Weekly Roundup 12/22

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At the Center for the Study of the Drone

Wondering what to read this holiday season? We’ve chosen the best drone books of 2014.


A U.S. drone strike reportedly killed six people in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan in Pakistan. An unnamed Pakistani security official told the New York Times that the dead were all militants, “three Uzbeks, one Arab and two locals.” It is the first drone strike in Pakistan since the Taliban killed 148 people at a school in Peshawar earlier in the week. (New York Times)

A U.S. drone strike in Afghanistan reportedly killed four members of the Pakistani Taliban and seven other people. According to Mahlem Mashuq, a government official in the eastern Nangarhar province who spoke with Reuters, the 11 individuals were killed when a missile struck the pickup truck they were travelling in.

The Washington Post reported that the Federal Aviation Administration has been riven by internal debate and division over whether to allow certain companies to fly drones commercially. Earlier this year, senior officials within the FAA objected to allowing  several Hollywood filmmakers to fly drones, citing safety concerns. The FAA has faced pressure from lawmakers and the industry to allow more companies to fly drones.

A man in Melbourne, Australia was fined AUD $850 for crashing a drone near an ongoing police operation. The drone hobbyist was flying above a nine-hour standoff between police and the suspect of a stabbing. The drone, a DJI Phantom multirotor, hit power lines before crashing and nearly colliding with one of the officers. (CNET)

Anticipating an uptick in small civilian drone use this holiday season, the FAA, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, the Academy of Model Aeronautics, and the Small UAV Coalition announced a new campaign, “Know Before You Fly” to educate amateur drone users about safety and regulations.

New York City council members Paul Vallone and Daniel Garodnick introduced anti-drone legislation that, if passed, could be the strictest in the country. The bill bans the operation of personal drones near any airport, school, hospital, church, or “open-air assembly,” or during nighttime, bad weather, or above 400-ft. In order to be passed into law, the bill must make it through committee and be supported by a majority of the 51 city council members. (Capital New York)

Northrop Grumman secured a $657.4 million contract to provide South Korea with four Global Hawk RQ-4B Block 30 drones. The Global Hawk is a high altitude, long endurance surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft. The delivery of the four aircraft, two spare engines, and two ground control systems will begin in 2017. (Janes)

State-run media in Syria claimed last week that an Israeli Skylark drone was shot down in the Quneitra province near the Golan Heights. The Skylark is a small surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft that is often operated by infantry soldiers in the field. A spokesperson for the Israeli military said that it had no knowledge of any drone being shot down. (Haaretz)

The U.S. Navy awarded Washington-based Boeing Insitu a $41 million contract for three new RQ-21A Blackjack drone systems. The Blackjack is a small surveillance and reconnaissance drone equipped with a larger array of audio and video sensors than the popular Insitu ScanEagle drone. (Oregon Live)

Wikileaks released a 2009 CIA analysis of high-value targeting. In “Best Practices in Counterinsurgency: Making High Value Targeting Operations an Effective Counterinsurgency Tool,” the CIA’s Office of Transnational Issues argues that while targeting high value individuals could be effective when combined with a broader counterinsurgency campaign, it is largely ineffective as a stand-alone tactic. (ABC News)

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) will deploy an unmanned blimp east of Washington, D.C. to protect the capital against missiles and drones. The 242 ft.-long tethered aerostat can stay in the air for up to a month and will be equipped with radar for detecting small aerial vehicles like drones. It is against the law to fly a drones in Washington, D.C. (Defense One)

The results of an Associated Press-GfK poll indicate that a majority of Americans are suspicious of commercial drones. Of the respondents, 21 percent support the idea of commercial drones, while 43 percent opposed and 35 were undecided. (Associated Press)

In Springfield, Ohio, charges were dropped against a man who was arrested in April for allegedly flying his drone in the path of an emergency helicopter. “[A] lot of times our laws don’t exactly fit all the facts when you are dealing with new or different technologies,” said Springfield Chief Prosecutor Marc Ross in an interview with WHIO.

Commentary, Analysis and Art

Michael Toscano, the outgoing president and CEO of the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, discussed drone regulations and safety on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal.

Photographer Tomas van Houtryve continues to take striking aerial photos of America. (Time) For our in-depth interview with van Houtryve, click here.

At the Guardian, Robin McNicholas describes why 2015 could be the year of the art drone.

At TomDispatch, Tom Engelhardt imagines what a future U.S. Senate report on drone strikes could look like.

At Popular Science, Kelsey D. Atherton elaborates on the downsides of deploying nuclear-armed drones.

At Breaking Defense, Colin Clark writes about the different ways that the U.S. Air Force is thinking about using drones in the future.

At Just Security, law professors Jeffrey Brand, Amos Guiora, and Steven Barela defend the idea of drone courts, arguing that “we seek to restore a balance of power that is now totally absent.”

Know Your Drone

The British Royal Navy is holding “Robot Wars” exercises for drone manufacturers seeking contracts to demonstrate their technologies. (ITV)

At Popular Science, Eric Adams looks at the future of highly autonomous stealth drones like the Northrop Grumman RQ-180.

The Coast Guard is testing the MQ-8B Fire Scout, an unmanned helicopter, on the USCGC Bertholf off the coast of California. (Times of San Diego)

The first ever test flight at Nevada’s drone testing facility came to a very early end when the drone crashed…immediately after launch. (Gizmodo)

Drones at Work

Mark Devries uses drones to uncover the toxic wastelands created by American factory farms. (Motherboard)

The Peruvian government released drone footage showing the damage caused by Greenpeace activists to one of the Nazca Lines, a UNESCO World Heritage site. (Vice)

Swedish company Intuitive Aerials attached a Christmas tree to one a drone and flew it around Linköping, Sweden. (YouTube)

A kangaroo in Australia jumped up and swiped a drone out of the sky. (9news.com.au)

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For Mashable’s take on the week in drone news, check out Drone Beat.

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