Weekly Roundup 5/20/2019

A team at the University of Zurich has developed drones that can autonomously dodge objects thrown at them at high speeds. Credit: University of Zurich via The Verge

May 7, 2019 – May 19, 2019

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Top Stories

Saudi officials claim that a drone attack targeted a critical pipeline inside the Kingdom. In a statement, Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih Al-Falih said that drones were launched against several targets including the East-West Pipeline, which sustained damage. In the past year, Houthi forces, which claimed responsibility for the attack, have repeatedly targeted Saudi infrastructure with drones. (Associated Press)


The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is set to introduce new rules for drone hobbyists. In a notice published on its website, the FAA said that it will begin requiring hobbyists to obtain clearance before flying in controlled airspace. The agency also indicated that it will soon require hobbyists to pass an aeronautical knowledge test. Congress granted the FAA new authorities to regulate recreational drones in the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018.


Germany’s Federal Government will appeal a court ruling that required it to ensure that U.S. military drone operations in which it plays a role comply with relevant international law. In March, the Higher Administrative Court of Münster issued the ruling as a condition for Germany’s continuing provision of infrastructure and other support that enables these operations. (Der Tagesspiegel)

For more on this case and others like it, click here.


Know Your Drone

Roborder, a European technology consortium, is developing a surveillance drone swarming system for European border monitoring operations. (The Intercept)


Drone entertainment firm Verity Studios has developed an algorithm that it claims can prevent multirotor drones from crashing when their motors fail. (ZDNet)


A team at Virginia Tech is developing algorithms and machine learning systems that enable drones to autonomously detect missing persons during search and rescue operations. (Scientific American)


Turkish Aerospace Industries unveiled plans to develop a supersonic drone, the Goksungur. (Defense News)


The U.S. Air Force has issued a solicitation for proposals for autonomous drones that could rescue downed aircrews in remote areas or behind enemy lines. (Air Force Magazine)


A team from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles has developed lightweight actuators that can significantly reduce the weight of insect-like micro-drones. (Technology Review)


Researchers at the University of Zurich have developed a drone that can autonomously dodge objects that are thrown at it at high speeds. (The Verge)


Australian manufacturing firm Titomic has produced what it claims is the largest 3D-printed drone ever made, a 1.8-meter diameter multirotor system. (Foundry-Planet.com)


The European MALE RPAS Programme, which is seeking to develop a medium-altitude long-endurance drone for various E.U countries, has completed a safety assessment for the aircraft’s use in segregated and non-segregated airspace. (Shephard Media)


Chinese firm Yunzhou Intelligence Technology unveiled the L80, an armable unmanned boat. (Jane’s)


U.S. defense firm Harris unveiled the Suonoboy Dispenser System, which can be mounted aboard drones as well as inhabited aircraft. (Jane’s)


Maritime unmanned systems maker OceanAlpha unveiled the Dolphin 1, an autonomous unmanned surface vessel for rescue operations. (Unmanned Systems Technology)


Drones at Work

A Pentagon report has found that a significant number of U.S. drone operations along the Syria-Iraq border have been subject to electromagnetic interference. (C4ISRNET)


British maritime firm Sea-Kit conducted a Channel-crossing from England to Belgium with a cargo-carrying unmanned boat. (Schuttevaer)


The French Air Force is standing up a new unit to operate Reaper drones and train new pilots and sensor operators. (Reuters)


A Sacramento man has been charged for flying a drone over several California NFL games to drop anti-media leaflets. He faces up to one year in prison and a $100,000 fine. (The Mercury News)


The city council of Fort Wayne, Indiana has approved an ordinance requiring drone operators to notify police before conducting flights over certain areas or during large public events. (The Journal Gazette)


In an exercise with the Hellenic Navy, Israeli firm Elbit Systems demonstrated its Seagull unmanned boat with a dipping sonar for an anti-submarine warfare operation. (Unmanned Systems Technology)


A project led by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln aims to use drones to understand the origins of tornadoes. (Washington Post)


Industry Intel


Kratos Defense & Security Solutions announced that the U.S. Army has awarded it a $4.9 million contract to develop a system that will be used to evaluate ways of using High Power Microwaves to defeat drones. (Press Release)


Boeing selected Aitech Defense Systems to provide the controller interface for the MQ-25 Stingray refueler drone. (Press Release)


Nileworks, a Japanese drone startup that specializes in agricultural applications, reportedly raised $14.1 million in venture funding. (Agrow)


Volans-i, a San Francisco-based drone delivery startup, raised $20 million in a Series A funding round led by Lightspeed Ventures. (Drone Below)


Manna, an Irish drone delivery startup, raised approximately 10 million euros in a funding round led by Elkstone Capital and Frontline Ventures. (Irish Times)


In its first quarter 2019 earnings release, French drone firm Parrot reported an increase in commercial drone activity amidst a continued decline in consumer drone earnings. (Press Release)


A report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that the cost of the Navy’s MQ-4C Triton exceeded predictions by 2 percent since 2018 and by 61 percent since the initial estimate in 2009. (Jane’s)


Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Drone Defense Systems will commercialize acoustic counter-drone sensors developed by faculty at the university. (Press Release)


ModelAI announced that the U.S. Army has awarded it a contract to develop a hardware architecture for small drones. (Unmanned Systems Technology)


Zipline, a drone-delivery startup that delivers medical supplies, is now valued at over 1.2 billion dollars, according to the 2019 CNBC Disruptor 50 list. (CNBC)


Commentary, Analysis, and Art


At the Los Angeles Times, Samantha Masunaga examines plans to develop drones capable of delivering Internet access to remote areas.

Center Co-Director Arthur Holland Michel was interviewed for this story.


At Aviation Week, Tony Osborne writes that Turkey is accelerating the development of military drones.  


Meanwhile, at The Intercept, Umar Farooq explores the history of Turkey’s ambitious program to become a leading producer of military drones.


At War on the Rocks, Hans Vreeland explains why artificial intelligence could be vital to analyzing imagery from drones.


At USNI News, Megan Eckstein writes that the U.S. Navy will move aggressively to begin developing new unmanned surface vehicles.  


At Forbes, Miriam Tuerk looks at a few of the technical and logistical challenges Amazon faces before it can implement a drone delivery program.


At JournalAZ.com, Jon Hecht writes that an Arizona town is facing criticism for putting up “no drone zone” signs that some say are misleading.


Meanwhile, at Marianas Variety, Sophia Perez writes that drone users and aviation officials on the Marianas Islands are confused by the apparent misplacement of no-fly zone notifications for drones.


At Vox, Shirin Ghaffary looks at how drones figure in the concept of a “smart wall” at the U.S.-Mexico border.


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