Weekly Roundup 10/30/17

The Vanilla Aircraft VA001 UAV completed a 121-hour-long flight carrying a payload of 425 pounds. Credit: Vanilla Aircraft

October 23, 2017 – October 29, 2017

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At the Center for the Study of the Drone

Next year, the U.S. Department of Defense plans to spend more budget dollars on a greater variety of drones than it ever predicted it would. In an in-depth report, we identify every single line item that makes up the nearly $7 billion that will be spent on unmanned systems technology in the 2018 Pentagon budget and compare current spending to the last five years’ budgets.


The Trump administration unveiled a pilot program that would allow select local, state, and tribal governments to accelerate commercial drone operations. Under the program, localities may apply to establish “innovation zones” where companies can engage in certain types of operations that are currently not permitted under federal regulations. Full details of the plan have yet to be revealed. (Washington Post)

The Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. military officials sought permission to deploy an armed drone for the mission that later resulted in the deaths of U.S. and Nigerien forces in Niger earlier this month. The request was denied, although it is not clear by whom. An unarmed surveillance drone was dispatched to the ambush site shortly after the soldiers made a call for help.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration is set to arm some of the U.S. surveillance drones based in Niger for counterterrorism operations. The current fleet of unarmed Reaper drones has been operating for surveillance and reconnaissance missions in Niger and neighboring Mali since 2013. NBC News reported that the plan to arm the Reapers has been under consideration since well before the recent ambush that killed U.S. and Nigerien soldiers.

Northrop Grumman has withdrawn from the U.S. Navy’s competition for the MQ-25 Stingray tanker drone. The firm previously developed the Navy’s X-47B, a demonstrator aircraft that was believed to be a leader in the competition for the Stingray. In a third quarter earnings call, CEO Wes Bush said that the company did not believe it could meet the Navy’s new requirements for the system. (Defense News)

Commentary, Analysis, and Art

At National Defense Magazine, Stew Magnuson looks at how the U.S. Air Force is planning to upgrade its fleet of MQ-9 Reapers.

At the National Interest, Alexander Velez-Green and Paul Scharre argue that the U.S. can become a world leader in artificial intelligence.

The Denver Post editorial board argues that President Trump’s plan to loosen some rules on drone strikes could result in higher civilian casualty rates.

At Just Security, Charles Kels argues that the debate over drone strike rules should “invite dialogue rather than recriminations between the national security and human rights communities.”

At Fast Company, Mark Wallace writes that the San Diego Zoo is pairing drones and artificial intelligence to monitor ice formations and polar bear behavior in the Arctic.

At the BBC, Tom Jackson looks at how researchers in the U.S. are exploring the use of teams of drones and robots in package distribution warehouses.

At CNN, Katy Scott tracks the use of Saildrones, which could collect ocean data on climate change for a fraction of the cost of manned vessels.

At the Diplomat, Tobias Burgers and Scott N. Romaniuk consider how drones help counter piracy in ways that manned aircraft could not.

At the Drone Radio Show, Chad Budreau discusses ways for drone enthusiasts to fly safely.

At the New York Times, Matthew Feeney argues that police departments should be transparent about the acquisition of surveillance technologies like drones.

At the Wavell Room, Nick Waters considers how sub-state actors can use drones on the battlefield.

At the Las Vegas Sun, Mick Akers profiles a startup that is testing delivery drones that could save millions of dollars in fuel costs.

At the Wall Street Journal, Robert Wall considers how militaries around the world are rushing to acquire robots and artificial intelligence technology.

Also at the Wall Street Journal, Daniela Hernandez looks at the robots operating in extreme environments and searching for evidence of extraterrestrial life.

