Weekly Roundup 11/12


At the Center for the Study of the Drone

Drones are heating up the territorial dispute between China and Japan over the Senkaku Islands. At the same time, China is expanding research and production of their own drones and Japan is considering political and military reforms. These developments could bring about a major shift in the regional strategic dynamic.


The Federal Aviation Administration released a “road map” for the integration of unmanned aerial systems into U.S. airspace. The document discusses the status of the selection process for drone test sites and announces a new aviation-control system called “NextGen.” The FAA acknowledged that the integration of drones might take longer than expected. (Washington Post)

In response to the FAA roadmap, which prompted criticism from politicians and commentators, Senator Markey introduced a bill that would require law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant before using an unmanned aircraft. The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) criticized the bill as unfairly targeting drones. “Who cares if the pilot is on the ground versus in the actual aircraft,” said Ben Gielow, the government-relations manager of AUVSI. (Wall Street Journal  and National Journal)

In a closed session, the Senate Intelligence Committee voted to increase Congressional oversight of the administration’s targeted killing program. If both the Senate and the House approve the bill, the President will have to release a yearly report on the number of drone strikes and the numbers of civilian casualties caused by strikes. (Reuters)

The Pakistani political party Tehreek-e-Insaf has voted to block NATO supplies to Afghanistan until the United States ends drone strikes. Tehreek-e-Insaf controls the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province in northwest Pakistan, where a critical supply line connects Karachi to Kabul. Imran Khan, chairman of the party and outspoken critic of the strikes, blamed American targeted killings for the breakdown of peace talks between Islamabad and the Taliban. (New York Times)

Writing for Foreign Policy magazine, Gordon Lubold and Shane Harris reported that efforts to transfer drone operations from the Central Intelligence Agency to the Pentagon have stalled. According to officials, the process has been marred by logistical difficulties, differences in operational approaches, and an unwillingness to “fix a program that [the CIA and DoD] don’t think is broken.”

Commentary, Analysis and Art

In a podcast on Lawfare blog, Matthew Waxman and Kenneth Anderson discuss autonomous weapons and “killer robots” at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.

Jens Iverson continues the discussion about the Amnesty and Human Rights Watch reports on drone strikes by questioning their interpretation of international humanitarian law. “Even if one has never directly participated in hostilities, they may still be targeted, if one’s function involves (potential) direct participation,” writes Iverson. (Opino Juris)

Also on Opino Juris, Deborah Pearlstein questions why the CIA halted the plan to transfer drone strikes from Langley to the Pentagon. “It is thus just such suggestions of different processes surrounding targeting that are most concerning,” Pearlstein writes.

Thomas Gibbons-Neff, a Marine veteran of Afghanistan, considers the high levels of post-traumatic stress disorder among drone pilots. “There is no struggle, nothing anchoring him to the reality of war. There is only the killing,” writes Gibbons-Neff at War on the Rocks blog.

Writing for Jewish Journal, Rob Eshman reflects on the complexity of the moral concerns raised by drone technology, and considers whether there is an acceptable and viable set of ethical guidelines that govern the way drones are used now, and the way the may be used in the future.

The New York Times Lens blog interviews the pilot of a World War II photo reconnaissance aircraft, the technical predecessor of the surveillance drone.

Know Your Drone

The New York Times published a video of a new Chinese drone that appears to be similar to Northrop Grumman’s Global Hawk high-altitude surveillance drone.

The nuclear research company Sandia has developed a concept for a drone that can fly, float, hop or roll. (Wired)

Meanwhile, researchers at the University of Tokyo have actually built a drone that can fly, float and roll. (DIY Drones)

A team of Australian entrepreneurs have attached a projector to a quadcopter, creating a portable advertising machine that can project either stills or moving image advertisements on the sides of buildings. (Newsline)

Researchers at the consulting firm Frost & Sullivan have estimated that there will be 6 million semi- and fully-autonomous robots in Europe and North America by 2025. In other words, there will be more robots than Danish people. (Just-Auto)

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Photo: Controllers at the Seattle Air Route Traffic Control. Jason Paur/Wired.com
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