Weekly Roundup 6/25/18

The 2018 International RoboBoat Competition was held last week in Florida. Photo by John Williams/ONR

June 18, 2018 – June 24, 2018

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Top Stories

More than thirty Chinese military and government agencies have deployed birdlike surveillance drones in law enforcement operations over at least five of the country’s provinces, according to The South China Morning Post. The secretive program, codename Dove, is led by an engineer who was previously the principal scientist for the J-20 stealth fighter.

The Israel Defense Forces confirmed in a statement that it detected a drone entering Israeli airspace from Syria. After the IDF attempted to intercept the drone with a Patriot missile, the vehicle diverted its flight path. (The Jerusalem Post)

Smugglers are increasing turning to off-the-shelf drones to reconnoiter the U.S.-Mexico border for vulnerabilities. According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, the number of illicit drone flights on the border has grown significantly in recent months. (Washington Post)

Know Your Drone

U.S. startup Aevum has announced that it is developing a high-altitude unmanned vehicle, the Ravn, that would be capable of launching a satellite into space every three hours. (Space.com)

Walmart has filed a patent for a drone that can guide customers to items on their shopping lists. (Forbes)

Researchers at MIT have developed the smallest navigation computer chip for drones ever made, breaking their own previous record set last year. (Press Release)

The U.S. Naval Undersea Warfare Center has issued a request for information for explosive or non-explosive weapons for unmanned undersea vehicles. (Military & Aerospace Electronics)

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have developed a silicon cloak that can shield individuals and vehicles from airborne infrared surveillance sensors. (Newsweek)

A team at the University of Leeds is developing a system that would enable drones to patch up asphalt potholes. (Digital Trends)

Meanwhile, U.S. startup SkySkopes has unveiled a system for stringing power lines with drones. (CNBC)

The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory has announced a competition for design and testing of a dual-mode ramjet engine for an unmanned hypersonic vehicle that can travel at three times the speed of sound. (FlightGlobal)

French state-owned weapons manufacturer Nexter Systems has unveiled a concept for an armored vehicle equipped with a tethered surveillance drone and several unmanned ground vehicles. (Defense News)

The JSK Lab at the the University of Tokyo has developed a modular flying robot capable of shifting shape in mid-flight. (IEEE Spectrum)

South African firm ALTI UAS unveiled the Transition, a fixed-wing vertical take-off and landing drone designed for commercial applications. (Unmanned Systems Technology)

The U.S. Air Force has issued a request for information for a vertical take-off and landing drone for inspections and security operations at Travis Air Force Base in California. (Jane’s)

A team at the Ohio State University Aerospace Research Center is developing a radar-based air traffic management system for drones. (Popular Science)

U.S. drone maker General Atomics Aeronautical Systems announced that it conducted a successful lightning strike test on its MQ-9B SkyGuardian medium-altitude long-endurance drone. (Press Release)

Drones at Work

Police in Moscow arrested an Australian national for allegedly flying a drone near a World Cup event. The incident follows the arrest of two Chinese drone operators in St. Petersburg the previous week. (The Moscow Times)

The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine claims that one of its surveillance drones operating near Donetsk was fired upon with anti-aircraft missiles and cannons. The drone was not damaged during the operation. (Reliefweb)

A number of journalists have begun using drones to document activities at U.S. immigration detention facilities on the U.S.-Mexico border. (Gizmodo)

The Norwegian airport authority Avinor has warned drone operators to remain clear of its airports following an incident in which two drones disrupted air traffic at Oslo Gardermoen. (Aviation Week)

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems completed a series of flights from Japan’s Iki Island in which an MQ-9B Guardian demonstrated a variety of civil and scientific operations. (FlightGlobal)

The Belgian government announced that it is looking to deploy a fleet of surveillance drones to monitor its maritime borders following Brexit. (Bloomberg)

Fujitsu and the New South Wales Office of Environment and Heritage have announced a partnership to use drones to monitor endangered species in Australia. (ZDNet)

The Naperville Park District in Illinois announced that it plans to open a park for flying drones. (Chicago Tribune)

After several months of testing, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office in Florida has begun using drones for active operations. (The Local 10)

Meanwhile, the Huntington Police Department received approval from the City Council to launch a year-long drone testing program. (Los Angeles Times)

