Weekly Roundup 12/12/16

Researchers in California are using drones to monitor the health of sequoia trees. Image credit: Parrot/YouTube

December 5, 2016 – December 11, 2016

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A U.S. drone strike in Syria killed Boubaker el Hakim, an ISIL militant linked to the attack on the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo in 2015. The strike took place in late November in Raqqa. (Reuters)

The White House released an extensive memo on its use of force policies. The 61-page report presents a guide to the administration’s ongoing targeting campaign, its rules of engagement, and the legal basis for military actions. “Through this report, I hope to enhance the public’s understanding of the legal and policy principles that have guided U.S. national security operations,” writes President Obama in the introduction to the document.

The Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Transportation released a report criticizing the Federal Aviation Administration for its handling of the commercial drone exemption process. The investigation found that the FAA failed to follow up with the 5,500 exemption recipients to ensure that they understood the conditions of their exemptions. (Aviation International Online)

Two guests who were injured by a drone at a New Hampshire wedding are suing the groom and the company that hosted the event for negligence. The drone was being used to take video of the reception when it reportedly malfunctioned and struck the two guests in the head. (Boston Herald)

Commentary, Analysis, and Art

At Lawfare, Chris Mirasola and Helen Klein Murillo provide a summary of the White House report on use of force policies.

At Just Security, Alex Moorehead and Rahma A. Hussein look at what’s missing in the White House report on use of force policies.

In testimony before the U.K.’s joint parliamentary committee on drones, Air Marshal Greg Bagwell suggested that the Royal Air Force should recruit individuals who play video games to fly drones. (The Guardian)

At TechCrunch, Lora Kolodny examines what the U.S. drone industry is hoping for from a Trump administration.

At Recode, April Glaser argues that “Project Wing’s ambitions for a $6 on-demand drone delivery marketplace are all still very much a fantasy.”

At the MIT Technology Review, Will Knight writes that legged robots might prove a better bet for Google’s robotic delivery program than aerial drones.

At Scout Warrior, Tim Broderick looks at how the U.S. Navy is preparing to deploy the MQ-4C Triton to the Pacific.

At the Guardian, Alice Ross describes a recent conference that tackled the security challenges posed by drones.

At The Canadian Press, Jim Bronskill writes that security officials are concerned that drones could be used to down commercial airliners.

At FlightGlobal, Leigh Giangreco writes that the U.S. Marine Corps is thinking that future helicopters would work in tandem with a new generation of drones.

At Breaking Defense, Richard Whittle reviews the history of tailsitter aircraft, and explains why the Navy is today experimenting with a tailsitter drone.

Human Rights Watch released a report warning of the dangers of lethal autonomous weapons systems. (Press Release)

At Drone Wars, Chris Cole investigates the proliferation of armed drones and the rise in the number of drone strikes carried out by countries besides the U.S.

At the Washington Post, David Ignatius argues that one legacy of President Obama’s administration will be a continuing disagreement between the CIA and the military over who ought to carry out covert action and drone strikes.

At Fox Business, Travis Hoium writes that one of the best drone stocks of 2016 might be a company that offers video-compression and image-processing solutions.

At Motherboard, Grennan Milliken reviews some of the year’s best drone cinematography.

At Open Democracy, Mary Ryder examines how the drone art by Mahwish Chishty was inspired by Pakistani folk art.

Know Your Drone

Defense firm UTC Aerospace Systems is developing a multispectral sensor for the RQ-4 Global Hawk high-altitude long-endurance surveillance and reconnaissance drone. (Aviation Week)  

Researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory have developed software that allows users to design their own drones. (Fast Company)  

The U.S Navy is planning to test the MQ-8C surveillance and reconnaissance drone aboard its Littoral Combat Ship in March 2017. (Defense Daily)

Technology firm Advanced Programs Group conducted the maiden flight of its SunSpark demonstrator solar-powered drone. (FlightGlobal)

