Weekly Roundup 4/29

A group of elephants grazing in Kenya’s Amboseli National Park. Kenya's wildlife service has decided to use drones in each of it's 52 national parks to combat ivory poachers. Credit: George Steinmetz
A group of elephants grazing in Kenya’s Amboseli National Park. Kenya’s wildlife service has decided to use drones in each of it’s 52 national parks to combat ivory poachers. Six elephants—including four calves—were killed by poachers on Tuesday. Credit: George Steinmetz

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Senate leaders in the United States have removed from a forthcoming bill a proviso requiring the White House to submit to Congress a report on the combatants and noncombatants killed in drone strikes. According to The Guardian, lawmakers removed the requirement at the suggestion of James Clapper, the national director for intelligence.

Saudi Arabia has reportedly purchased a number of Wing Loong drones from China. According to a dispatch by Tactical Reports, on April 19 Chinese People’s Liberation Army General Wang Guanzhong visited Saudi Arabia to finalize the agreement. The Wing Loong is a combat capable drone that is modeled on the American Predator drone. Four nations—the United States, China, Israel, and United Kingdom—currently operate armed drones. (The Verge)

Kenya announced that it will deploy surveillance drones in each of its 52 national parks to provide in an effort to combat poachers. The $103 million plan follows a successful pilot project, conducted in collaboration with international law enforcement agencies, in which poaching was reduced by 96%. (The Guardian)

After delivering a speech about drones and U.S. foreign policy, civil rights activist Cornel West joined a group of 300 protesters that marched on Hancock Air Force Base in New York, where the 174th Attack Wing of the Air National Guard operates a fleet of Reaper drones. Hancock has been the site of a number of protests in response to its drone program. (Syracuse Post Standard)

A professor at the University of Missouri resumed drone flying lessons despite warnings from the Federal Aviation Administration. After a cease-and-desist letter from the F.A.A. last summer, Bill Allen, an assistant professor of journalism, decided to hold the lessons inside. The lessons are part of a class that combines flight time with lectures by individuals who have used drones in their professional fields. (Columbia Daily Tribune)

An American underwater drone failed to find traces of the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370. The Bluefin-21 was tasked with searching the ocean floor around the area where rescuers had detected a “ping.” Australian officials are considering expanding the search radius of the Bluefin-21. (CNN)

Commentary, Analysis and Art

At Just Security blog, Ryan Goodman and Sarah Knuckey provide a line-by-line annotation of a New York Times story on the recent double drone strikes in Yemen.

Also at Just Security, Steve Vladeck considers a Second Circuit judge’s order for the White House Office of Legal Counsel to release the memo justifying the killing of U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki.

Brian Emfinger, a stormchaser and photojournalist, used a drone to capture aerial footage of the damage caused by a tornado in Arkansas. (YouTube)

Meanwhile, at Forbes, Greg McNeal argues that Emfinger’s footage highlights questions about the wisdom of an F.A.A. ban on drone journalism.

At the Washington Post, Brendan Richardson takes a look at how drones could revolutionize the science of weather prediction by flying into dangerous areas and storms.

In a joint op-ed in the Raleigh News & Observer, Sarah Preston of the American Civil Liberties Union and Ted Lindsley, founder and CEO of drone manufacturer Olaeris, urge lawmakers in North Carolina to adopt strict privacy rules for drones.

At Quartz, Jake Becker wonders how long it will be until police drones are a common sight over major events like the Boston Marathon.

The Center for Investigative Reporting examines an experiment in which the Los Angeles Police Department used persistent wide-area aerial surveillance cameras to watch over the entire Compton area of Los Angeles.

At the New York Times, Todd Woody examines why energy companies are turning to drones to do work that is dangerous or boring for humans.

In the MIT Technology Review, Chris Anderson makes a case for the use of drones in agriculture.

A group of American archaeologists have published a report on the use of drone-collected aerial imagery to find ancient ceremonial pits in New Mexico. (Science Direct)

In an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine, George R.R. Martin, author of the “Game of Thrones” book series, says that death by drone is worse than the warfare of the Middle Ages.

An ongoing series at Understanding Empire blog examines the bureaucratization of violence and the origins of the Predator drone.

KMel Robotics, a Pennsylvania-based company, programmed a swarm of drones to perform music.

Know Your Drone

French aviation company Dassault has successfully flown a nEUROn military drone in formation with a fighter jet and a business jet over southern France. The formation flight lasted over two hours. (Gizmag)

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has announced a new project to develop more capable autopilot systems for military aircraft, relieving pilots of many of the traditional piloting tasks. (Defense One)

Drone maker Arcturus has developed a fixed-wing drone that is capable of vertical takeoff and landing.

Researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology have connected a quadcopter drone to a virtual reality headset, allowing the wearer to experience the perspective of the drone.

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