Weekly Roundup 1/14/19

An Aeronautics Orbiter 2 UAV. Credit: MKFI/Wikimedia

January 7, 2018 – January 13, 2019

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Top Stories

A Houthi drone attack during a military parade at a base in southern Yemen killed five Yemeni soldiers and injured more than a dozen others, including several senior officers. A spokesperson for the Houthis told Al Jazeera that the suicide drone was packed with as much as 100 kilograms of explosives. A video released online shortly after the attack showed the drone exploding just above the parade dais.

Reports of a drone sighting briefly interrupted operations at London’s Heathrow International Airport. The interruption comes weeks after reports of drone sightings disrupted operations at nearby Gatwick Airport, resulting in over 1,000 cancelled flights over three days. Flights at Heathrow resumed after an hour. (BBC)

The U.K. is considering implementing new laws and testing counter-drone systems to prevent drones from causing future travel disruptions. In a speech to Parliament, Transport secretary Chris Grayling said that the government has also increased the no-drone-zone around airports from one to five kilometers. (Financial Times)

Transport Canada has issued new rules for drone operators. Among other provisions, the regulations require that operators register and pass an online test, and remain below 122 meters and within visual line-of-sight during all flights. Pilots found in violation of the new rules could face fines of up to $19,000 and even jail time, depending on the severity of the offense.  (CTV News)

Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and businessman Avichai Stolero have signed an agreement with Israeli drone manufacturer Aeronautics to purchase the company for $232 million, more than double the amount Rafael offered Aeronautics last year. The agreement, which will now be subject to due diligence and regulatory approvals, comes soon after rival firm Israel Aerospace Industries also expressed an interest in acquiring Aeronautics. (Globes)

Know Your Drone

China’s Chengdu Aircraft Research and Design Institute has completed the design and development stage of its turbine-based combined cycle engine system, which could enable drones to fly at more than six times the speed of sound. (Global Times)

A team from the NIMBUS Lab at the University of Nebraska has developed a drone that can drop from a larger aircraft and autonomously bury sensors in remote locations. (IEEE Spectrum)

Chinese commercial drone maker GDU unveiled the SAGA, a thermal camera-equipped multirotor drone that can operate in the rain. (Electronics 360)

Drone maker DJI has unveiled a screen-mounted controller for its Mavic 2 consumer quadcopter drone. (The Verge)

A team of British firms conducted a trial in which a hydrogen-powered multirotor drone flew with a five kilogram payload for more than 70 minutes without refueling. (Avionics International)

The U.S. Navy has revealed that it conducted a test last summer in which it fired 20 hyper velocity projectiles from a standard deck gun, showing how the decades-old system could be used to counter adversary drones. (USNI News)

Chinese drone maker PowerVision unveiled three new small unmanned surface vessels for mapping and fishing operations. (Unmanned Systems Technology)

Consumer drone maker AirSelfie unveiled three multirotor camera drones, the AIR 100, the AIR ZEN, and the AIR DUO. (Drone DJ)

Drones at Work

U.S. insurer State Farm has been granted a waiver to operate drones over crowds beyond the operator’s visual line-of-sight, the first such permission issued by the Federal Aviation Administration. (GLT89.1 FM)

The Miami Beach Police Department in Florida has begun operating a tethered blimp for surveillance operations, a move intended to bypass a state law prohibiting the use of free-flying drones for surveillance. (Miami New Times) For more on public safety drones, click here.

The Chilean Air Force has for the first time displayed its Elbit Systems Hermes 900, a medium-altitude long-endurance surveillance drone it acquired in 2011. (Jane’s)

The city of Bristol in the U.K. has unveiled a modernization plan that includes a domestic drone delivery program. (Bristol Live)

Accounting firm PwC UK used a drone to conduct a large-scale audit of a coal stockpile in Wales. (Unmanned Systems Technology)

In a test, a fixed-wing drone was used to deliver 25 letters across a distance of 98 km in the Swiss Alps. (La Stampa)

Industry Intel

Textron has acquired Howe & Howe Technologies, a Maine-based company that specializes in unmanned ground vehicles. (Defense News)

The U.S. Air Force awarded Kitware a $6.2 million contract for work on a range of activities related to autonomous technologies and artificial intelligence. (FBO)

The U.S. Air Force awarded The KeyW Corporation a $1.6 million contract for research into artificial intelligence. (FBO)

The U.S. Navy awarded Aquabotix a $70,000 contract to support the development of the SwarmDiver unmanned maritime vehicle. (Defence Connect)

The U.S. Navy awarded Kratos Unmanned Aerial Systems a $1.8 million contract for flight consumables for the SSAT BQM-177A target drone. (FBO)

Verus Technology Group announced that it has been awarded a contract by U.S. Special Operations Command for the SkyView-Mobile Platform counter-drone system. (Shephard News)

Flytrex, an Israeli startup that designs drone delivery systems, raised $7.5 million in a Series B funding round led by Benhamou Global Ventures. (Press release)  

Israel Aerospace Industries will provide Brazil’s Santos Lab Comercio E Industria Aerospacial with BirdEye 650D drones for large scale precision agriculture applications. (Globes)

Azerbaijan’s State Border Service has taken delivery of the Elbit Systems SkyStriker, a loitering munition. (Azeri Defence)

Israel Aerospace Industries is seeking to disrupt Rafael’s acquisition of Aeronautics by demanding that Aeronautics release the details of the agreement. (Globes)

Commentary, Analysis, and Art

At Bellingcat, Nick Waters writes that the Houthi drone attack marks a “significant milestone during the conflict in Yemen, as well as the application of basic armed drones to conflict in general.”

Meanwhile, at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, Aaron Stein considers why the Houthis have embraced drones.

At Forbes, Colin Snow describes seven trends that will shape the commercial drone industry in 2019.

At The Baltimore Sun, Meredith Cohn explains why Baltimore’s surgeon general is seeking to use drones to deliver organs.

At Inside Unmanned Systems, James Poss breaks down the sections of the 2018 FAA Reauthorization Act that are relevant to drones.

Also at Inside Unmanned Systems, Dee Ann Divis looks into how much drone startups raised in venture capital funding in 2018.

At Aviation Week, Michael Bruno examines how Textron Systems’ acquisition of Howe & Howe Technologies reflects an ongoing strategy shift for the company.

At Global News, Elizabeth McSheffrey speaks with a drone pilot who is disappointed by Canada’s new drone rules.

Meanwhile, in a statement, the Air Line Pilots Association argued that Canada’s new rules “do not go far enough.”

At the MIT Technology Review, Will Knight and Karen Hao reflect on six dangers of artificial intelligence to watch out for in 2019.

At Popular Mechanics, David Hambling breaks down the different technologies that airports are using to identify and stop drones.

At War on the Rocks, Erik Lin-Greenberg describes a wargame that explored the escalatory effects of drones.

At The Oxford Research Group, Ulrike Franke discusses some of the consequences of global military drone proliferation.

At ABC News, Kathy Sundstrom and Daniel Prosser visit Australia’s first drone racing camp.

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1 comment for “Weekly Roundup 1/14/19

  1. January 17, 2019 at 09:12

    Drones have also been spotted at other London airports in recent weeks

Comments are closed.