Weekly Roundup 12/9


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

At the Center for the Study of the Drone

Alice Ross leads the Covert Drone War project at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which researches and compiles civilian casualty statistics from the U.S. and Britain’s covert targeted killing programs in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. In an interview with Arthur Holland Michel, Ross explains why we need these statistics, and describes The Bureau’s new initiative to name the victims of drone strikes.

In the first installment of a three-part series on the use of drones by U.S. law enforcement agencies, Dan Gettinger explores how police departments nationwide are embracing unmanned aerial technology as part of a growing trend of police militarization.

In a DroneU podcast for Slate, Arthur Holland Michel and Dan Gettinger discuss the importance of “drone literacy,” and outline the Center for the Study of the Drone’s interdisciplinary attempts to help society understand the drone.


Chuck Hagel, the U.S. Secretary of Defense, visited Islamabad to meet with ranking members of the Pakistani government. Express News reported that Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called on Secretary Hagel to end the drone strikes. The visit comes after protesters in Pakistan blocked trucks carrying NATO supplies to Afghanistan.

Following the Amazon delivery drone announcement, the German postal service Deutsche Post DHL announced that it is testing drones to deliver packages to remote and difficult locations. The drones, which are being tested in the German city of Bonn, can carry up to 6.6 pounds. (Associated Press)

Meanwhile, FedEx and UPS are also researching drones for package deliveries, according to The Verge.

Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian al Qaeda branch, reportedly shot down a Syrian government drone. “We believe [the drones] are Iranian made and operate under the supervision of Iranian experts,” a member of al-Nusra told al Jazeera.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the United Nations launched its first peacekeeping surveillance drones. The two drones, which are made by the Italian company Selex ES, were launched in the eastern city of Goma. “We need to get a better picture of what is happening,” said U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous. (BBC News)

Three suspected militants were reportedly killed in an American drone strike in Yemen. (Gulf News)

Meanwhile, according to the New York Times, al Qaeda-linked websites explained that a recent attack at Yemen’s Defense Ministry that killed 52 people was carried out in revenge for drone strikes.

President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan again accused the United States of killing civilians, this time in a November 20 drone strike. This latest strike reportedly killed seven civilians in an eastern province noted as a Taliban stronghold. The International Security and Assistance Force denied that any civilians were killed in the drone strike. (Los Angeles Times)

Commentary, Analysis and Art

At the New York Times, Maureen Dowd explains why she is terrified of Amazon drones.

Meanwhile, Stephen Colbert pokes fun at the Amazon delivery drone concept. “”There’s the drone,” he explains, describing Amazon’s promotional video for its drone delivery service, “navigating through the parts of America with no trees, phone lines or buildings, then landing on your doorstep while your family cowers inside until after the semi-autonomous, blade-wielding octocopter leaves.”

And at USA Today College, Monica Vendituoli examines college student reactions to Amazon drones.

In an interview with Der Spiegel, a Pakistani spy describes his work providing the U.S. with information for its drone operations.”To be honest,” he explains, “I think the US drone missions are the right thing to do. Believe me, no weapon is more effective in fighting extremists.”

According to MuckRock’s Shawn Musgrave, the F.B.I first began experimenting with aerial drones in 1995. (Motherboard)

Aerial drones were used to capture dramatic footage of the recent protests in Thailand. (via Youtube)

In Drone Shadow Handbook, British artist James Bridle advises readers on how to create life-size drawings of drones.

At The Mental Munition Factory blog, Matthew Schroyer surveys the work of academics and researchers who study drones, noting a dramatic increase in drone research over the past decade.

Salon excerpts Patrick Coffey’s new book American Arsenal: A Century of Waging War. “Once other nations begin to use drones routinely, America may have to rethink its position on cross-border anti-terrorist attacks.”

At Geographical Imaginations blog, Derek Gregory continues his examination of Gregoire Chamayou’s Théorie du drone. “If ethics is classically about how to live well and die well, [Chamayou] suggests that necro-ethics is a doctrine of ‘killing well,’” writes Gregory.

Swiss artist Superbuffo has produced a live, open-air show featuring four mini-drones to “introduce a [sic] intellectual and theatrical meta-level to the fascinations of hovering objects.”

Know Your Drone

U.S. Defense contractor Northrop Grumman has revealed its formerly secret, high-altitude, long-range surveillance drone. The RQ-180, which is scheduled to enter production in 2015, is designed to carry out secret surveillance in denied airspace and is expected to be used by both the Department of Defense and the C.I.A. (Aviation Week)

After a six-year effort, the U.S. Navy has successfully launched a fully autonomous aerial drone from a submerged submarine near the Bahamas. The XFC drone, which was launched from an empty Tomahawk cruise missile canister, flew for several hours, sending live video footage back to the crew of the submarine. (The Aviationist)

The Taiwanese military has announced that it is developing a weaponized stealth drone. (Focus Taiwan)

The hacker Samy Kamkar has developed software that permits his drone to assume control—that is, “hijack”—nearby drones. Kamkar has posted the program, which is called SkyJack (though Kamkar refers to it as “my zombie drone software”), as well as detailed instructions for how to set it up, for free online. (Gizmag)

A Dutch company has successfully flown a quadcopter drone in storm force winds. (Arialtronics via Vimeo)

According to The New York Times, Google has acquired seven robotics companies in a bid to develop an in-house robotics program. The company hasn’t announced the details of its plans, but Google robots are likely to be used for manufacturing rather than private civilian use.

The U.S. Navy has launched a futuristic stealth destroyer that carries drone aircraft. The battleship is expected to become operational in 2016. (Defense One)

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

Image: A United Nations drone made by the Italian company Selex ES. Credit: U.N. Peacekeeping

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