Weekly Roundup 1/28/19

China’s JD conducted a drone delivery in Indonesia. Credit: JD via YouTube

January 21, 2019 to January 27, 2019

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At the Center for the Study of the Drone

In the past, drone operations conducted by the U.S. military in U.S. civilian airspace have been rare and generally brief. But a new tally published by the Department of Defense reveals an uptick in domestic missions in Fiscal Year 2018. Here are the data and our analysis.

Top Stories

Reports of drone sightings temporarily interrupted commercial air traffic at Newark Liberty International Airport. In a statement, a spokesperson for the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said that flights were grounded following reports of two drones flying at 3,500 feet over Teterboro Airport 17 miles northeast of Newark. (Reuters)

Meanwhile, in the U.K., a British man has been charged in connection with a brief drone disruption at London’s Heathrow Airport in December. George Rusu allegedly flew a small model aircraft within 500 meters of the airport’s perimeter fence. (BBC)

Facebook has reportedly re-launched its efforts to develop a high-altitude long-endurance drone capable of beaming Internet to remote areas. According to a report in the German publication Netzpolitik, the company is working with Airbus on flight tests of the Airbus Zephyr drone in Australia. Facebook scrapped its own high-altitude Internet-delivery drone prototype—the Aquila—last year.

Photographs published on Russian military forums last week have revealed what appears to be Russia’s first known combat drone. The images show a stealthy flying wing aircraft that is believed to be the Sukhoi S-70, also known as “Okhotnik,” taxiing on a snowy runway. The S-70 is scheduled to begin flight testing this year. (Aviation International Online)

Amazon announced that it will begin testing ground delivery robots in Washington State’s Snohomish County. Six Amazon Scout systems will navigate a range of local delivery routes during daylight hours carrying goods to paying customers. Initially, the robots will be accompanied by an Amazon employee before moving on to solo operations. (Press release)

Know Your Drone

British firms M Subs and Thales UK are jointly developing an AI system that enables unmanned boats to autonomously navigate crowded maritime environments. (Jane’s)

The U.S. Air Force is planning a slew of advanced tests of a laser system for countering small adversary drones. (Press release)

The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, the U.K. Defence Science and Technology Laboratory the Wright Brothers Institute, and the University of Dayton Research Institute have launched a competition named Swarm and Search AI Challenge: 2019 Fire Hack to evaluate swarming drone systems for mapping wildfires and search and rescue mission planning. (FlightGlobal)

A team from the Siberian State University of Science and Technology has developed an autonomous submersible drone for cold-water mapping and exploration. (C4ISRNET)

Boeing unveiled a prototype for a passenger transport drone and revealed footage of the aircraft’s maiden flight. (Reuters)

Drones at Work

Chinese online retailer JD.com announced that it has conducted Indonesia’s first commercial drone delivery operation. (sUAS News)

Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Civil Aviation has launched a new program for issuing permits to drone operators to conduct flights in the country. (Gulf Business)

Chinese firm Zhong Tian Guide Control Technology Company announced that it has conducted the maiden flight of the Fei Lon-1, a medium-altitude long-endurance drone also known as the Flying Dragon-1. (Jane’s)

The city government of Moscow has launched a program to use drones equipped with signal jammers to counter rogue drones in the city’s airspace. (C4ISRNET)

Meanwhile, Russian law enforcement agencies are set to take delivery of up to 200 Pischal counter-drone jamming rifles in the coming months. (RIA News)

Industrial drone maker Airbotics has been granted Australia’s first approval for beyond-visual line-of-sight drone flights. (Robotics Business Review)

The U.S. Navy employed its Sea Hunter unmanned ship at Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training, a recent naval exercise. (Jane’s)

Researchers from OceanAlpha, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the University of Zurich are using unmanned boats to measure the depths of three high-altitude lakes in Tibet. (Unmanned Systems Technology)

The Royal Netherlands Air Force’s first two MQ-9 Reaper crews have begun training at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. (Jane’s)

A conservation group is using drones to drop rat poison in remote parts of the Galapagos Islands in the hopes of helping to eradicate the invasive creatures. (Nature)

Police in Lincolnshire, England used a drone to assist in the pursuit and apprehension of nine people accused of illegal hare coursing. (AgriLand)

Industry Intel

FLIR Systems announced it has been awarded a $39.6 million contract by the U.S. Army for the Black Hornet mini-drone for the Soldier Borne Sensor program. (Press release)

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems has awarded CAE a contract to develop a synthetic training system for the U.K.’s MQ-9B SkyGuardian. (Press release)

The U.S. Air Force awarded Northrop Grumman a $149.6 million contract extension for work on the Battlefield Airborne Communications Node, a payload on the unmanned RQ-4 Global Hawk and manned E-11A aircraft. (Military & Aerospace)

The U.S. Air Force awarded Space Dynamics Laboratory a $18.3 million foreign military sales contract for support for South Korea’s Global Hawk program. (DoD)

GE Aviation announced that it has been awarded a contract by the U.S. Air Force Research Lab for the the Teaming-Enabled Architectures for Manned-Unmanned Systems program. (Press release)

The U.S. Navy awarded Northrop Grumman Systems a $19.6 million contract for software and engineering services in support of the MQ-8 Fire Scout. (DoD)

Raytheon announced that it will work on modernizing and securing the U.S. Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk’s ground control stations as part of a $65 million subcontract from Northrop Grumman. (Press release)

The New York Power Authority has received a $125,000 grant from the American Public Power Association for a year-long pilot project to use drones and LiDAR technology for utility inspections. (Unmanned Aerial)

EasyJet announced that the grounding of flights at Gatwick Airport last month cost the airline nearly $20 million. (Reuters)

In its annual financial report, South African drone manufacturer Denel Dynamics recorded approximately $33 million in losses despite making several drone sales. (defenceWeb)

Commentary, Analysis, and Art

At Forbes, Geri Stengel looks at how the U.S. government shutdown affected an ambitious drone startup.

At Robotics Business Review, Eugene Demaitre explores how construction companies are using drones to map worksites.

At The Drive, Tyler Rogoway writes that the photos of Russia’s combat drone prototype reveal what appear to be significant design limitations.

Also at The Drive, Tyler Rogoway looks at how the U.S. Marine Corps is outfitting Navy vessels with counter-drone systems.

At Wired, Matt Simon and Arielle Pardes consider some of the challenges Amazon faces with its new delivery robot trial program.

Meanwhile, at Fast Company, Mark Wilson looks at how Postmates, a delivery service company, designed its own delivery robot.

At the World Economic Forum, Jon Liao examines the ways in which delivery drones could improve global logistics.

At the BBC, Jane Wakefield reports on a conference in Tanzania that explored the use of drones for transporting food and medicine to remote areas.

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