Weekly Roundup 3/16/20

March 9, 2020 – March 15, 2020

Public Safety Drones, 3rd Edition

Since 2017 the Center for the Study of the Drone has been tracking the growing number of public safety agencies in the United States that own and operate drones. In the latest edition of the Public Safety Drones project, the Center has tallied over 1,500 state and local public safety agencies with drones, 688 more than in the previous installment.

Top Stories

A suspected U.S. drone strike in Somalia killed multiple people. According to local officials who spoke with Reuters, the casualties were all civilians, including one child. In a statement, U.S. Africa Command contended that the strike killed “five terrorists” and said that it was investigating the claims of civilian harm.

U.S. military forces protecting oil fields in eastern Syria have come under repeated attacks from small drones. According to NPR, the drones dropped mortars on soldiers of the West Virginia National Guard. U.S. Army investigators have said that some of the explosives appeared to have been manufactured using a 3D printer.

The Trump administration is preparing to ban federal departments and agencies from acquiring or using any foreign-made drones. According to TechCrunch, the draft order would cover both foreign-made drones and drones that use foreign-made components, particularly those that are made in China. If it goes into effect, federal departments and agencies would have one month to comply with the order. The Department of Interior suspended all drone operations earlier this year over cybersecurity concerns.

The U.S. Air Force is developing a plan to replace the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper. In comments before the House Armed Services Committee, Air Force acquisition chief Will Roper said that the Reaper is not designed to be used in conflicts against near-peer adversaries and would probably need to be replaced by a suite of systems. (Defense News)

The U.S. Marine Corps is abandoning plans to develop a large, sophisticated ship-based drone. The MUX program sought to develop a long-range multi-role aircraft that could take off and land from a ship’s helicopter deck. The service instead plans to acquire a large land-based unmanned aircraft and a smaller shipboard drone. (USNI News)

Know Your Drone

Korean Air is readying the designs for a prototype technology demonstrator of a stealthy surveillance and reconnaissance drone for the Republic of Korea Air Force. (Aviation Week)

Ukrainian defense firm CDET unveiled the RAM, a catapult-launched loitering munition drone that can be equipped with either a high-explosive fragmentation warhead, a thermobaric explosive device, or an anti-tank explosive. (Jane’s)

The U.S. Army will be evaluating industry proposals for advanced tether systems for aerial drones and unmanned ground vehicles. (Jane’s)

Austrian drone maker Schiebel completed acceptance tests of its S2 heavy fuel helicopter drone engine for the Royal Australian Navy. (Jane’s)

Drone delivery firm Matternet unveiled the design for its proposed landing and recharging stations for the company’s multirotor delivery drones. (TechCrunch)

U.S. firm FLIR Systems unveiled the Ranger HDC MR, a high-definition thermal imaging unit that can be used for counter-drone systems. (Unmanned Systems Technology)

Drones at Work

A Lebanese national has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate U.S. export laws for acquiring U.S. drone technology to export to the Hezbollah group. (Associated Press)

U.S. Senator Edward Markey has requested that the Federal Aviation Administration clarify its position on state and local testing of counter-drone systems. (Press Release)

The Turkish military announced plans to build a drone control center in Erzurum to conduct surveillance and strike operations in Eastern Anatolia. (Daily Sabah)

The Hillsdale County Sheriff’s Office in New Jersey has added a small drone to its inventory. (Hillsdale Daily News)

Industry Intel

The U.S. Navy awarded Northrop Grumman Systems an $86.2 million contract for sustainment, engineering, logistics, and test support for the MQ-4C Triton. (DoD)

The U.S. Army awarded General Atomics Aeronautical Systems a $14.9 million contract for instructor operators for the MQ-1C Gray Eagle. (DoD)

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems awarded Hughes Network Systems a sub-contract for data link modernization for the Army’s MQ-1C Gray Eagle. (Shephard Media)

The U.K. Ministry of Defence awarded MSubs an initial GBP1 million to convert a manned submersible into an extra large unmanned undersea vehicle. (Shephard Media)

Orbital UAV will become Insitu’s primary engine supplier under a new memorandum of understanding between the two companies. (Shephard Media)

The Australian Defence Force awarded XTEK a $3.2 million contract for spare parts for the AeroVironment WASP. (Proactive)

Frequentis and Hensoldt have partnered to work on integrated counter-drone solutions for airports. (Vertical Magazine)

Parazero Drone Safety Systems intends to acquire Delta Drones, a French commercial drone manufacturer. (Geospatial World)

Commentary, Analysis, and Art

At TechCrunch, an investigation by Mark Harris found that the U.K. military downplayed risks and sought to delay an announcement of a historic transatlantic drone flight over concerns about anti-drone protests.

An independent study commissioned by the U.K. Ministry of Defence found that Royal Air Force MQ-9 Reaper crews face a higher risk of suffering moral injury and other traumas from their work. (The Times)

At Jane’s, Tim Ripley writes that drones played a critical role in Turkey’s recent intervention in Syria’s Idlib province.

At FlightGlobal, Garrett Reim writes that the U.S. Marine Corps concluded that the MUX drone concept was too complex to be feasible.

At the Royal United Services Institute, Nick Reynolds and Dr. Jack Watling examine how armed drones can put armored formations at risk.

In comments to the U.S. House Armed Services Committee, General Frank McKenzie said that the threat posed by drones and the lack of countermeasures is the “most concerning tactical development” in the Middle East since improvised explosive devices. (Bloomberg)

At USNI News, Megan Eckstein writes that fleets of sonar-equipped underwater drones could be a key element of future naval warfare.

In an op-ed, the editorial board of the Greenfield Recorder argues that the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has overstepped its mandate by proposing severe fines for hobbyists that don’t comply with its planned remote identification rules.

At Aviation Week, Steve Trimble looks at how recent comments by Elon Musk about the end of the manned fighter era square with the U.S. Air Force’s actual plans for manned military aviation.

At C4ISRNET, Kelsey D. Atherton writes that cold weather drones are in high demand as the U.S. and Canada prepare for conflict in the Arctic.

At Aviation International Online, Nick Zazulia looks at how the U.S. military plans to use drones to resupply troops in the field.