Weekly Roundup 2/19/18

The Skydio R1 drone has 13 onboard cameras for autonomous navigation. Credit: Skydio

February 12, 2018 – February 18, 2018

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A U.S. drone strike in Yemen reportedly killed two suspected members of al-Qaeda. According to Agence France-Presse, the strike in Bayda province targeted two men on a motorcycle.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is investigating a helicopter crash in South Carolina that has been blamed on a drone. A low-flying manned helicopter operated by a student pilot and instructor crashed after reportedly banking sharply to avoid what the pilots claim to be a drone. No injuries were reported. (The Post and Courier)

A U.S. federal grand jury in Minnesota indicted three men for conspiring to export drone parts from the U.S. to Hezbollah. The indictment alleges that the group transferred drone guidance systems and drone engines, among other parts, to Lebanon through South Africa and the UAE. (Associated Press) For more on illegal drone exports, click here.

Commentary, Analysis, and Art

At Foreign Affairs, Paul Scharre, Jacquelyn Schneider, and Julia Macdonald debate the extent to which ground troops trust drones and discuss the role that unmanned aircraft will play in the future of war.

At the U.S. Department of Defense, Staff Sgt. David Overson looks at how small drones can be useful for battlefield intelligence-gathering.

At The Drive, Joseph Trevithick looks at how U.S. special forces are exploring ways of extending the forward presence of MQ-9 Reaper drones.

Also at The Drive, Joseph Trevithick and Tyler Rogoway consider why Boeing is assisting General Atomics with its bid for the U.S. Navy’s MQ-25 Stingray refueler drone.

At Bellingcat, Wim Zwijnenburg looks at what Israel’s downing of an Iranian drone says about the Iranian presence in Syria.

In a study published in Nature Communications, researchers found that drone deliveries could be more fuel efficient than ground deliveries in certain environments.

At Just Security, Michael J. Adams and Ryan Goodman consider the Trump administration’s revised targeting rules in light of international law governing lethal military action.

At Aviation Week, Graham Warwick writes that the U.S. military’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget request includes more funding for autonomous systems research.

At Bloomberg, Alan Levin writes that several recent high-profile safety incidents have led to calls for greater controls on drone flying.

At Popular Mechanics, David Hambling profiles DroneClash, a competition in the Netherlands that challenges participants to knock each other’s drones out of the sky.

A white paper by Dedrone and Verizon considers the risks in the use of drones in disaster areas. (PDF)

Drone videographer Sam Greenfield explains to CNN the challenges of using a drone to cover the Volvo Ocean Race.

The Johnson City Press looks at how a high school in Elizabethton, Tennessee is teaching students how to fly drones.

At Lawfare, Christopher J. Fuller considers the historical background of the U.S. targeted killing program.

At PoliceOne.com, Tim Dees offers a list of ways that police departments can justify a drone acquisition to its local community.

At the Intercept, Joe Penny explores how Nigeriens in Agadez feel about the local U.S. drone base and asks if the facility is even legal under Nigerien law.

In a lecture in Canberra, Chief of the Army Lt. Gen. Angus Campbell argued that Australia must accelerate its acquisition and development of advanced unmanned systems. (The West Australian)

At TV News Check, Harry A. Jessell profiles Fox’s growing network of certified drone pilots.

At Market Watch, Sally French speaks with the only pilot to have been caught for flying without a commercial drone license.

Meanwhile, at the Drone Girl blog, Sally French considers why the new Skydio drone could be a game-changer for the industry.

Know Your Drone

Researchers at MIT have developed a system that enables drones to navigate complex, cluttered environments at 20 miles per hour. (Press Release)

A team at North Carolina State University has developed a fixed-wing drone capable of operating underwater. (New Atlas)

A study published in the journal Methods in Ecology and Evolution found that drones are more accurate for counting wildlife than traditional methods. (CNNMoney)

U.S. Air Force researchers are exploring ways of using micro sensors to help stabilize small drones in adverse weather conditions. (Defense News)

U.S. startup Skydio unveiled the R1, a self-flying selfie drone. (TechCrunch)

Robotics firm Boston Dynamics released a video showing its SpotMini quadruped robot opening a door. (Wired)

Singapore Firm ST Kinetics unveiled the PROBOT, an armed unmanned ground vehicle. (Army Recognition)

The Nigerian Air Force has unveiled a new surveillance and reconnaissance drone called the Tsaigumi and announced plans to develop an armed unmanned aircraft in the near future. (Jane’s)

Researchers from Queens University have developed a system that allows one to create large aerial lego formations using drones. (CNET)

Challenger Aerospace Group released new details about its Titan cargo drone, which will have a maximum take-off weight of 3.5 tonnes. (Defense Blog)

Amazon has been awarded a patent for a protective frame for delivery drones. (The Mercury News)

Chinese firm Oceanalpha announced that it is developing a 500-tonne unmanned shipping vessel. (Unmanned Systems Technology)

Lockheed Martin announced the release of a new version of its VCS control system for unmanned aircraft. (Jane’s)

The European Medium-Altitude Long-Endurance Remotely-Piloted Air System has passed a critical systems requirements review and will now move on to the second stage of the definition study. (Jane’s)

China has begun work on a 770 square kilometer unmanned boat test site in the disputed South China Sea. (AFP)

Drones at Work

The Raleigh city advisory committee has revised a proposed ordinance in order to allow small unmanned aircraft to be operated in the city’s parks. (The News & Observer)

The El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office has acquired four drones to collect evidence to present to jurors in trials. (Mountain Democrat)

Meanwhile, the Texas Department of Public Safety has acquired 17 drones for a range of operations, including accident scene reconstruction. (My San Antonio)

The People’s Liberation Army Surveying and Mapping Institute is using an unmanned surface vessel in its 34th Antarctic Scientific Expedition research operation. (Unmanned Systems Technology)

Industry Intel

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems has partnered with Boeing and other defense firms on a proposal for the Navy’s MQ-25 Stingray refueler drone competition. Boeing has already submitted its own aircraft design, which it unveiled earlier in the year. (FlightGlobal)  

Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy has delayed its projected date for initial operating capability for the MQ-25 Stingray refueler drone to the mid-2020s. (USNI News)

DroneBase, a California-based startup that connects drone users with commercial opportunities, raised $12 million in Series B funding led by SkyFund and DJI. (TechCrunch)

Bye Aerospace, a Denver-based firm that is developing a high-altitude solar-powered drone, raised $5 million in a Series C round led by Galileo Global Securities and Ashanti Capital. (Press Release)

A planned test site for drone businesses in York County, Virginia has received $150,000 in funding from a state investment fund. (Daily Press)

Canada’s Department of National Defense awarded MDA a $6.35 million contract for shipboard Puma AE drone systems, training, and equipment for the Royal Canadian Navy. (Shephard Media)

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has selected Northrop Grumman to participate in OFFSET, a program to develop drone swarms. (Shephard Media)

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