Weekly Roundup 10/29/18

The Royal Australian Navy commissioned a new squadron at HMAS Albatross to operate drones. Photo by the Royal Australian Navy.

October 22, 2018 – October 28, 2018

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Top Stories

A U.S. airstrike in Somalia earlier this month killed 60 people. In a statement, the U.S. Africa Command said the strike targeted members of the al-Shabaab Islamist group and did not result in any civilian deaths. According to two unnamed U.S. officials who spoke with the Associated Press, the strike was carried out by drones.

The government of Belgium approved the start of negotiations to acquire two General Atomics Aeronautical Systems MQ-9B Sky Guardians, a variant of the MQ-9 Reaper medium-altitude long-endurance drone. The purchase is part of Belgium’s “Strategic Vision 2030” modernization program that launched in 2016. If the program proceeds as planned, Belgium will begin fielding the SkyGuardian in 2022, becoming the sixth European nation to operate the MQ-9. (Air & Cosmos)

DJI, the Chinese consumer drone giant, issued a public letter demanding that the University of Dayton Research Institute retract a video of a crash test between a DJI quadcopter drone and a manned aircraft, as well as an article describing the study. In the letter, DJI Vice President Brendan M. Schulman argues that the test was “staged” to “create a scenario inconceivable in real life.” (PetaPixel)

Meanwhile, DJI is updating a system that is meant to prevent drone users from flying too close to airports and other sensitive sites. The new geofencing system—called Geospatial Environment Online Version 2.0—will be rolled out in November. DJI will partner with U.S. drone firm PrecisionHawk to source the data for the system. (Aviation International Online)

A report by the Airprox Board, the U.K.’s aviation safety investigative unit, found that a drone came within 10 feet of a commercial airliner in June. The incident involved a Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 on approach to Heathrow Airport and presented a high risk of collision, according to the Board. Virgin Atlantic has called for stricter drone regulations following the incident. (Sky News)

Know Your Drone

Researchers from Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and Stanford University have developed a series of drones capable of lifting objects 40 times their own weight. (Engadget)

Korea Aerospace Industries is developing a helicopter drone for the Republic of Korea Army. (Jane’s)

Aviation Industry Corporation of China announced that it is on track to conduct the maiden flight of its Wing Loong I-D strike-capable medium-altitude long-endurance drone by the end of the year. (Jane’s)

Thirteen NATO allies have partnered to develop unmanned vehicles to counter Russian submarines. (Defense News)

Turkish defense firm Baykar Makina has completed installation of the wings on its first prototype of the Akinci, a developmental strike drone. (Defense News)

Defense contractor General Dynamics unveiled the Bluefin-9, an autonomous unmanned undersea vehicle for military and commercial operations. (Unmanned Systems Technology)

Researchers from the University of East Anglia and the British firm AutoNaut are developing an unmanned surface vessel optimized to operate in arctic conditions. (BBC)

South Korean firm Uconsystem has upgraded its RemoEye 002B surveillance drone with a vertical take-off and landing capability. (Jane’s)

French drone maker Parrot has released an upgraded variant of the Anafi consumer camera drone. (CNET)

Motorcycle accessories firm Ural has unveiled a drone launcher that can be mounted on a motorbike. (Digital Trends)

Drones at Work

Seven members of a British gang have been jailed for their involvement in a series of more than 50 drone deliveries to prisons around the country in 2016 and 2017. (BBC)

The U.S Federal Aviation Administration has expanded drone flight restrictions to include Naval Base Kitsap and Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Washington State. (Kitsap Sun)

The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine has lost a surveillance drone after the aircraft experienced an electronic jamming attack during a mission in the east of the country. (UNIAN)

A Swiss tourist appeared before the Manhattan Criminal Court after he allegedly crashed a drone into a building in Times Square. (New York Daily News)

Meanwhile, a judge in Northwest Territories, Canada has accepted a plea bargain with a man convicted of flying a drone in close proximity to a regional airport. According to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, it is the first such conviction for an offense involving a drone. (CBC)

