Weekly Roundup 3/24

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The United States will not join negotiations at the United Nations Human Rights Council over a proposed resolution that calls for greater international oversight of drone strikes. The draft resolution, which was proposed by Pakistan, urges states to “conduct prompt, independent and impartial investigations whenever there are indications of any violations to human rights caused by [drone] use.” (Foreign Policy)

A new report presented to the North Carolina State Legislature last week lays out the framework for a state-run drone program. The report by North Carolina’s Chief Information Officer Chris Estes presents a number of ways the state could utilize drones, ranging from tracking suspected criminals to managing insect infestation on crops. Estes has requested $215,000 of funding for the program. (News Observer)

Meanwhile in Canada, the Coquitlam Search and Rescue unit is requesting funding for a drone search and rescue program. “We’ll review the footage in real time as the drone’s up in the air and be able to look for any clues as far as movements on the ground that are not normal for that terrain or that area,” said Mike Coyle, Coquitlam SAR manager, in an interview with The Huffington Post.

Google will not accept military funding slated companies it bought last year that are competing in the DARPA Robotics Challenge. Google is not seeking defense contracts for its nascent robotics program; instead, the company plans to develop robotic systems for the commercial sector. (The Verge)

A San Francisco company called QuiQui has announced that it will launch a drone delivery system for drugstore products in the city’s Mission district. “If a toothbrush falls from 20 feet it won’t hurt anyone,” QuiQui CEO and founder Joshua Ziering told SFGate.

The Federal Aviation Administration ordered the Washington Nationals, a baseball team from Washington D.C., to stop flying a drone over practice sessions. (ESPN)

Meanwhile, the FAA is investigating a man who flew a drone over the scene of a fatal gas explosion in New York City on March 12. (ABC News)

Commentary, Analysis and Art

At TechPresident, Rebecca Chao considers the work of forensic architects in the analysis of drone strikes.

At Defense One, Patrick Tucker argues that the military’s growing investment in drones has come at the at the expense of other surveillance technologies, which, Tucker points out, were sorely needed in the search for MH370. “U.S. reliance on high-resolution imaging is surpassed only by the military obsession with unmanned aerial vehicles or UAVs,” writes Tucker.

The author of an anti-Chavez blog used drone footage of a protest in Venezuela to challenge the accuracy of a report by CNN.

At NPR, Steve Henn reports on the influence of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in the robotics industry. “It’s hard to find a roboticist working today in academia who hasn’t taken some kind of military funding,” writes Henn.

At Al Jazeera, Madiha Tahir argues that the public discussion around drones and targeted killing disregards “the distinction between law and morality.” Tahir disputes the idea that “drones are simply tools that can be used for moral or immoral ends.”

At Iowa Public Radio, Peter Gray describes the work of Chad Colby, a consultant for farmers who is encouraging his clients to use drones.

At War on the Rocks blog, Adam Elkus argues that commentators who employ the frequent trope that “warfare is turning war into a ‘videogame’” get the argument wrong.

Know Your Drone

Chinese authorities are using surveillance drones to identify industries that are violating anti-pollution regulations. Four drones, which have been used in Beijing, Shanxi and Hebei provinces, have so far enabled the government to address over 200 violations. (The Guardian)

A group of London-based hackers have developed a quadcopter drone that can hack smartphones from the air. The system, which is called Snoopy, gains access to smartphones via WiFi connection. (CNN Money)

Defense contractor MBDA has successfully test-fired its high-accuracy Brimstone missile from a Reaper drone. According a company statement, the missile is capable of striking a car moving at speeds up to 70mph.

DARPA has awarded four companies contracts to begin developing Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) drones. The companies must design aircraft that can cruise faster than existing VTOL vehicles while carrying up to 12,000lb of payload. (Gizmag)

French company Thales has developed a concept for a high-altitude surveillance blimp drone that hovers at an altitude of 60,000ft. The 300ft-long StratoBus will remain aloft at the edge of the stratosphere for up to five years, according to the company.

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