Know Your Drone

Consumer drone maker Parrot unveiled the Bebop-Pro Thermal, a multi rotor drone equipped with two thermal cameras. (CNN)

Researchers at Harvard have developed a new variant of the RoboBee micro-drone that can land and take off from water. (The Verge)

Caltech has opened the Center for Autonomous Systems and Technologies, which will be dedicated to developing drones and other unmanned systems technologies. (The Los Angeles Times)

Robotic systems firm WiBotic unveiled the PowerPad, a wireless charging station for small unmanned aircraft. (AUVSI)

China’s Institute of Engineering Thermophysics conducted the maiden flight of its AT200 cargo drone. (Xinhua)

U.S. startup Vanilla Aircraft completed a 121-hour test flight of its diesel-powered VA001 drone, a new record. (FlightGlobal)

German drone maker Microdrones unveiled a multirotor drone designed for aerial methane inspection. (Unmanned Systems Technology)

Chinese firm Yunzhou-Tech unveiled the M80B, an unmanned surface vessel designed for scientific research and maritime security. (Jane’s)

The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory completed testing of its Nomad rotary wing drone aboard the USS Coronado Littoral Combat Ship. (Press Release)

Chinese firm Digitech Info Technology unveiled its JAM family of RF-based counter-drone systems. (Jane’s)

Drone maker Delair unveiled the UX11, a fixed-wing drone for large-area mapping operations. (Unmanned Systems Technology)

Turkish Aerospace Industries is set to begin satellite communications control tests of its Anka-S military drone. (Jane’s)

Drones at Work

Mexican authorities arrested four men in possession of a drone outfitted with a large explosive device. (International Business Times)

The city of Niles, Indiana is acquiring a multirotor drone for utilities inspections. (South Bend Tribune)

The Drone Racing League announced that it will hold the final event of its 2018 World Championship in Saudi Arabia. (Al Arabiya)

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors in California has adopted an ordinance that prohibits the use of drones near forest fires. (Fallbrook & Bonsall Village News)

Officers at Lithgow Correctional Centre in Australia seized a number of steroids capsules that they believe were smuggled into the facility with a drone. (Lithgow Mercury)

Police in Myanmar charged two foreign journalists and two Burmese nationals for flying a drone over the nation’s parliament building. (BBC)

Footage uploaded to YouTube reportedly shows an armed ISIS drone destroying an arms depot in northern Syria. (Blitz)

The Cleveland County Sheriff’s office in North Carolina has purchased a drone for a range of operations. (Shelby Star)

Industry Intel

The U.S. Army awarded General Atomics Aeronautical Systems a $462 million contract for 12 months of maintenance and repair support for Gray Eagle units. (DoD)

The U.S. Army awarded Medvolt a $5.2 million contract to build an RQ-7 Shadow UAS Training Facility at Fort Carson, Colorado. (FBO)

The U.S. Army awarded AAI Corp. a $26.9 million contract for 17 Block III kits and spares for the RQ-7 Shadow tactical drone. (DoD)

The U.S. Navy awarded Insitu a $9.2 million contract for the procurement of spare and sustainment parts for the RQ-21A Blackjack for the U.S. Marine Corps. (DoD)

The U.S. Navy awarded Leonardo MW a $20.2 million contract for the AN/ZPY-8 Radar for the MQ-8 Fire Scout. (FBO)

The U.S. Navy awarded Northrop Grumman a $23.3 million contract for radar integration for the MQ-8C Fire Scout. (FBO)

DARPA awarded Phase 1 contracts to Northrop Grumman and Raytheon BBN for the OFFensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics swarming drone program. (DARPA)

Balam Security, a defense articles provider in Latin America, has reportedly purchased the Israeli-built Aeronautics Aerostar tactical drone. (DiarioJudio.com)

Portugal is set to purchase small reconnaissance drones by the end of the year. The Portuguese military is expected to buy up to 12 small drones in a contract estimated to be worth up to $7 million. (Jane’s)

The Royal Australian Navy is expected to take delivery of its first heavy-fuel-powered Schiebel S-100 Camcopter rotary drones by the end of the year. (Jane’s)

The Spanish military has ordered Thales Fulmar reconnaissance drones for the Spanish marines. Additional orders for Fulmar systems are expected for the Navy and Army. (Jane’s)

Turkey announced that it is moving ahead with the production of the STM Alpagu loitering munition. (Jane’s)

Diversified Communications, the firm that runs the Commercial UAV Expo, has acquired Drone World Expo from JD Events. The merged conference will take place in October 2018. (POB Online)  

Washington, D.C.-based drone services firm Measure will begin offering more solutions to architecture, engineering, and construction companies. (Unmanned Systems Technology)

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