Weekly Roundup 12/16/19

December 9, 2019 – December 15, 2019

At the Center

As the threat of adversary and malicious drone use continues to expand in military theaters and civilian environments alike, the interest in technologies to detect, identify and, if necessary, take down those unmanned aircraft has continued to swell. In the second edition of our report “Counter-Drone Systems,” we list more than 530 counter-drone products available on the market today and describe the many challenges that face those who wish to use them.

Top Stories

A U.S. drone strike in Somalia killed a senior member of the Al-Shabab group. According to Somali intelligence officials who spoke with the Associated Press, the strike targeted a vehicle outside the southern city of Sakow. U.S. Africa Command confirmed that it conducted the strike in coordination with Somali officials.

A report by a United Nations panel of experts has documented the transfer of Turkish Bayraktar-TB2 and Chinese Wing Loong 2 drones to Libya over the past year. According to the report, at least three Bayraktar-TB2s have been shot down or destroyed, spurring multiple additional shipments of the drones to Libya. The Bayraktar-TB2 and Wing Loong 2 are used by opposing sides in the conflict. (UN Docs)

Know Your Drone

Turkish defense company Baykar Makina completed the maiden flight of the Akinci, a large developmental strike drone. The test flight lasted 16 minutes. (AIN Online)

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency launched the No Manning Required, Ship (NOMARS) program, which seeks to develop autonomous uninhabited ships that can operate for extended periods. (Jane’s)

Argentine firm INVAP unveiled the Rotary-winged Unmanned Aerial System, an unmanned helicopter for maritime operations. (Jane’s)

The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory conducted a continuous two and a half day test flight of the Ultra Long Endurance Aircraft Platform, a fixed-wing drone. (Press Release)

Meanwhile, Israeli firm Aeronautics Group announced that its Orbiter 4 fixed-wing drone completed a 25 hour test flight, an endurance record for the series. (Shephard Media)

U.S. drone engine maker UAV Turbines unveiled the Monarch Hybrid Range Extender, a turbine engine for tactical-sized unmanned aircraft. (FlightGlobal)

Russia’s MiG Corporation announced that it is developing a series of high-speed unmanned aircraft to operate in tandem with inhabited fighter jets in combat operations. (Aviation Week)

The U.S. Air Force held its second DT NAVFEST, which tests a series of aircraft, including drones, in GPS-denied environments. (Press Release)

U.S. drone maker Union Robotics unveiled the Meadowhak DE, an industrial multirotor drone. (Unmanned Systems Technology)

A student at Princeton University broke the record for the fastest multirotor drone to ascend to 100 meters. (Patch.com)

A team from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology is exploring how drones could be used to gather data for clusters of large Internet of Things networks. (The Engineer)

Drones at Work

Pictures posted on social media appear to show that the U.S. military employed its AGM-114R9X “knife missile” in a drone strike in northwestern Syria. (The Drive)

U.S. drone maker General Atomics Aeronautical Systems held a demonstration of its MQ-9 Guardian maritime drone in Greece. (Shephard Media)

Security services deployed a counter-drone system to the opening ceremony of the 30th Southeast Asian Games in Santa Maria in the Philippines. (Shephard Media)

A U.S. Navy RQ-4A Broad Area Maritime Surveillance Demonstrator drone was damaged during take-off from Al Dhafra Airbase in United Arab Emirates. (USNI News)

A French military Safran Patroller drone crashed during a trial flight in Provence, France. (defense-aerospace.com)

The Drone Racing League and U.S. defense firm Lockheed Martin held their first Artificial Intelligence Robotic Racing event, which pits human drone pilots against autonomous racing systems. (Digital Trends)

The South African National Blood Service unveiled a pilot program to use drones to deliver blood to remote areas of the country. (defenceWeb)

The U.S. Army has announced that it has selected five operational units to conduct field tests of various options for its Future Tactical Unmanned Aerial System program, which seeks to acquire a replacement for the RQ-7 Shadow drone. (Breaking Defense)

A police drone fell onto a rooftop in the Exarcheia district in Athens, Greece as a result of a technical failure. (ekathimerini.com)

The Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands and the Maine Forest Service announced a plan to acquire up to 20 drones for monitoring natural resources. (Bangor Daily News)

Industry Intel

Germany’s Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support awarded Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace a contract for the PROTECTOR Remote Weapon Station counter-drone system. (Army-Technology)

The German Federal Minister of Transport awarded Frequentis Group funding to continue the development of the FALKE counter-drone system for airports. (International Airport Review)

Asisguard will reportedly deliver a Songar armed quadcopter system to the Turkish military by the end of the year. (New Scientist)

The U.S. Navy awarded Northrop Grumman Systems a $9.14 million delivery order for eight AN/ZPY-8 radar modification kits and other equipment for the MQ-8C Fire Scout. (DoD)

The U.S. Army awarded Lockheed Martin a $22.4 million contract to develop prototypes for a combined arms squad consisting of humans and robots. (Military Embedded Systems)

Wingcopter, a German startup that specializes in tilt-rotor motors for commercial drones, has secured seven-digit financing from Singapore’s Corecam Capital Partners. (EU-Startups)

Aeronautica SDLE announced that it has been awarded a contract for two portable counter-drone systems for the Spanish Guardia Civil. (Unmanned Systems Technology)

Microdrones announced that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has selected its mdMapper1000DG drone for a mapping, surveying, and inspection requirement. (Unmanned Systems Technology)

PrecisionHawk, a North Carolina-based drone services firm, announced that it has raised an additional $32 million in funding from investors. (The News & Observer)

Turkey’s Presidency of Defense Industries published a roadmap outlining plans to invest and export unmanned and autonomous systems. (Jane’s)

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 slashed the U.S. Navy’s request to purchase a fleet of unmanned surface vehicles. (C4ISRNET)

The National Science Foundation awarded Oklahoma State University a $1.49 million grant for research into drones that measure wind speed. (Oklahoma News 4)

Japan’s Terra Drone will launch Terra Drone Mining, a subsidiary based on a recent investment agreement with Canadian drone inspection startup Unmanned Aerial Services. (Aviation International Online)

Altitude Angel announced that it has been awarded a contract by the Dutch air navigation service LVNL for a drone traffic management system. (Aviation Week)

Altitude Angel and Heliguy have partnered to develop an unmanned traffic management and counter-drone system. (Commercial Drone Professional)

Commentary, Analysis, and Art

In a discussion with reporters, U.S. Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord said that the counter-drone systems and strategies remain a priority for the department. (C4ISRNET)

Meanwhile, at SecurityInfoWatch.com, Steve Surfaro looks at potential passive and active counter-drone solutions for defending stadiums against drones.

A survey conducted by members of Ireland’s Air Corps found that a majority of Air Corps pilots feel the country is unprepared for the potential threats posed by drones. (The Irish Times)

In a documentary short for The New York Times, Jonah M. Kessel, Natalie Reneau, and Melissa Chan examine advances in autonomous weapon technologies.

At Wired, Mark Dent visited a drone racing competition in Austin that pitted drones powered by artificial intelligence against human drone pilots.

In an op-ed at War on the Rocks, Gen. David H. Berger, the commandant of the Marine Corps, argues that the Corps needs to invest in a range of unmanned systems.

A poll conducted by the Hawthorn Group and TargetPoint found that while a majority of respondents expected drone use to become more prevalent, safety concerns were widespread.

At the Drive, Tyler Rogoway examines a satellite image showing several types of Chinese drones parked at an airbase.

At Vice Motherboard, Joseph Cox writes that a data breach at a drone software company has exposed details of the drone operations of multiple U.S. police agencies.