Weekly Roundup 10/5/15

Astronauts with the SPHERES drones. Image via NASA.

9/28/15 – 10/04/15

If you would like to receive the Weekly Roundup in your inbox, please subscribe at the bottom of the page.

At the Center for the Study of the Drone

Unmanned aircraft have already revolutionized war and commerce, but now a new breed of ultra-high-altitude aircraft capable of remaining airborne for extensive periods of time—perhaps even years—are set to bring new capabilities to both the battlefield and a range of industries. Here’s what you need to know.


The Federal Aviation Administration missed the deadline set by Congress in 2012 to implement rules for commercial drones in the National Airspace System. The FAA released a draft of its proposed regulations earlier this year, and is now expected to enact comprehensive rules in mid-2016. (The Verge)

The Times reported that the U.K. is considering stricter rules for recreational drone users after four near-miss incidents with manned aircraft in the past month. The drones were spotted near the runways of Heathrow, London City, and Birmingham airports. Possible expanded safety measures could require that all drones to be installed with GPS tracking devices, and that users register with authorities before flying. For our database on near-miss encounters, click here.

A court has ordered Daniel Verley, a New York City school teacher, to complete five days of community service for crashing a drone into the stands at the U.S. Open last month. According to prosecutors, Verley was using the drone to take pictures at a nearby park when he lost control of the aircraft. (NBC New York)

California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a bill that would have made it illegal to fly drones over schools, prisons, and wildfires. The legislation was one of six bills rejected by the governor. “Each of these bills creates a new crime—usually by finding a novel way to characterize and criminalize conduct that is already proscribed,” Brown wrote in a veto message to the California legislature. (Los Angeles TimesFor our story on the life and death of another California drone bill, click here.

Northrop Grumman won a $3.2 billion contract from the U.S. Air Force to continue development of the RQ-4 Global Hawk, a high-altitude long-endurance surveillance drone. The contract also covers purchases of upgrades and modernization of the Global Hawk fleet through 2020. (Reuters)

In an interview with the Telegraph, Prime Minister David Cameron said that the U.K. will double its fleet of MQ-9 Reaper drones. The 20 new drones, known as Protectors, will be used to target the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. British special operations forces will also receive increased funding. For more on British operations against ISIL, click here.

Commentary, Analysis, and Art

At an aviation industry summit, an FAA official expressed concern that one million drones may be sold this holiday season. (Aviation Week)

At the New York Times, Michael J. de la Merced and Andrew Ross Sorkin write that investors are making big bets on drone contractors like Measure.

At Navy Times, Meghann Myers writes that the Unmanned Carrier-Launched Aerial Strike and Surveillance program (UCLASS) is a sticking point in the debate over military spending in Congress. For more on the UCLASS program, click here.

At the Guardian, Alice Ross and Jack Serle write that the U.K.’s development of the Watchkeeper drone has been less successful than the British military would have liked.

Fusion investigated the use of drones by the Customs and Border Protection Agency on the U.S.-Mexico border. (YouTube) For more on CBP drones, click here.

A new report by IHS Jane’s Intelligence Review predicts that the market for military drones will be worth more than $10 billion by 2024. (Yahoo)

At Middle East Eye, Patrick Hilsman takes a look at what Israel’s recent sale of military drones to Russia shows about the relationship between the two countries.

At Muckrock, Shawn Musgrave writes that the drones owned by the Los Angeles Police Department have yet to see action due to the absence of clear policies and regulations governing their use.

At the Social Sciences Research Network, C. Christine Fair and Ali Famza survey Pakistani media reactions to U.S. drone strikes.

In a forthcoming edition of the Journal of National Security Law and Policy, Steven L. Schooner and Nathaniel E. Castellano review Predator: the Secret Origins of the Drone Revolution by Richard Whittle. (SSRN)

A NATO video documents the deployment of U.S. National Guard Predator drones to Europe. (YouTube)

A Popular Science, Bengt Halvorson writes that General Motors employees could be riding to work in autonomous cars by late next year.

At Geographical Imaginations, Derek Gregory compiles detailed notes on U.S. airstrikes in Afghanistan.

Speaking at a drone industry summit, Col. Mike Smith, vice commander of the New York Air National Guard’s MQ-9 Reaper unit, said that he is pushing the FAA to allow the NY ANG to fly drones out of Syracuse International Airport for training purposes. (WRVO) For more on National Guard drones, click here.

Culture Machine magazine has released an issue that focuses entirely on drones.

Metadata+, an iPhone app that provides mobile updates for every drone strike, was removed from the iTunes Store after it was deemed by Apple to contain “exceptionally crude or objectionable content.” (Daily Dot)

At Lawfare, Quinta Jurecic writes that Apple’s removal of Metadata+ reflects the “anxiety of drone warfare.”

Know Your Drone

A team of researchers at MIT, Olin College, and a company called Scientific Systems is developing a multirotor drone for firefighters to collect aerial data over wildfires. (Boston Herald)

The U.S. Navy has expressed concerns with the performance and reliability of a mine-hunting underwater drone developed by Lockheed Martin. (Bloomberg)

NASA is preparing a fleet of small drones that will accompany the crew of the International Space Station, carrying out a variety of tasks such as checking sound levels or searching for missing items. (Economist)

A startup called FLYBi has completed a successful crowdfunding campaign to develop a quadcopter hobby drone that can be connected to a Virtual Reality headset. (Slate)

Architecture firm Foster + Partners and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology are developing a network of drone airports to bring medical supplies to areas that are difficult to reach by road. (Creator’s Project)

Israeli defense company Aeronautics Ltd. is testing its Dominator XP medium-altitude surveillance drone in Mexico, which is the first country to purchase the drone. (UPI)

Drones at Work

Officials at Norfolk Southern, a transportation company, are looking into using drones to inspect railway tracks. (CIO)

The planners of celebrity weddings are increasingly on the lookout for drones used by paparazzi. (AtlanticFor more on paparazzi drones, click here.

The Army Test and Evaluation Command is experimenting with swarms of small drones to test the threat that these could pose to forces on the ground. (Defense Systems)

Emergency preparedness experts recently completed a week-long mission to Nepal that explored how drones could be used for humanitarian purposes. (iRevolution)

Drone manufacturer 3D Robotics is releasing a video series that explores how drones could be used for filmmaking. (Fast Company)

For updates, news, and commentary, follow us on Twitter.

[includeme file=”tools/sympa/drones_sub.php”]