Weekly Roundup 2/4/14

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At the Center for the Study of the Drone

Our theater critic Joey Sims comments on George Brant’s Grounded, about a drone pilot’s descent into madness, and reflects on the space between fiction and state secrets.


U.S. Customs and Border Protection crashed a Predator B drone into the Pacific Ocean after it malfunctioned off the California coast. Following the crash the CBP grounded its fleet of Predator drones, which are used to monitor U.S. borders and search for drug smugglers. (NBC San Diego)

Two U.S. Army surveillance blimps will be deployed near the Aberdeen Proving Ground, a base 45 miles northeast of Washington D.C. The blimps—also known as Aerostats—will float at 10,000 ft. in order to cast a radar net stretching from North Carolina to Boston and Lake Erie. Even though, according to the U.S. Army, the radar will be used to detect incoming cruise missiles, the blimps have raised privacy concerns among residents and the American Civil Liberties Union. (Washington Post)

The California State Assembly has approved a bill that would place strict limits on drone surveillance and would ban all weaponized drones from the state. (Los Angeles Times)

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has published a leaked Pakistani intelligence report that contains details about 330 U.S. drone strikes. The document includes the estimated number of people that were killed in each attack and notes whether any of the casualties were foreign.

Meanwhile, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported that January 2014 was the first calendar month without a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan in over two years.

In his 2014 State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama stressed that he has imposed “prudent limits on the use of drones” in the fight against violent extremism. (Politico)

The FAA has ordered a Wisconsin brewing company to cease making beer deliveries by drone. The company later admitted that its video depicting an autonomous drone delivering a 12-pack to a group of ice fishermen and fisherwomen was partly fake: the drone wasn’t powerful enough to actually carry beer, so the company filled the beer box with “something.” (The Verge)

Commentary, Analysis and Art

At the Washington Post Volokoh Conspiracy blog, Kenneth Anderson argues for a reform of the covert action statute under which drone strikes are considered legal.

Also at the Washington Post, Brian Fung declares that President Obama’s use of the word “drone” in his State of the Union proves that—despite the best efforts of the drone industry to promote alternate terms such as “unmanned aerial vehicle”—“‘drone’ is here to stay.”

Gregory D. Johnsen tells the long history  of the 2001 Congressional Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which was originally drafted to authorized the U.S. president to use force against the perpetrators of the September 11 attacks, and which remains in effect today. (BuzzFeed)

A YouTube video shows what appears to be an Iranian Yasir drone over the East Ghouta neighborhood of Damascus on February 1.

Another YouTube video shows Afghan villagers stoning a downed American Predator drone. It remains unclear when the video was recorded, or where or by whom.

Hoover Institution Military Fellow Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Atkins argues that the “highly personal nature” of killing by drone is taking a heavy toll on drone pilots and sensor operators. (Lawfare Blog)

At Poynter, Jeremy Barr explains that journalists are becoming increasingly frustrated  as they wait for the implementation of FAA regulations.

At The National Interest, Paul Pillar argues against America prolonging the Afghan War in order to use the country as a base for regional drone operations.

Following the Customs and Border Protection drone crash off the California coast, commercial pilots of manned aircraft warn of the dangers  of integrating drones too quickly into the national airspace. (Bloomberg)

At Motherboard, Shawn Musgrave writes about how a police department in Virginia wants to use blimps to protect seaports.

Drones in Italy captured aerial footage of the aftermath of a landslide in Liguria and a giant boulder’s trail of destruction after it rolled down a hill in Tremeno. (Repubblica and Nine MSN)

At The Verge, Adrianne Jeffries takes a critical look at the ethics of robotic and autonomous weapons. “Replacing soldiers with robots would convert the cost of war from human lives to dollars, which could lead to more conflicts,” writes Jeffries.

The Society for Ontofabulatory Research presents AIRMINDED, a psychogeography project that flies a drone over “Lincolnshire landscape but doing so by following an aerial chart of Waziristan.”

At Foreign Policy magazine, Ty McCormick assembles a timeline of lethal autonomy throughout military history.

Know Your Drone

BAE Systems is developing technology to help intelligence officials access and process large quantities of complex data sourced from diverse sensors. (BAE)

The U.S. Navy plans to test the X-47B fighter drone alongside manned aircraft later this year. The Northrop Grumman drone, the first aircraft in the Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike program, is expected to become operational in 2020. (USNI News)

A senior researcher at the Israeli Institute for National Security Studies has released a report calling for the “deep integration” of unmanned and robotic military systems in the Israeli Defense Force. (IHLS)

Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy is looking into using the manned Boeing P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft to launch groups of submarine-hunting drones. (War is Boring)

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