Weekly Roundup 3/26/18

Komatsu Smart Construction is investing in new drones and artificial intelligence for construction. Credit: Komatsu

March 19, 2018 – March 25, 2018

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Top Stories

A U.S. drone strike in Libya killed two suspected members of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. The strike targeted a house in Ubari, a town in southwest Libya. In a statement, U.S. Africa Command said that it did not believe that any civilians were killed in the strike. (New York Times)

Japan’s Komatsu Smart Construction has partnered with Skycatch and DJI to manufacturer and deploy 1,000 drones equipped with autonomous imagery processing systems for the construction industry. The planned systems will be based on the DJI Matrice 100 and customized for construction-specific requirements. Komatsu has previously experimented with using autonomous drones and self-driving equipment at construction sites. (The Verge)

Meanwhile, according to Reuters,  DJI Technology is reportedly seeking to raise at least $500 million in funding in the lead-up to a potential public offering. If the IPO is successful, DJI would be valued at approximately $15 billion.

In a demonstration, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army remotely operated a Type 59 main battle tank from a ground control station. This is the first time that China has publicly demonstrated an unmanned variant of the tank, which has been in service with the PLA since the 1950s. (Jane’s)

Know Your Drone

U.S. defense firm Lockheed Martin unveiled its concept for the Navy’s MQ-25 Stingray refueller drone competition. (Aviation Week)

The U.S. Defense Innovation Unit Experimental issued a solicitation for a small unmanned undersea vehicle with a range of up to 30 miles. (ExecutiveBiz)

Amazon has filed a patent for a system that allows package delivery drones to be controlled with both visual and acoustic gestures. (Tech Radar)

Meanwhile, Walmart has filed a patent application for a drone that could assist customers who need help in the company’s stores. (The Drive)

Researchers at MIT have developed a fish-like remote controlled undersea vehicle for environmental data collection. (Wired)

Lockheed Martin Skunk Works unveiled the X-44A, a previously secret drone demonstrator prototype that is thought to have played a role in the development of the RQ-170 Sentinel, a classified stealth drone. (The Drive)

A team from Carnegie Mellon University has developed a robot called the RadPiper that can be used to remotely measure radiation levels in the pipes of uranium enrichment facilities. (Ars Technica)

The U.S. Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity has launched a competition to develop software that enhances imagery produced by small unmanned vehicles. (Unmanned Aerial Online)

Meanwhile, the U.S. Army has issued a call for systems that can automatically detect and classify targets in footage from small drones. (SBIR)

Estonian robotics firm Milrem announced that it is developing an unmanned ground vehicle for firefighting and search and rescue called the Multiscope Rescue. (AUVSI)

U.S. firm Roboteam has developed a software package that enables the simultaneous control of multiple unmanned vehicles and payloads by a single operator. (Jane’s)

Latvian firm Aerones has developed a drone that can be used to clean wind turbines. (The Drive)

U.S. aerospace firm Scaled Composites unveiled the Model 406, a fixed wing drone that will be used as a testbed for rapid prototyping and engineering processes. (FlightGlobal)

The U.K. Ministry of Defense opted not to grant the Watchkeeper medium-altitude long-endurance drone a key milestone certification, a move that will delay the system’s entry into full service. (Jane’s)

Drones at Work

A Heron drone operated by the Indian Navy crashed during a routine surveillance flight. (Jane’s)

The Michigan House of Representatives has passed a bill that would hold drone operators legally liable for crimes committed with unmanned aircraft. (Associated Press)

Police in Austin, Texas used a drone to scan the area around the home of the Austin bomber for potential threats. (New York Post)

According to recently released satellite imagery analyzed by Offiziere, China appears to have deployed the Xianglong, a high-altitude long-endurance surveillance drone, to Yishuntun airbase in Jilin Province.

Meanwhile, satellite images from February appear to show that the Xianglong has also been deployed to a naval air base on Hainan Island. (Jane’s)

Police in Cyprus have been using drones as part of an effort to counter illegal bird poaching on a U.K. military base. (The Independent)

The Florida Department of Corrections is investigating two recent incidents in which drones were used to drop contraband into two undisclosed prisons. (Pensacola News Journal)

Drone Delivery Canada announced that it has conducted the first U.S. test flights of its package delivery drone at Griffiss International Airport in New York. (Press Release)

The U.S. Coast Guard has reported that a Coast Guard helicopter was engaged in a near mid-air collision with a drone over Port Angeles, Washington. (KXLY)

Industry Intel

The city of Louisville, Kentucky has been awarded a $100,000 grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies to test a system that would dispatch drones to the scenes of suspected gunshots. (Wave 3 News)

The U.S. Navy awarded Ausley Associates, Bowhead Science and Technology, Precise Systems, and Tekla Research separate indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contracts for program management services in support of the Program Executive Office for Unmanned Systems. The aggregate ceiling for all contracts is $205.6 million. (DoD)

The U.S. Navy awarded Insitu a $8.3 million contract modification for work supporting the RQ-21A Blackjack program. (DoD)

The U.S. Army awarded AeroVironment a $9.3 million contract modification for contractor logistics support for the Switchblade loitering munition. (DoD)

Skycision, a California-based startup that uses drones and satellites to manage crops, raised $1.1 million in seed funding. (FinSMEs)

The University of Southern Mississippi awarded ASV Global a contract for a C-Worker 5 unmanned surface vehicle. (Shephard Media)

French Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly announced that France will increase funding for artificial intelligence and autonomy to over $120 million annually. (Defense News)

The Turkish Army has taken delivery of eight new Bayraktar TB2 strike-capable drones, bringing its total inventory to 34 air vehicles. (Daily Sabah)

Colorado-based Black Swift Technologies has partnered with NASA to develop advanced drone-based crop-monitoring technologies. (sUAS News)

Commentary, Analysis, and Art

At Defense News, Sebastian Sprenger looks at how three German military drone acquisition programs are progressing.

A new report by consulting firm Frost & Sullivan predicts that half of all drone flights will be autonomous by 2022. (Aviation International Online)

At the Marine Corps Times, Todd South writes that the U.S. Marine Corps is pushing the idea of using small drones to resupply remote outposts.

At Aviation Week, Lara Seligman writes that the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration is concerned about the increasing number of drone flights near sensitive sites.

Data published by Kittyhawk, a drone flight planning startup, shows that the DJI Mavic Pro is the most popular drone among Kittyhawk customers. (The Drone Girl)

At Inside Defense, Ashley Tressel writes that the U.S. Army is only interested in runway-independent drones for its planned Next-Generation Tactical UAS.

At Task and Purpose, Kelsey Atherton argues that drones cannot, in fact, protect the U.S. from a North Korean missile attack.

An article in Daily Sabah describes how Turkey’s Bayraktar TB2 drones have played a prominent role in Turkish military operations in Syria.

At Fox News, Talia Kirkland looks at how first responders in the future could be aided by swarms of autonomous drones.

At The Drive, Joseph Trevithick considers why  the U.K.’s Watchkeeper drone has not passed key safety tests after 15 years in development.

At Jane’s, Gareth Jennings writes that trial test flights of a Korean prototype medium-altitude long-endurance drone are drawing to a close.

At WHYY, Angela Gervasi looks at how the city of Philadelphia is exploring ways of integrating autonomous drones into regular life.

At New York Law Journal, Paul B. Keller writes that consumer and commercial drones collect a vast amount of incidental data, posing serious privacy concerns.

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