Weekly Roundup 11/24

One of the drones in "LOOP 60Hz: Transmissions from The Drone Orchestra." Credit: Barbican
One of the drones in “LOOP 60Hz: Transmissions from The Drone Orchestra.” Credit: Barbican Centre

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At the Center for the Study of the Drone

As the drone industry grows and becomes more complex, it is both more important and more difficult than ever to keep track of the business of unmanned systems. So we will be putting together all the news, the deals, and the commentary and analysis you need to stay informed.

In September 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration will implement comprehensive regulations for domestic drone use. Until then, the FAA’s ability to regulate the use of drones hinges in large part on a single protracted legal battle against a drone hobbyist by the name of Raphael “Trappy” Pirker. Here’s what you need to know.


A suspected U.S. drone strike in Pakistan killed six people and wounded three. The strike took place in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan. A Pakistani security official told Reuters that the dead were local and foreign militants.

The National Transportation Safety Board ruled that the Federal Aviation Administration has the authority to regulate model aircraft and commercial drones as aircraft, reversing an earlier decision in the case of Huerta v. Pirker and remanding the case back to an administrative law judge. (NPR) For background on the case, check out our Need to Know on Pirker vs. the FAA.

Meanwhile, drones were involved in multiple close calls with commercials airliners around John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City last week. An official told the Wall Street Journal that one of the drones came as close as five and 10 feet away from the wing of a Delta airliner. In a statement, the Federal Aviation Administration said that all of the aircraft landed safely and none of the pilots took evasive maneuvers to avoid the drones. The FAA and the FBI are investigating the incidents.

And a medical helicopter nearly collided with a drone while landing at Schuylkill County Joe Zerbey Airport in Pennsylvania. The drone was reportedly flying at 1000 ft., over twice the 400 ft. ceiling imposed by the FAA. The helicopter was not transporting any patients at the time. (PA Homepage)

Japan officially announced that it would purchase the RQ-10 Global Hawk high altitude surveillance and reconnaissance drone from the United States. (Defense News)

Commentary, Analysis and Art

At Popular Mechanics, Eric Schechter writes that the NTSB decision will ultimately benefit the drone makers, because the industry will need safety standards.

At the Los Angeles Times, Troy A. Rule argues that the FAA might not be the best government authority to regulate commercial drones.

At Forbes, Travis H. Brown argues that “patchwork regulation” across the United States is having a devastating effect on commercial drone use.

At TechCrunch, Natasha Lomas warns that, despite Amazon and Google’s ambitions, the prospect of delivery drones in urban spaces is still far off.

A new report at the Open Society Foundations investigates the civilian casualties of U.S. drone strikes and urges the Washington and Islamabad to do more to compensate the families of civilian victims.

In an in-depth essay at The New Yorker, Steve Coll recounts the history of the targeted killing campaign and considers whether it serves U.S. interests in Pakistan to continue drone strikes.

At the Intercept, Glenn Greenwald examines the “deceitful media practice” of identifying the victims of drone strikes as militants without knowing confirming their identities.

At The News, Amir Mir writes that recent American drone strikes reveal the ties between Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan and al-Qaeda.

At Defense One, Micah Zenko reflects on the use of military drones as the U.S. launches its 500th targeted killing.

At McClatchy DC, Nancy A. Youssef considers what the use of armed drones means for the fight against the Islamic State.

At Breaking Defense, Scott Swanson, the first person to launch a lethal drone strike, speaks out for the first time, arguing that flying a drone is “nothing like playing a video game.”

Meanwhile, at the Telegraph, a former Israeli drone operator describes his experiences and how he is struggling to move on with his memories.

Mashable made “An Animated History of Drones,” based in part on The Drone Primer.

At the Empty Wheel, Marcy Wheeler notes how the Obama administration’s “drone rule book” made it easier for American allies to accept the targeted killing campaign.

At the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, military analyst Ben Barry discusses the proliferation of unmanned ground vehicles.

At TEDxOmaha, Matthew Waite spoke about the important uses that drones have for journalism.

At Motherboard, Arthur Holland Michel comments on how a man at a concert in Peru swiped a drone out of the sky.

San Francisco-based artist Joseph Delappe is working on a project where he and 100 of his friends use a little rubber stamp to print the image of a Predator drone on all the U.S. paper currency they come across. (Motherboard)

A documentary from the Creator’s Project goes behind the scenes at the Barbican Centre in London’s “LOOP 60Hz: Transmissions from The Drone Orchestra.” (YouTube)

Also at the Creator’s Project, Adam Rothstein considers the different ways artists are using drones in their work and the technical challenges they face.

Know Your Drone

Drone maker General Atomics has tested a proof-of-concept sense and avoid system on one of its Predator drones as part of the company’s collaboration with the FAA. (Press Release)

California company 3D Robotics has unveiled a customizable quadcopter drone. (Engadget)

A video uploaded on Youtube shows Ukrainian forces launching a Tu-143 Reys surveillance and reconnaissance drone. (The Aviationist)

Two Australian entrepreneurs are developing a net that catches drone-delivered goods. (Gizmag)

Defense company Leidas has completed 42 days of testing its autonomy system for a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency anti-submarine maritime drone. (Naval Drones)

Facebook is expanding its team of drone builders and pilots. (CNN Money)

Drones at Work

The K-MAX, a cargo-carrying unmanned helicopter, could be used to fight forest fires. (Defense One)

French municipalities are using drones to aid urban planning and management. (Le 20H)

A five-foot tall Knightscope K5 robot will begin patrolling the streets of Silicon Valley. The K5 “combines robotics, predictive analytics and collaborative social engagement to predict and prevent crime,” writes Allen McDuffee in The Atlantic.

Students at a vocational school in Ukraine are building drones for the cash-strapped Ukrainian army. (Ukraine Today)

Dutch filmmakers Jelte Keur and Reinout van Schie waited 10 months for the perfect weather conditions to get aerial footage of the largest church spire in the Netherlands. (Gizmodo)

Drone hobbyist James Grimaldi flew a drone into the giant snowstorm around Buffalo, New York. (Vice News)

And in a British advertisement for TGI Fridays, a mistletoe-wielding drone flies around the restaurant encouraging diners to, well, you get the idea. (YouTube)

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

For Mashable’s take on the week in drone news, check out Drone Beat.

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