Weekly Roundup 12/21/15

An Iraqi Air Force CH-4 drone. Via: Iraq MOD
An Iraqi Air Force CH-4 drone. Via: Iraq MOD

12/14/15 -12/20/2015

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At the Center for the Study of the Drone

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the U.S. military’s future-making technology organization, is playing a crucial role in the development of the next generation of unmanned systems. This year, DARPA embarked on several new and significant projects in this arena. Here’s what you need to know.

In an op-ed for The New York Daily News, CSD co-directors Arthur Holland Michel and Dan Gettinger argue that while drones are bringing new dangers to our airspace, the solution does not involve stricter regulations and enforcement, but rather collaboration between all stakeholders.

In an op-ed for The Daily Dot, Holland Michel and Gettinger examine the FAA’s new drone registration rule, contending that it is an understandable measure even if it doesn’t end up making a difference.


The Department of Transportation and Federal Aviation Administration announced a national registry for drone users. Under the new rules, all drone users will need to register aircraft weighing more than 250 grams with the FAA or face a range of stiff civil and criminal penalties. Individuals who already own drones must register by February 19, 2016. (Wall Street Journal)

In the first known lethal strike by a Chinese-made drone, an Iraqi military CH-4 drone launched a strike against suspected ISIL militants in Ramadi. Iraq acquired the Caihong-4, a Chinese version of the American MQ-9 Reaper, earlier this year. (New York Times)

The U.S. Air Force will allow enlisted personnel to pilot the RQ-4 Global Hawk, a high-altitude long-endurance surveillance and reconnaissance drone. USAF Secretary Deborah Lee James directed Air Combat Command to develop a plan for integrating enlisted soldiers into the pilot corps for the Global Hawk. It will be the first time since the Second World War that non-officers will be permitted to fly USAF aircraft. (Air Force Times)

Meanwhile, the Air Force announced that drone operators will be able to apply for large retention bonuses in Fiscal Year 2016. Depending on the length of commitment, eligible personnel could receive a critical skills bonus of up to $125,000 and up to $225,000 in aviator retention pay. (Military.com)

The U.S. military plans to include up to $15 billion for developing advanced weapons technologies and concepts in the Fiscal Year 2017 budget request. Speaking at a conference hosted by the Center for a New American Security, Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work said that the Pentagon will study a range of technologies, including advanced machine autonomy and human-machine collaboration systems. (Reuters)

The California Department of Motor Vehicles issued a draft of new rules for self-driving cars that places limitations on how soon the technology can be adopted by consumers. The draft rules propose a series of certification requirements and a prohibition on fully autonomous cars that come without steering wheels or brakes. (ABC News)

Commentary, Analysis, and Art

The Federal Aviation Administration issued a fact sheet addressing how state and local governments may and may not regulate drone use.

In a statement, the Academy of Model Aeronautics urged members to not comply with the FAA’s registration requirement while it pursues legal and political alternatives.

Meanwhile, the Competitive Enterprise Institute is threatening to pursue legal action against the FAA over the drone registry. (The Hill)

At Motherboard, Joshua Kopstein argues that a national drone registry is illogical and unnecessary.

At Forbes, Grant Martin contends that passengers hoping to take drones on their travels this season may be barred from doing so at certain airports.

Also at Forbes, John Goglia investigates whether the FAA will make the names and addresses of drone users in the planned registry publicly available.

At BGR, Yoni Heisler offers a list of a few of the popular drone models that will now have to be registered with the FAA.

At Rupprecht Law, Jonathan Rupprecht takes a look at the drone registry from a legal standpoint, writing that the FAA could be violating the law.

At Bloomberg Business, Justin Bachman considers whether new drone users should buy insurance.

At Wired, Arthur Holland Michel describes how a small team of engineers created lethal remote drone warfare in a matter of months.

In Unmanned Systems of World Wars I and II, H.R. Everett explores the history of the earliest drones. (Wired)

At Popular Science, Jeffrey Lin and Peter W. Singer take a deeper look at the first known strike by a Chinese-made drone.

At IHS Jane’s 360, Jeremy Binnie writes that China and the United Arab Emirates could be using Chinese CH-4 drones in Yemen.

At ReCode, Mark Bergen examines Google’s restructuring of two departments dedicated to developing high-altitude drones and robotics.

At Defense One, Patrick Tucker writes that drug traffickers have resorted to using jamming tools to thwart Customs and Border Protection agency drones on the southern border.

At TomDispatch.com, Nick Turse investigates what the departure of a drone unit from Chabelley Airfield in Djibouti means for the future of U.S. operations in the Horn of Africa.

The Center for a New American Security issued a new report on how the Pentagon could maintain the technological superiority of the United States.

At the Strategic Studies Institute, Jeffrey L. Caton examines the legal, ethical, and operational issues associated with autonomous weapons.

Also at the Strategic Studies Institute, Dr. Shima D. Keene takes a look at the legality of drone strikes.

At Popular Mechanics, David Hambling writes that ISIL could be using drones packed with explosives as a weapon against Kurdish forces.

Sky News reports that the number of drone-related calls to police may have spiked by as much as 2,000 percent in 2015.

At Business Insider, Alexei Oreskovic investigates the disappearance from public record of details about secretive tests of Facebook drones in November.

At DefenseNews, Andrew Chuter takes a look at the challenges that two British military drone programs face in finding funding.

At a Parliamentary committee hearing in London, British Minister of Defence Michael Fallon discussed lethal drone targeting methods and civilian casualties. (Guardian)

An advertisement for a clothing store in Japan features drones and nude ballet dancers. (Fast Company)

Know Your Drone

Drone startup Lily has announced that it will delay the roll-out of its much-hyped crowdfunded personal drone from February until the summer. (The New York Times)

Intelligent Energy, a british company, announced that it has developed a hydrogen fuel cell for small drones that increases flight time from 20 minutes to over an hour. (The Verge)

German airline Lufthansa has begun testing a small unmanned aircraft that it plans to use to provide inspection services. (Flightglobal)

The U.S. Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk will soon be able to carry two new cameras. (Flightglobal)

Turkish drone manufacturer Bayraktar released a video of a weapons release test from its TB2 military unmanned aircraft. (YouTube)

Drones at Work

Shah Selbe, an aerospace engineer, explores ways of using drones and technology for conservation. (Wall Street Journal)

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation is taking a look at using drones to inspect infrastructure. (Boston Herald)

Allstate announced that it is testing using drones for assessing insurance claims. (Allstate blog)

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