Weekly Roundup 5/19

Nigerian troops march towards a U.S. C-130 Hercules on Oct. 28. American troops and drone aircraft have recently been deployed to Nigeria to assist in the search for the girls captured by Boko Haram. Credit: U.S. Air Force
Nigerian troops march towards a U.S. C-130 Hercules on Oct. 28. American troops and drone aircraft have recently been deployed to Nigeria to assist in the search for the girls captured by Boko Haram. Credit: U.S. Air Force

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At the Center for the Study of the Drone

Why is the drone debate going nowhere? Why is everyone speaking at cross purposes? Marcel  La Flamme takes a close look at the contemporary drone debate, arguing that it epitomizes the kind of complex modern social, technical and political controversies that the sociologists Michel Callon, Pierre Lascoumes and Yannick Barthe describe as “overflows.” “What reduces uncertainty and makes measured action possible,” writes LaFlamme, “is dialogue between citizens and experts, which leads to a more complete inventory of affected actors, problems and solutions.”


A drone strike on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan killed at least ten suspected militants. U.S. drones fired six missiles at compounds reportedly belonging to the Afghan Taliban in the Nangarhar Province, though initial reports said that the strikes took place in the neighboring Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan. An additional 14 people are said to have been injured in the strikes. (The News)

The White House confirmed that it has deployed drones  to search for the several hundred girls kidnapped by Boko Haram, a Nigerian terrorist group. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said that the reconnaissance drones were flying over an area the size of West Virginia. (Time)

The Federal Aviation Administration is considering a fast track authorization process for companies seeking authorization to use drones. In a speech at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International “Unmanned Systems 2014” convention in Orlando, Florida, Jim Williams, the head of the FAA’s unmanned aircraft division, said that the agency is brainstorming ways to grant commercial permits for low-risk applications, and that his office is already receiving requests from companies seeking to use drones. While commercial drone flights are currently illegal, many businesses use drones covertly. (Bloomberg)

An expanded facility for training drone operators was unveiled at Camp Roberts, a base belonging to the California Army National Guard. The $4.7 million installation will be used to train operators for the RQ-7B Shadow, a medium-sized reconnaissance drone. “The facility has been long-awaited,” 1st Lt. Jan Bender said in an interview with Stars and Stripes.

Amazon has started accepting applications for a number of technical and non-technical positions in its Amazon Prime Air drone delivery service. Listings include openings for software engineers, patent lawyers and communications managers. The package delivery service is still several years from roll-out. (Forbes)

Commentary, Analysis and Art

At NPR, Aarti Shahani wonders if filmmakers are breaking the law by using drones.

At the Washington Post, Dominic Basulto analyzes the burgeoning job market for graduates in drone studies.

A hobbyist captured aerial footage of the wildfires that swept San Diego. (Youtube)

A report by the RAND Corporation analyzes the effectiveness of armed drones, concluding that more drones might compensate for challenges in designing a better “hunter-killer.”

At Action on Armed Violence, Sarah Leo presents a concise infographic on the proliferation of armed drones.

Reporting from Unmanned Systems 2014, Arthur Holland Michel describes how large established defence companies that develop military drones are now turning their sights on the civilian and commercial drone market. (Al Jazeera America)

Team Black Sheep flew a drone over Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world.

At Geographical Imaginations blog, Derek Gregory discusses the intersection of remote operations in war and in medicine.

At Lawfare blog, Jack Goldsmith argues that we are asking all the wrong questions about the transfer of drone operations from the C.I.A. to the Pentagon.

At War is Boring blog, OSIMINT writes that the construction of a secretive drone base in Ethiopia may have been delayed due to human rights concerns.

Know Your Drone

NASA has announced that it will begin testing “sense-and-avoid” technology for high-altitude drones to establish whether it is possible for unmanned aircraft to safely share airspace with manned passenger planes. (Bloomberg)

The Office of Naval Research is studying the viability of using deep-sea geothermal generators to recharge the batteries of underwater drones. (Forbes)

Two University of North Texas researchers have developed a small drone that can deliver wireless internet to disaster areas. (Denton Record-Chronicle)

Lockheed Martin announced that it has developed two different small drones for both military and commercial use. The INDAGO is a camera-equipped quadcopter, while the Vector Hawk is a foldable fixed-wing aircraft that is capable of vertical takeoff and landing. (Flight Global)

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