Weekly Roundup 1/20/20

January 13, 2019 – January 19, 2020

Top Stories

The U.S. Department of the Interior is reportedly planning to permanently suspend its drone program due to concerns that aircraft systems with parts made in China could be used for spying. According to the Financial Times, the move has sparked sharp disagreement within the Department, which uses unmanned aircraft to aid in wildlife habitat surveys, terrain mapping, firefighting, and emergency response. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt has yet to approve the policy change. (Reuters)

The U.S. Department of Defense has created a new office to lead efforts to develop and field counter-drone systems. Speaking to reporters, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord said that the 60-person office will work to narrow the field of potential counter-drone offerings to a handful of systems and standardize ongoing counter-drone efforts across the services. (Military.com)

Know Your Drone

U.S. startup Tehachapi unveiled the Fifth Generation Aerial Target, a stealthy target drone that could be used as an attritable wingman. (Aviation Week)

Defense firm Northrop Grumman is developing a proximity-fuse ammunition that could be used for countering drones from the U.S. Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship. (Jane’s)

The U.S. Army tested a beacon system that enables counter-drone system operators to distinguish between friendly and enemy drones in a crowded airspace system. (Defense One)

Researchers at Stanford have developed a drone with moveable feathered wings inspired by the wings of a pigeon. (MIT Technology Review)

Italian defense firm Leonardo completed the first flight test of its Falco Xplorer, a medium-altitude long-endurance drone. (Unmanned Systems Technology)

The U.S. Navy has begun building Unmanned Aviation Warfare Centers on its Ford-class aircraft carriers for operating deck-launched drones from the vessels. (Fox News)

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency completed the first flight tests of the X-61A, a drone developed for the agency’s Gremlins program. (Press Release)

Drones at Work

Japan’s government is developing legislation to provide incentive packages to companies that develop drones with advanced cyber protection systems. (The Asahi Shimbun)

The Miami-Dade Police Department used a drone to record a crack-cocaine deal. (Miami Herald)  Center co-director Dan Gettinger provided commentary for this story.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and Mauritania’s National Centre for Desert Locust Control are testing drones for countering a desert locust plague. (BBC)

A drone was flown over the Melbourne Assessment Prison in an attempt to photograph George Pell, a former Catholic cardinal imprisoned on charges of pedophilia. (The Washington Post)

Authorities in Malaysia deployed a Schiebel CamCopter S-100 drone to aid in the response to a chemical spill in a river in Johor. (Unmanned Systems Technology)

London’s Heathrow Airport has installed a counter-drone system for detecting intruding unmanned aircraft. (Engadget)

Industry Intel

Liteye Systems has delivered $10 million in AUDS counter-drone systems to a U.S. government customer. (Press Release)

Canadian drone manufacturer Draganfly has entered into an agreement to acquire Dronelogics Systems, a drone services provider based in Vancouver. (Press Release)

L3Harris Technologies has been selected by the U.S. Defense Innovation Unit to provide an Iver4-900 PW unmanned undersea vehicle to the Navy. (C4ISRNET)

French drone manufacturer Novadem has delivered four NX70 drones to Marseille’s Navy Firefighters Battalion. (Press Release)

Swedish startup Skyqraft has raised $505,000 in funding to develop drones and artificial intelligence for powerline inspections. (TechCrunch)

Chinese drone manufacturer DJI has restarted sales of the Phantom 4 Pro drone after a year-long hiatus prompted by a parts shortage. (The Verge)

Charles River Analytics announced that it has been awarded a contract by DARPA for research into the drone swarms. (Unmanned Systems Technology)

Commentary, Analysis, and Art

At the Mitchell Institute, Lt. Col. John D. Duray reflects on lessons learned from two decades of drone operations.

At Dronin’ On, Christopher Korody examines the long-term costs of the FAA’s proposed Remote ID rule for drones.

In a post on DJI’s website, Brendan Schulman argues that while the Chinese drone maker supports remote ID efforts, the FAA’s proposed rule is too expensive and intrusive.

At Wired, Morgan Meaker writes that the U.K. appears to be using drones to monitor the English Channel for migrants.

At the Times, Lucy Fisher writes that the future of the Royal Air Force’s drone program is threatened by pilot shortages and cost overruns.