Weekly Roundup 11/3

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At the Center for the Study of the Drone

Robotic swarms have become a hot topic in the news recently, with numerous commentators predicting that developments in robotic technology make swarming drones a very real possibility. Here’s what you need to know.


A suspected U.S. drone strike reportedly killed seven militants in the Barmal area of South Waziristan, Pakistan. According to an unnamed Pakistan intelligence official who spoke with the Express Tribune, the strike killed Abdullah Haqqani, a senior leader in the al-Qaeda and Taliban-affiliated Haqqani Network. The other dead were reportedly all foreign fighters.

Meanwhile, a suspected U.S. drone strike hit al-Qaeda positions in al Bayda province, Yemen. The reported strike occurred at the same time that Shiite Huthis, a rebel group in Yemen, advanced on areas held by Sunni militia and allies of al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula. It remains unclear exactly how many militants and civilians died in the actions. (AFP)

The French government is investigating several incidents in which drones were spotted flying over nuclear power plants. According to a spokeswoman for state-owned utility company EDF, unidentified drones have flown over seven nuclear power plants between October 5 and October 20. Environmental activists from Greenpeace broke into a nuclear power plant earlier this year but denied any involvement in the drone flyovers. (Reuters)

In an interview with CBS News, New York Police Department Deputy Chief Salvatore DiPace said that drones are  a major potential security threat. DiPace said that his concerns were based on a campaign event in Germany last year during which a drone flew close to Chancellor Angela Merkel. “If you really think about what could have happened there, the drone hit its target right on the mark and could have took the chancellor and her people out,” DiPace said.

For more on Chancellor Merkel’s drone run-in, click here.

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, the City Council ordered the Los Angeles Police Department, the Police Commission, and the City Attorney’s Office to create policies guiding drone use by law enforcement officers. The LAPD acquired two multi-rotor drones from the Seattle Police Department earlier this year. (KABC)

For more on police drones, click here.

Flying drones near prisons, sports stadiums, or racetracks could result in jail time for the operators, the Federal Aviation Administration announced in a notice on its website. The FAA has revised a September 11 anti-terrorism notice to specify that drones and model airplanes are included in the legislation. (Associated Press)

A New Jersey State Assembly committee advanced a bill that regulates the use of drones by law enforcement, fire departments, and individuals. Among other rules, the bill bans any form of weaponized drone. (NJ.com)

Commentary, Analysis and Art

In a new report at the Atlantic Council, Danya Greenfield and Stefanie A. Hausheer argue that President Obama’s reliance on drone strikes has had a negative effect on U.S. security policy in Yemen.

Photographer Tomas van Houtryve used a drone to take aerial photographs inside the United States of scenes resembling the locations of foreign drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen. (New York Times’ Lens blog)

For our in-depth interview with Tomas van Houtryve, click here.

Vice News visited the U.S. military’s Exercise Black Dart, the “largest live-fly, live-fire counter unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) exercise.”

At the Atlantic, Mary Catherine O’Connor interviewed Vijay Kumar of the University of Pennsylvania’s GRASP Lab about developments in robot swarming technology.

At the Interpreter, David Schaefer considers the proliferation of armed Chinese military drones.

At Yale University’s Notice and Comment blog, Margot Kaminski argues that there could be a First Amendment violation in the FAA’s handling of commercial drone permissions.

As one of the six national FAA test sites, Nevada is hoping that drones will create jobs and attract investors in order to become the  “Detroit of drones.” (Fast Company)

At BBC News, David Robson considers whether robots should be programmed to act more like humans.

In a working paper, Michael Horowitz and Matthew Fuhrman outline the reasons for the proliferation of drones. (SSRN)

In a new episode of the Simpsons, Homer promises to deliver sandwiches by drone in an attempt to boost his wife’s new fast food business. His success is, as is to be expected, minimal.

Know Your Drone

A team at China Academy of Engineering Physics has announced that it has created an anti-aircraft laser designed specifically for targeting drones. (Business Standard)

Meanwhile, the Pentagon is soliciting demonstrations of counter-drone technologies. In particular, DoD is seeking technology that can detect drones carrying payloads of chemical, biological or other weapons of mass destruction. (FBO.gov)

Air Force drone operators rely on a decidedly low-tech piece of equipment to measure wind direction during take-off: a tuft of horsehair. (Intercepts)

At Bold Alligator 2014, a military exercise off the coast of Virginia, the U.S. Navy will be testing USNS Choctaw County, a 338-foot high-speed vessel designed to carry a submarine drone and special forces soldiers. (Washington Post)

A team of researchers in Sweden has found that emergency response robot operators prefer their bots to steer the way tanks do in video games. (Defense One)

In a podcast on sUAS News, Brandon Brasso from 3D Robotics discusses the latest aerial mapping technologies for drones.

Drones at Work

For his final project at Delft University of Technology, Alec Momont designed ambulance drones that he hopes could respond to emergencies within 60 seconds. (Washington Post)

A suspected U.S. military drone was spotted flying over Kafr Takharim in Syria’s Idlib province. (YouTube)

Police in Pennsylvania deployed a tethered unmanned balloon to assist in the search for Eric Frein, a man suspected of killing a police officer. (NBC News)

Jason Box’s Dark Snow project uses drones to “measure the decline in brightness of [Greenland’s] ice sheet from black carbon deposition and microbial activity.” (Motherboard)

And media mogul Rupert Murdoch has a drone, according to a photo he tweeted. (Sydney Morning Herald)

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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