Weekly Roundup 6/1/15

A court in Germany rejected Faisal bin Ali Jaber's complaint that Berlin has been complicit in U.S. drone strikes in Yemen. Credit: ECCHR
A court in Germany rejected Faisal bin Ali Jaber’s complaint that Berlin is complicit in U.S. drone strikes in Yemen. Credit: ECCHR


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At the Center for the Study of the Drone

On May 20, the U.S. government released 103 documents seized during the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011. The documents, which have been translated into English, provide an inside glimpse of the daily operations of al-Qaeda at the height of the CIA drone strike campaign. We worked through all 103 documents to find references to drones in order to see how they affect the life of the organization.


A poll by the Pew Research Center found continued support among the American public for the use of drones to target extremists. The results—58% said they approved of drone strikes and 35% disapproved—have changed only slightly since a previous Pew poll on drones in February 2013. Young adults were most likely to disapprove of drone strikes. (Pew)

An administrative court in Cologne, Germany rejected a complaint by three Yemenis who claimed that Berlin is partially responsible for U.S. drone strikes. The case hinged on Berlin’s authority over the roles and responsibilities of U.S. forces stationed at Ramstein Air Base. The case was brought by the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights. (The Local.de)

Two companies announced the creation of new funding opportunities aimed at drone software startups. Airware, a company that builds control system software for drones, introduced the Commercial Drone Fund, and DJI, creators of the popular line of Phantom quadcopters, teamed with Accel Partners on SkyFund. Both Airware and DJI hope to incentivize the creation of new tools, software, and sensors for drones. (Fast Company)

In a partnership with GE and Eyebeam, BuzzFeed announced the formation of the Open Lab for Journalism, Technology, and the Arts, which will research new ways of using emerging technologies for journalism. “The logic of this new lab is: screw it, let’s fly drones. Drones with lasers,” write Matt Honan and Jonah Peretti at the BF Blog.

In a statement, the Federal Aviation Administration said that the pilots of a Delta Shuttle America flight reported seeing a drone while on approach to LaGuardia Airport in New York. The Shuttle America pilots were forced to pull out of a descent and climb 200 ft. after spotting the drone. (Fox News)

The FAA is investigating a drone crash that occurred last week at a parade in Marblehead, Massachusetts. The small drone hit a building before injuring two people on the ground. The FAA could bring civil penalties against the operator for flying recklessly. (CBS Local)

Mexican singer Enrique Iglesias was injured by a drone while performing at a concert in Tijuana, Mexico. Iglesias reached up to grab a DJI Inspire drone that was being used to film the event and sliced his fingers on the aircraft’s rotors. He is recovering in Los Angeles. (NBC News)

Commentary, Analysis and Art

At the New York Times, Michael C. Horowitz and Paul Scharre weigh the morality of deploying autonomous weapons in war.

At Just Security, Charles J. Dunlap Jr. criticizes the polling data on Americans’ support for drone strikes, arguing that it is “vitally important that there be accuracy and completeness in the drone dialogue.”

Also at Just Security, Sarah Kreps and Geoffrey Wallace respond to Charles J. Dunlap Jr., writing that “we found strong evidence that questions of legal compliance dampen individual support for drone strikes.”

At Foreign Affairs, Sarah Kreps argues that the United States should take the lead on setting international norms for using drones.

At John Q. Public blog, Tony Carr reviews “Good Kill,” writing that the film “lacks accuracy except at the most abstract level.”

At the Guardian, Greg Harman writes that autonomous drones could play a life-saving role in natural disasters.

The National Association of State Chief Information Officers released a report on the use of drones by state governments.

At Foreign Policy, Rosa Brooks considers what drone strikes teach us about the trend towards the greater individualization of warfare.

At 3D Print, Scott J. Grunewald argues that how 3D-printed drones could play an important role in future STEM education.

At Drone Wars UK, Chris Cole takes a look at how drones might feature in Britain’s next Strategic Defence and Security Review.

At the Atlantic, Chris Woods relates how the first drone strike—which took place in Afghanistan—was a botched attempt to kill Taliban leader Mullah Omar.

At Defense Systems, Mark Pomerleau considers whether high-altitude drones will replace medium-altitude drones as the U.S. shifts its strategic focus toward Asia.

At Gigwise, Richard Whittle discusses some of the thinking behind “Drones,” the new album by British rock band Muse.

Swedish photographer Kalle Ljung used a drone to capture aerial views of Antarctica. (Wired)

Know Your Drone

A drone enthusiast is crowdfunding an automatic drone parachute to save the drone if a malfunction causes it to fall out of the sky. (Fast Co. Exist)

It has been revealed that a Google Solara 50 solar-powered drone crashed during testing in New Mexico on May 1. (Bloomberg)

The Royal Aeronautical Society takes a close look at MIDCAS, a European program to create sense-and-avoid technologies that would permit the safe operation of large drones in busy airspace.

Two entomologists at UC Riverside are looking at how Gypsy moths follow pheromone plumes in order to figure out how to improve odor-detecting robots. (Phys.org)

The DARPA-funded “cheetah” robot at MIT has become the first four-legged robot able to jump over obstacles autonomously.

At Popular Science, Jeffrey Lin and P.W. Singer report on new photos of the Divine Eagle, a Chinese drone that is meant to hunt stealth aircraft.

Drones at Work

In the wake of widespread flooding in Texas and Oklahoma, a group of researchers from Texas A&M University — Corpus Christi received approval from the FAA to use drones in support of search and rescue operations. (WTSP)

Meanwhile, hobbyist Bryan Rumbaugh used a drone to get an aerial view of the flooding in Texas. (Popular Mechanics)

California-based Digital Democracy is working with indigenous communities in Guyana to build DIY drones that will be used to monitor illegal logging and mining in the Amazon. (TakePart)

Fox 40 reports on preparations for the 2015 U.S. National Drone Racing Championship, which will be held at the California State Fair on July 16 and 17.

U.S. Special Forces are thinking about following the British lead in using tiny “bug” drones to conduct reconnaissance. (Defense One)

In Australia, University of Queensland agriculture student Michael Godfrey uses a drone to airdrop swarms of insects that prey on harmful crop-eating bugs. (Good News Network)

Meanwhile, Australia’s Queensland Police purchased two drones that will be used to give its forensics team an aerial perspective on crime scenes. (Mashable)

The Dallas Cowboys are using a drone to give coaches a close-up view on football practices. (CBS)

A research team from the Xiangtan Hi-Tech Zone in China flew a 3D-printed drone around the South Pole. (3Ders)

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