Weekly Roundup 4/6/15

3/30/15 – 4/5/15

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At the Center for the Study of the Drone

The National Air and Space Museum recently took possession of a rather special drone: the Center for the Study of the Drone’s very own Phantom I quadcopter. This is by no means the first drone to be added to the NASM’s collection. The institution has been collecting unmanned aircraft for over a century. We take a closer look at the NASM’s drones and examine its efforts to keep pace with the fast-moving history of unmanned aircraft.


In an online statement, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps claimed that a U.S. drone strike killed two of its commanders in Tikrit, Iraq. The men, whom the IRGC identified as Ali Yazdani and Hadi Jafari, were reportedly killed on March 23 while supporting Iraqi militias fighting the Islamic State. Cmdr. Elissa Smith, a Pentagon spokesperson, told the Guardian that no airstrikes took place on that day.

Congressmen Joe Heck (R-NV) and Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) announced that they will be re-launching the Congressional Unmanned Systems Caucus. The goal of the caucus will be to “educate our colleagues about the wide array of uses for unmanned systems and the benefits of integrating those systems for commercial applications,” Rep. Heck said in a statement.

The Canadian Broadcast Company reports that residents of Quebec have engaged in more illegal drone activity than those of any other province of the country. All twelve drone-related charges that have so far been handed out by Transport Canada, the government ministry for transportation, were associated with activities in Quebec airspace. The province also saw the most drone-related accidents last year—36 of 69. The maximum penalty for illegally operating a drone is $25,000 CAD.

The government of Panama has banned all drones from flying during the Summit of the Americas, which will be held in Panama City. According to Civil Aeronautics director Rafael Fonseca Mora, the ban, which begins on April 5 and lasts until the 13th, is in place for security reasons. Around 30 regional leaders including President Obama will attend the summit. (Associated Press)

The Electronic Privacy Information Center is taking the Federal Aviation Administration to court in order to compel the agency to set privacy rules for drones. EPIC argues that by leaving out privacy standards, the FAA is failing to develop the “comprehensive plan” for integrating drones into the national airspace that is required by the FAA Reform and Modernization Act of 2012. (Wall Street Journal)

In a statement at the Bundestag, Katrin Suder, the secretary of state for the German Ministry of Defense, told party leaders that Germany and France plan on partnering with Italy to develop a medium-sized armed military drone by 2025. Secretary Suder said that the three countries hope to formalize the agreement later this year. (TheLocal.de)

The North Dakota State Senate passed legislation that would rule any evidence collected using a police drone inadmissible in court unless a search warrant was obtained prior to the flight. House Bill 1328 does not, however, completely ban the use drones by law enforcement: it allows drones to be used to patrol the border with Canada, as well as in emergencies. The North Dakota House approved the bill in February. (Bismarck Tribune)

Meanwhile, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe amended a drone privacy bill that would have placed strict limits on the use of drones by police. The bill originally required that police obtain a search warrant prior to using a drone for any investigation; Gov. McAuliffe amended the bill to require a search warrant specifically for “active criminal investigations.” The Virginia General Assembly will consider the changes on April 15. (Fredericksburg.com)

The Singaporean Air Force declared its fleet of Hermes 450 drones to be fully operational. The Hermes drones are flown by Squadron 116 out of Tengah Air Base and were first delivered by Israel to Singapore in 2007. “Compared to older UAVs, the Hermes 450 enhances our intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities,” Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said in a ceremony marking the occasion. (IHS Jane’s 360)

Commentary, Analysis, and Art

On the Diane Rehm Show, Gabriella Blum and Benjamin Wittes discuss how new technologies like drones challenge traditional notions of security and state-sponsored conflict.

The Mayo Clinic considers what it would be like to have medical drones delivering emergency supplies of blood to mass casualty scenes and hospitals.

At Motherboard, Shawn Musgrave argues that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives could learn something about drones from Bob’s Burgers, a TV show.

At Discover Magazine, Jim Scanlan considers a few lessons from the U.K. on how to regulate commercial drones.

At the Daily Beast, Adam Rawnsley used satellite imagery to shed light on an Iranian drone base in the Strait of Hormuz.

In an interview with TheLocal.de, German physicist Dr. Jürgen Altmann said that Germany should not contribute to a global arms race by developing its own armed military drone.

In the wake of the attack on Garissa University College in Kenya, the White House defended the American counterterrorism strategy in Somalia—which relies heavily on drones—as effective against al-Shabab. (Washington Post)

At Vice News, Scott Mitchell writes that Australia’s purchase of American Reaper drones could provoke negative reactions among its neighbors.

At the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Jack Serle presents a summary of reported U.S. drone strikes, noting that the number of strikes dropped by 50% between Q4 2014 and Q1 2015.

At Just Security, Charles J. Dunlap, Jr. considers the debate over whether to ban or regulate new weapons, including autonomous weapons systems.

At the Council on Foreign Relations, Robert Newson argues that the debate over the Navy’s combat drone is too narrowly focused on “how advanced, large, and expensive to make [it].”

Filmmaker Brian Farm succeeded in attaching the Phantom Flex4K camera to a drone and shooting extremely high-definition video. (YouTube)

Know Your Drone

The U.S. Air Force Weapons School announced that in a test on March 17 it successfully used an MQ-9 Reaper to strike a boat with a Hellfire missile. This is the first test in which a U.S. drone had fired at a boat. (Air Force Times)

The U.S. Navy Research Laboratory is developing a drone that can operate as both an aircraft and a submarine. (Defense One)

Defense contractor Raytheon has secured a $46 million contract to build ground stations for South Korea’s forthcoming fleet of Global Hawk high-altitude surveillance drones. (GovConWire)

French company Sysveo is developing software to allow drones to capture augmented reality aerial videos. (Motherboard)

Aviation Week takes a closer look at the prototype of Facebook’s high-altitude solar-powered drone, which the company hopes to use to beam Internet to remote areas.

Brazilian contractor Avionics Services announced that it will begin production of the Cacador, a variant of the Israel Aerospace Industries Heron military surveillance drone. (UPI)

The U.S. Marine Corps Warfighting Lab is considering different methods of detecting and destroying small enemy drones. (Marine Corps Times)

A new project from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency proposes fielding swarms of drones and missiles that are directed from the cockpit of an F-35.

Drones at Work

In Jordan, American archeologists are using drones to monitor sites for looters. (Stars and Stripes)

Researchers in South Korea are looking into ways of using drones to defend against other drones. (IEEE Spectrum) For more on drones in South Korea, click here.

Police in Lucknow, India plan on using drones to help disperse unruly crowds, potentially by using pepper spray. (Times of India)

Amazon is testing its Prime Air delivery drones at a secret location just miles from the U.S. border in British Columbia, Canada. (The Guardian)

Air Shephard, a conservation group, is raising funds to build a fleet of drones to protect rhinos and elephants in a wildlife park in South Africa. (NBC)

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police used a DraganFlyer X6 drone to gather data from the crash of Air Canada Flight AC624 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. (Press Release)

Photographer Calder Wilson attached fireworks to a drone. (Boing Boing)

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