Weekly Roundup 1/13/20

January 6, 2019 – January 12, 2020

At the Center

At Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Center for the Study of the Drone Co-Director Dan Gettinger offers a summary of recent drone operations in Iraq.

Top Stories

An alleged drone strike in Afghanistan’s Herat province killed the leader of a breakaway Taliban group. According to local officials and residents who spoke with Stars and Stripes, multiple civilians were among those killed in the strike. A NATO spokesperson confirmed that an air strike had been conducted in the area with U.S. participation, but did not provide additional details.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has established a task force to investigate the series of mysterious drone sightings in Colorado and Nebraska. The task force is comprised of representatives from the FAA, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the Air Force, and state and local law enforcement agencies. More than 70 officials from various agencies gathered last week in rural Colorado to coordinate efforts. (NPR)

The U.S. Army has reportedly cancelled a $162 million contract for the Squad Multipurpose Equipment Transport, a robotic cargo mule. The Army awarded General Dynamics Land Systems the contract in October, but a competitor filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office. According to National Defense Magazine, the Army decided to terminate the contract and re-start the bidding process ahead of a GAO decision.

Know Your Drone

U.S. drone maker Autel Robotics unveiled the EVO II family of foldable quadrotor camera drones. (The Verge)

U.S. firm Robotic Research unveiled the Pegasus Mini, a hybrid multirotor drone and unmanned ground vehicle. (Jane’s)

Drone maker UAVOS unveiled a heavy cargo drone based on the Robinson R-22 helicopter. (Shephard Media)

Aerospace and defense firm Ten Tech unveiled the Huracán Multi-Purpose Aerial Drone, an aerial sensor testbed quadcopter based on the DJI Phantom 4. (Unmanned Systems Technology)

An unmanned undersea vehicle developed by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution autonomously collected an ocean sample near a volcano off the Greek coast. It is the first autonomous sample collection by a UUV. (UPI)

Security firm Dynamite Global Strategies unveiled the V6000T, a vehicle-mounted electronic warfare system for countering drones and IEDs. (Unmanned Systems Technology)

U.S. firm Sunflower Labs unveiled the Sunflower Home Awareness System, which incorporates an autonomous surveillance drone and a charging station. (TechCrunch)

Japanese startup FPV Robotics unveiled the Waver, an amphibious octocopter drone designed for infrastructure inspections. (TechCrunch)

Saudi Arabian Military Industries announced that it is developing an exportable counter-drone system capable of hard and soft kill interdiction against large and small drones. (DefenseNews)

Meanwhile, Israel’s Defense Ministry announced that it is developing a laser-based system for countering drones, rockets, and other aerial threats. (DefenseNews)

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency launched the Sea Trains program, which seeks to develop systems for linking four or more unmanned surface vessels that can travel in tandem for thousands of miles. (Defense One)

Northrop Grumman completed testing of a deploy & retrieval system that can launch the AQS-24 mine hunting sonar from an unmanned surface vessel. (AUVSI)

Drones at Work

The Colorado Department of Public Safety has launched an advanced surveillance aircraft as part of the investigation into the mysterious drone sightings over Colorado. (ABC News)

Authorities in Colorado are investigating after a drone was spotted in “dangerous proximity” to a medical helicopter. (CNN)

Tokyo’s Metropolitan Police Department announced that it will deploy counter-drone systems at all 24 venues in this year’s Olympic and Paralympic Games. (San Francisco Chronicle)

The U.K. Ministry of Defence has delayed the development timeline for its experimental swarming drone unit. (Jane’s)

Brazil’s navy announced that it will field Boeing Insitu ScanEagle surveillance drones from its Niterói-class frigates and Amazonas-class offshore patrol vessels. (Jane’s)

The U.K.’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch concluded an investigation into the crash of a police multirotor drone in Norwich last summer, finding that it was the result of a product defect. (BBC)

U.S. beer maker Dock Street Brewing unveiled a line of beer brewed with an autonomous drone assisting in several stages of the process. (Craft Brewing Business)

Industry Intel

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the state will invest $9 million to establish a drone test facility at Griffiss International Airport. (Times Telegram)

The U.S. Army awarded QinetiQ North America and Textron contracts for prototypes of the Robotic Combat Vehicle, an armed unmanned ground vehicle. (DefenseNews)

Kratos Defense & Security Solutions has been awarded a $6 million contract for high performance jet powered target drones. (Press Release)

Peraton announced that has been awarded four task orders valued at $27.5 million related to unmanned undersea vehicles for the U.S. Navy. (Press Release)

The Bahamas awarded Swift Tactical Systems a $17 million contract for 55 short- and medium-range drones for various government departments and agencies. (Aviation International Online)

Elroy Air, a startup that specializes in large cargo drones, has partnered with EmbraerX, the U.S.-based experimental technologies division of the jet manufacturer Embraer. (Air Cargo World)

The City of Covington, Virginia and drone firm Aeronyde have partnered to use drones for infrastructure surveys and to improve public safety services. (WDBJ7)

Russia’s Kazan University announced that it is working with TNG Group to use drones to conduct geological surveys for the hydrocarbon industry. (Press Release)

Drone repair firm Fortress UAV has partnered with Doosan Mobility Innovation, a South Korean subsidiary of Doosan Group that is working on hydrogen fuel for commercial drones. (Dallas Innovates)

Counter-drone firm WhiteFox has partnered with BlueForce and EXO Tactik to conduct a year-long trial of drone security systems at YUL Montréal-Trudeau International Airport. (Press Release)

Irish drone startup Manna announced has partnered with Cubic Telecom to conduct trials of drone deliveries from restaurants to homes. (Silicon Republic)

DroneUp announced that the State of South Dakota has awarded it a contract for drone services for state and local agencies and departments. (AUVSI)

Commentary, Analysis, and Art

A report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that the FAA could make better use of the data collected at drone test sites. (GAO)

At the Voice of San Diego, Jared Whitlock writes that local public safety agencies appear to be unwilling to share information about their drone programs. Center co-director Dan Gettinger provided commentary for this story.

At Jane’s, Andreas Rupprecht and Samuel Cranny-Evans write that China’s army and national police appear to be making greater use of small drones.

At ABC News, Clayton Sandell and Jeffrey Cook examine the abundance of conspiracy theories that have emerged from the mysterious drone sightings in Colorado and Nebraska.

At Snopes, Dan Evon writes that a video purporting to show the U.S. drone strike that killed Qassem Soleimani was, in fact, a fake.

At the Forum on the Arms Trade, Rachel Stohl examines the risks posed to international agreements governing the transfer and use of armed drones in 2020.

At AOPA, Jim Moore writes that the FAA’s proposed Remote ID rule generated over 1,000 comments within three days of its publication.

At Popular Mechanics, Sarah Derouin looks at how researchers are proposing to use drones to identify unexploded missiles and bombs.

A study published in the Lancet Global Health found that motorcycle deliveries in West Africa were more cost-effective than short-range drones, but that longer-range drones could have financial advantages.