reuters)

As the U.S. military scales back land operations in the Middle East, Navy SEALs are returning to their origins as a sea-based force, and they are developing new underwater drones to accompany their shift in operational focus. (U.S. News)

In the Philippines, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has announced plans to use drones to monitor illegal logging in Mindanao Province, but militant groups in the area claimed that the program was in fact intended to conduct surveillance on their members. (Inquirer)

The French military is preparing to purchase 12 Reaper drones from General Atomics, the San Diego based maker of the Reaper and the Predator. The U.S. Congress, which must approve major arms deals, has not raised objections to the proposed transaction. (Huffington Post)

The town of Deer Trail in Colorado is considering an ordinance that would license local residents to hunt drones for bounty. “Whereas, many Western communities in rural America provide monetary incentives (bounties) for the killing of predators that are injurious to Man and his interests,” reads the ordinance, “the Town of Deer Trail likewise establishes hunting licenses and bounties for the killing of unmanned aerial vehicles, in keeping with the Western traditions of sovereignty and freedom.” (Forbes)

In response to the news of the Deer Trail ordinance, the Federal Air Administration released a statement warning the public not to fire weapons at drones, explaining that firing upon aircraft, manned or unmanned, can result in fines or prosecution. (Christian Science Monitor)

The Washington Post reports that the American military is shifting the focus of its unmanned aerial vehicles to hotspots around the globe other than Pakistan and Yemen.

A federal judge in Washington, D.C. heard a Freedom of Information Act case brought by the family of Anwar al-Aulaki, the U.S. Islamic cleric who was killed in a drone strike in Yemen in 2011, against Leon Panetta, the former Secretary of Defense. Judge Rosemary M. Collyer said she was “troubled” by the Obama administration’s stance that the courts have no oversight in the ability of the government to kill American citizens. (New York Times) The Lawfare Blog has compiled the materials of the case.

The U.S. military has started giving away American flags that have flown on Predator drones as souvenirs. (Washington Post)

Russia intends to buy “at least two” drones made by Adcom Systems, a company based in the United Arab Emirates. Each drone costs between $20 and $30 million. (The National)

BT, a British telecommunications giant, is accused by human rights groups for assisting deadly American drone operations in Yemen and Somalia. (Herald Scotland)

In the race for FAA-approved drone test sites, officials in Indiana argue that the climate in their state makes the state an especially good candidate for a test site. (Indiana Public Media)

A road sign in California that warned drivers of drone-enforced speed limits has been declared a fake by state officials. (CBS News)

Commentary, Analysis and Art

In an Op-Ed for the New York Times, Nassar al-Awlaki demands answers for the drone strike that killed his son, Anwar al-Aulaki, and 16 year old grandson, Abdulrahman al-Aulaki. “A country,” he writes, “that believes it does not even need to answer for killing its own is not the America I once knew.”

The American Civil Liberties Union reports that there have been minor improvements during the past year in the U.S. government’s transparency with respect to its drone operations.

Daniel Markey at Foreign Affairs Magazine advises the American government on how to forge a fresh pact on drones with the newly-elected government in Pakistan.

Lisa Curtis at the Heritage Foundation argues that “Pakistan makes drones necessary.” “until Islamabad cracks down more aggressively on groups attacking U.S. interests in the region and beyond,” she writes, “drones will remain an essential tool for fighting global terrorism.”

Chris Griffith at The Australian writes about the privacy headaches domestic drones pose to lawmakers in Australia. “There is concern about the number of commercial drones already operating in the sky illegally,” he writes, “and the apparent failure of authorities to police them.”

Charles Krauthammer, a political columnist, predicted on Fox News  that “the first guy who uses a Second Amendment weapon to bring a drone down that’s hovering over his house is gonna be a folk hero in this country.” (The Atlantic)

Know Your Drone

Lehmann Aviation, a French UAV manufacturer, has attached the new Nokia Lumia 1020 smartphone, which has an extremely high resolution camera, to an autonomous fixed-wing drone, creating the first “smartphone drone.” (Good Gear Guide)

The University of Queensland has developed two disposable, biodegradable autonomous drone prototypes that are designed to help monitor forest fires. One of the prototypes, which researchers have named the Samara, is inspired by the shape of a maple seed. (Gizmag)

After its first two successful aircraft carrier landings, the X-47B failed its third and fourth landing attempts.  On one of the two attempts, “Salty Dog 501,” as the X-47B prototype which was being used for the tests is called, aborted its landing after it self-detected a minor anomaly with its navigational computer.

A QF-4 drone crashed near Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida. While nobody was hurt, the crash resulted in the closure of part of Florida’s Panhandle Highway. The QF-4, which is in fact a Phantom fighter jet that has been modified to be flown remotely, is used by the Air Force for target practice. (Air Force Times)

Rounding out a week of drone failures, the German newspaper Bild released footage of a German Heron drone speeding out of control and eventually crashing into a parked aircraft as it taxied through an airfield in Afghanistan. If one looks carefully, one will notice several men running away from the drone to avoid being struck.

At the Center for the Study of the Drone

Our “Intern-in-Chief” Naomi LaChance reports on the failure of the mass media to develop a clear vocabulary to report on drones. The result, she argues, is an ineffective, imprecise public debate. “Drones are so closely associated with the military,” writes LaChance, “that the media doesn’t seem to know how to respond to their non-military uses.”

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(Photo: Queensland University’s Samara Drone, which is inspired by the shape of maple seeds. Credit: University of Queensland)

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