Military drone maker General Atomics Aeronautical Systems is conducting flight tests of its MQ-1C Gray Eagle Extended Range surveillance and strike drone. (Unmanned Systems Technology)

South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is developing a long-endurance surveillance drone, the LEMU. (Defence Web)

Russia is reportedly testing an unmanned submarine that can carry nuclear warheads. (Washington Free Beacon)

Meanwhile, Russia’s Rubin Design Bureau is developing an unmanned undersea vehicle that can imitate other types of submarines as a decoy. (Popular Mechanics)

Ford has registered a patent for a self-driving car equipped with a drone. (USA Today)  

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University are testing whether drones can be used to deliver large bags of blood for medical emergencies. (Engadget)

Universal City Studios has published a patent for special effects drones to use in live shows at its theme park. (L.A. Biz)

U.K. defense firm BAE is conducting new trials of its autonomous navigation and collision avoidance system for unmanned aircraft. (The Engineer)

A team at Stanford University in California is studying the flight of certain birds in the hopes of applying the lessons to drone designs. (Live Science)

A startup is developing a pocket-sized photo drone called Cleo. (Digital Trends)

The Israel Defense Forces is planning to upgrade its Segev unmanned ground vehicle, which it uses to patrol the border with Gaza, in order to make it fully autonomous. (IHS Jane’s 360)

Defense firm MBDA is testing its Brimstone precision missile aboard the Certifiable Predator B strike drone. (Press Release)

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has announced a program to develop over a hundred swarm tactics for small drones. (Press Release)

Drone maker Arcturus is partnering with the Hydrogen Engine Center to develop a hydrogen combustion engine for the T-20 drone. (Press Release)

Drones at Work

A U.K. Airprox Board investigation found that a drone flew within 40 feet of a passenger jet over southeast London on August 4. (BBC)

Police in Orem, Utah are tracking down a man who has been using a drone to spy into people’s bedrooms and bathrooms. (Fox 13)

An Iranian-made drone was used to attack a Turkish military camp. (Hurriyet Daily News)

Australia’s Environment Protection Authority will use drones to find evidence of illegal dumping. (News.com.au)

The Halifax Fire department in Canada is acquiring drones for operations. (Global News)

Alphabet is reportedly in talks with Whole Foods and Domino’s Pizza about establishing a drone food delivery system. (CNET)

Mining company Rio Tinto is exploring the use of drones to monitor its workforce at a mining camp in Australia. (The Guardian)

Researchers in California are using drones to monitor the health of sequoia trees. (Digital Trends)

Industry Intel

Boeing has acquired Liquid Robotics, a California-based company that makes the Wave Glider unmanned undersea vehicle. (Los Angeles Times)

The U.S. Army awarded Boeing a $24.9 million contract to expand the unmanned teaming capabilities of the AH-64E Apache attack helicopter. (DoD)

The U.S. Air Force awarded General Atomics Aeronautical Systems a $17.1 million contract modification to develop an exportable MQ-9 Block 5 Reaper for France and Spain. (DoD)

The U.S. Air Force awarded General Atomics Aeronautical Systems a $9.2 million contract modification for the MQ-9 Reaper Electrical Safety Improvement Program. (DoD)

The U.S. Navy awarded Northrop Grumman a $9.6 million contract for software upgrades to the MQ-4C Triton Unmanned Aircraft System. (DoD)  

The Federal Aviation Administration awarded ATAC a $49,505 follow-on contract for continued work on a manned-unmanned collision avoidance system. (USAspending)

The Air Force Research Laboratory awarded UAS Consulting Group a $49,500 subcontract to provide subject matter experts to assist with the design of a system to control multiple drones simultaneously. (USAspending)

The U.S. Army awarded RE2 Robotics a contract to develop the ARIBO Assistive Arm, a robotic arm that will help transport wounded soldiers. (Press Release)

AeroVironment released a worse-than-expected second-quarter financial report, reporting a 23 percent drop in revenue. (Motley Fool)

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