U.S. Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 3 in Hawaii has received the first of twenty RQ-21A Blackjack surveillance drones that it is slated to receive over the coming months. (Star Advertiser)

Police in Orlando, Florida are investigating complaints that a drone has been peering into apartments in a large condo complex. (Fox 35)

According to an online job posting, rideshare firm Uber revealed that it is planning to launch a widespread drone-based food delivery service as soon as 2021. (The Wall Street Journal)

As part of a pilot program, the Chula Vista Police Department in California is using drones to provide aerial observation in response to 9-1-1 calls. (KPBS)

The Royal Australian Navy has established a squadron to explore potential future applications for unmanned aircraft in maritime operations. (Shephard Media)

Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy has launched its first dedicated unmanned aircraft test and evaluation squadron. (FlightGlobal)

Drone services firm IN-FLIGHT Data and drone maker senseFly conducted Canada’s first urban beyond visual line-of-sight flights as part of a mapping operation for the city of Calgary. (Unmanned Systems Technology)

The Lincolnshire Police in the U.K. used a thermal camera-equipped drone to find a group of alleged deer poachers. (Drone Life)

Industry Intel

The U.S. Air Force awarded AAI Corp. a $23.7 million contract for contractor-owned and operated unmanned systems to support force protection efforts within Air Force Central Command. (DoD)

The U.S. Army awarded General Atomics Aeronautical Systems a $192.7 million contract for logistics for the MQ-1C Gray Eagle. (DoD)

Textron Systems is acquiring Howe & Howe Technologies, a Maine-based company that builds unmanned ground vehicles and robots. (Washington Technology)

The Delta Regional Authority awarded the University of Louisiana Monroe a $90,000 grant to train drone operators. (The Ouachita Citizen)

The U.S. Army Research Laboratory awarded a Kent State University professor a $130,000 grant for research into large drones that could be used to deliver supplies. (Cleveland Patch)

The government of Rwanda extended a 2016 contract with Zipline to use drones to deliver medical supplies to remote areas. (Journal du Cameroun)

IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly has reported that the German Air Force has renamed its MQ-4C Triton acquisition program to Pegasus and is expected to sign a contract for the system in late 2019.

The Polish Armament Inspectorate is negotiating with WB Electronics to purchase up to 12 FlyEye systems for the Polish Army. (Jane’s)

The Philippine National Police awarded Xitrix Computer Corporation and Mars Armor a $1.06 million contract for 700 drones. (Shephard News)

Orbital UAV has extended a 2016 agreement with Insitu for three types of propulsion systems for drones. (Shephard News)

UMS Skeldar, a Swiss-Swedish rotary-drone manufacturer, partnered with Finland’s Scanfil to expand drone production capabilities. (Shephard News)

Boeing has joined the European Network of U-Space Demonstrators, a coalition that is seeking to develop regulations for drones in the European airspace. (Unmanned Systems Technology)

Commentary, Analysis and Art

At Bloomberg Government, Michaela Ross examines the reaction among the drone industry and the FAA to a proposal from the Uniform Law Commission for new drone regulations.

In an op-ed at TechCrunch, Brian Wynne and Gary Shapiro argue that the state and local drone rules proposed by the Uniform Law Commission would stifle drone businesses.

In a Chicago City Council budget hearing, Chicago’s anti-terrorism director Alicia Tate-Nadeau said that the city needed a counter-drone program. (Chicago Tribune)

At the Modern War Institute, Zachary Kallenborn considers the challenges that need to be overcome before drone swarms can be effective on the battlefield.

At Bloomberg, Jie Ma and Nao Sano profile Kotaro Chiba, a Japanese investor whose Drone Fund aims to make Japan a hub of unmanned innovation.

In an interview on the Drone Radio Show, Menashe Haskin discusses how a drone gaming platform could be used by emergency responders.

In remarks at a security conference in Beijing, a Russian official claimed that the U.S. military was behind a drone attack on Russia’s air base in Syria. (Associated Press)

At The Dallas Morning News, Dana Branham looks at how the Dallas Police Department is preparing to implement a drone program.

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