Weekly Roundup 10/21/19

October 14, 2019 – October 20, 2019

Top Stories

U.S. Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) introduced draft legislation that would grant states, cities, and Native American tribes new powers to regulate drones flying below 200 feet. Under the Drone Integration and Zoning Act, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration would retain responsibility for all airspace above the 200 foot threshold. The FAA has long maintained that it has sole regulatory authority for all aviation at any altitude and has warned against legislation that would lead to different sets of rules for different parts of the country. (Axios)

A report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office has found that the FAA could do more to educate local law enforcement on how to enforce drone regulations. The GAO found that many officers, whom the FAA relies on to conduct investigations, do not know how to report critical information about incidents involving drones. The GAO also concluded that the FAA should take steps to obtain more data on drone-related safety incidents in order to better evaluate the effectiveness of its enforcement operations. (GAO)

Wing has conducted its first drone deliveries as part of a pilot program in Christiansburg, Virginia. The program, a partnership between Wing, FedEx, and Walgreens, will offer drone deliveries to customers living within a four-mile radius of Wing’s distribution facility. It is the first FAA-approved drone delivery program for consumer goods in the country. (Associated Press)

Know Your Drone

German defense firm Rheinmetall unveiled the Wiesel Wingman, an unmanned variant of the company’s Wiesel light armored vehicle, which the company is proposing for the U.S. Army’s Robotic Combat Vehicle program. (defense-aerospace.com)

Meanwhile, Textron unveiled the Ripsaw M5, an armed unmanned ground vehicle that the company is also gearing for the Army’s RCV program. (Army Technology)

U.S drone maker AeroVironment unveiled the Puma LE, a long-endurance variant of its fixed-wing Puma drone equipped with an additional payload bay for a secondary sensor. (Jane’s)

Military drone maker General Atomics Aeronautical Systems is modifying its MQ-1C Gray Eagle Extended Range drone to be able to carry GBU-69/B Small Glide Munitions or up to 20 loitering munition drones. (FlightGlobal)

Korean Air Aerospace Business Division unveiled the KUS-FS, a prototype medium-altitude long-endurance drone. (Shephard News)

Australian firm DefendTex unveiled the Drone-40, a 40mm loitering munition drone. (Jane’s)

Russian firm Ruselectronics unveiled a handheld drone detection radar. (Shephard News)

U.S. drone maker InstantEye Robotics announced that it has extended the battery life of its family of small reconnaissance and surveillance drones. (Jane’s)

According to Russian news Agency TASS, the Russian Defense Ministry is planning to conduct weapons fire tests with its S-70 Okhotnik combat drone in 2020.

Defense firm BAE unveiled the Robotic Technology Demonstrator, and armed unmanned ground vehicle for testing autonomous capabilities, weapons, and sensors. (Press Release)

U.S startup Skydio unveiled the Skydio 2 Dock, an autonomous charging station for the company’s Skydio 2 aerial data collection drone. (The Verge)U.S. automaker Ford has been granted a patent for a drone that can autonomously deploy from a vehicle for use in emergency response operations. (AIN Online)

Sensor maker FLIR Systems unveiled the StormCaster-T, a thermal camera pod for the company’s SkyRaider multirotor surveillance drones. (Jane’s)

Drones at Work

A missing six-year-old boy and his dog were discovered by a volunteer using a thermal camera-equipped drone. (Fox News)

Ottawa International Airport in Canada announced that it will launch a program to test a radar-based detection system as part of an effort to protect the facility against rogue drones. (Ottawa Citizen)

NATO has begun conducting benchmark trials of the C-Astral ATLAS C4EYE surveillance and reconnaissance drone. (GIM)

Agricultural technology firm XAG announced that it successfully performed a large-scale cotton defoliation campaign with drones in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in China. (Unmanned Systems Technology)

A farmer in Shropshire, England is using positive reinforcement to train flocks of sheep to follow a drone. (Farmers Weekly)

Industry Intel

The U.S. Army awarded Galaxy Unmanned Systems a contract to develop autonomous surveillance airships. (Dallas Innovates)

Malaysian drone startup Aerodyne Group raised $30 million in a Series B funding round led by InterVest and Kejora Ventures. (Nikkei Asian Review)

QinetiQ North America is partnering with Pratt and Miller Defense to compete for the U.S. Army’s Robotic Combat Vehicle program. (Unmanned Systems Technology)

The U.S. Special Operations Command increased the ceiling on a contract for enhancements to medium-altitude long-endurance tactical drones from $15 million to $93 million. (Shephard Media)

Skyports and Flock have partnered to provide insurance for drone delivery services. (dronelife)

U.K. department store chain John Lewis announced that it decided to stop selling drones in May in light of concerns that the aircraft were being misused. (BBC)

Commentary, Analysis, and Art

At the Army Times, Kyle Rempfer writes that U.S. defense officials believe that a series of airstrikes in Libya, many of which were likely carried out by drones, killed around one-third of the ISIS members in the country.

At Wired, Eric Adams profiles a Florida startup that is planning to boost the power of drone engines.

Also at Wired, Casey Coombs looks at how the shoot-down of a Chinese-made drone in Yemen illustrates some of the complexities of managing drones in military operations.

At Breaking Defense, Theresa Hitchens writes that the U.S. Department of Defense is exploring ways of providing funding to reinvigorate the U.S. drone industry.

Also at Breaking Defense, Sydney J. Freedberg Jr. reports that the Army’s program to develop robotic combat vehicles is moving forward ahead of schedule.

At Reuters, Kagondu Njagi looks at how farmers in Ghana are using drones to disperse fertilizers and prevent birds from feeding on their crops.

Meanwhile, at Bloomberg, Samuel Gebre writes that Ethiopia’s Agriculture Transformation Agency is using drones to improve food security.

At the Drone Disruption Summit in London, Gatwick Airport’s security chief described the airport’s drone countermeasures. (AIN Online)

At Aviation Week, Bradley Perrett writes that the Chinese aerospace firm AVIC is looking to large unmanned cargo aircraft as a way to break into China’s commercial aviation industry.

At the BBC, Michael Dempsey looks at how air defense systems must evolve to better counter drone attacks like the one on Saudi Arabia’s Abqaiq oil facility last month.

At NPR, David Schaper looks at how drone deliveries are getting closer to reality at several test locations around the country.