A Leonardo Helicopters SD-150 AWHero rotary drone crashed during a flight test near Rome. (FlightGlobal)

The Drone Racing League held an event in Gothenburg, Sweden in which professional drone racers launched a series of drones from the bow of a racing yacht. (The Drive)

Police in Norfolk, U.K. used a drone to find a man who had become stranded in a marshy area. (BBC)

Chipmaker Intel put on the first indoor performance of its lightshow swarming drones for a Pride celebration in San Francisco. (Mashable)

Industry Intel

The U.S. Navy awarded General Atomics Aeronautical Systems a $39.6 million contract for a contractor-owned/contractor-operated MQ-9 Reaper for the U.S. Marine Corps. (DoD)

The U.S. Navy awarded Metron an $8 million contract to develop advanced modular payloads for unmanned undersea vehicles. (DoD)

The U.S. Defense Innovation Unit Experimental extended a contract with Sensofusion for counter-drone technology. (C4ISRNET)

CybAero, a Swedish company that makes mid-sized rotary-wing drones, filed for bankruptcy after a decline in revenue. (Jane’s)

Insitu, a Boeing subsidiary, announced that it has received a contract from the U.S. Department of the Interior to provide the ScanEagle drone to support fire suppression missions. (Shephard Media)

Black Swift Technologies, a Colorado-based drone company, announced that it has been awarded a contract by NASA to develop drones that can explore the atmosphere of Venus. (Unmanned Systems Technology)

Swiss drone firm senseFly has moved its North American headquarters from Washington, D.C. to a site near Raleigh, N.C. due to airspace restrictions around the capital. (Associated Press)

Everest Insurance has partnered with drone firm Airware to use drones to expedite insurance claims during this year’s hurricane season. (Press Release)

Commentary, Analysis, and Art

At a conference in April in St. Petersburg, a Russian military researcher reported that the Uran-9, a Russian unmanned combat tank, performed poorly during field tests in Syria. (Defence Blog)

At the Intercept, Nick Turse, Henrik Moltke, and Alice Speri write that the U.S. has conducted an estimated 550 drone strikes in Libya since 2011.

At the Washington Post, Michael Laris looks at a few of the companies that are working with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to enable more ambitious commercial drone operations.

At Fast Company, Sean Captain writes that the FAA’s LAANC system has made it easier to fly a drone in restricted airspaces.

At the Wall Street Journal, Andy Pasztor considers how the E.U. is taking a different approach to regulating drones than the U.S.

A report by Eurocontrol on the challenges facing European aviation includes a forecast of the future of drone operations. (Unmanned Airspace)

At Aviation Week, Tony Osborne describes the Turkish military’s growing efforts to develop and deploy advanced drones.

Also at Aviation Week, Ben Goldstein writes that a coalition of drone organizations is pushing U.S. lawmakers to preserve an exemption to drone regulations for model aircraft enthusiasts.

At The Independent, Adam Lusher and Helen Hoddinott write that a recent British military drone crash near a base in Wales has alarmed nearby residents.

At Diálogo, Yolima Dussán describes the Colombian military’s efforts to expand its drone program.

At Popular Science, Jeffrey Lin and P.W. Singer look at one of China’s new unmanned undersea vehicles that is designed to look like a clownfish.

At the Los Angeles Times, Samantha Masunaga writes that Boeing has deployed the Echo Voyager unmanned undersea vehicle for a new round of sea trials.

Co-director Arthur Holland Michel was interviewed for this story.

At War on the Rocks, Torey McMurdo and Christopher Hocking consider how advances in military technology “may be creating barriers to healthy civil-military relations.”

At Just Security, Robyn Greene argues that the pending counter-drone legislation currently under consideration by the U.S. Senate would “authorize sweeping surveillance” and poses a threat to public safety and free speech.

Correction: in last week’s Roundup, we reported that NASA conducted a test in which an unaccompanied Ikhana drone equipped with an autonomous sense-and-avoid system flew for the first time in Class A airspace. During the test, the drone also operated in Class D and E airspace.

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One comment

  1. The bird-like drones sound like something out of a sci-fi movie. I think that it is cool that we have tech like this, but I am not sure if it is good or bad. Either its good because surveillance will be better for the authorities, but it could be bad because it would be easier to spy on the average citizen as well

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