Weekly Roundup 6/24

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A suspected U.S. drone strike killed at least five people in Pakistan. Two missiles hit a compound near the town of Miram Shah in the North Waziristan tribal region. According to a Pakistani security official who spoke with the New York Times, the strike targeted the Haqqani network, an al-Qaeda-allied group operating in the region. The Pakistani government condemned the strikes, which occurred during a major military offensive by Pakistan in the tribal areas.

A U.S. federal court released a confidential Department of Justice memo rationalizing the 2011 targeting of Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born Yemeni cleric. The Obama administration has resisted releasing the memo, which was obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request filed by The New York Times and the ACLU. While several key passages of the document were redacted, the memo does reveal new information regarding the targeting of al-Awlaki. (Washington Post)

Citing safety concerns, the National Park Service issued a temporary ban on drone use in all national park areas, a total of 401 locations that includes national monuments, historic sites and national seashores. According to NPS Director Jonathan Jarvis, the prohibition will remain in effect for 18 months or until a permanent policy can be put in place. Violators of the ban could face a $5,000 fine and up to six months in jail. (Wall Street Journal)

The Federal Aviation Administration released a revised set of regulations for model aircraft hobbyists. The regulations prohibit hobbyists from flying model aircraft beyond line of sight and ban the use of drones for any kind of commercial activity. The rules are controversial; in March, an administrative law judge ruled that the FAA’s ban on commercial drone use is illegal. (USA Today)

In an extensive three-part report, The Washington Post’s Craig Whitlock revealed numerous accidents and incidents involving both military and civilian drones. In Part One, Whitlock investigates the more than 400 military drone crashes that have occurred around the world since 2000. In Part Two, he examines the 47 severe military drone crashes within the United States. In Part Three, Whitlock reveals dozens of near-misses between manned aircraft and drones.

Commentary, Analysis and Art

At Opinio Juris blog, Kevin Jon Heller discusses the legal justifications given in the Department of Justice memo.

Meanwhile, at Lawfare blog, Bejamin Wittes considers the absence of a legal rationale for the administration’s standard of “imminence” in the DOJ memo.

At the American Civil Liberties Union, Brett Max Kaufman lists “five takeaways from the newly released drone memo.”

At Roll Call, Niels Lesniewski relates how two American senators pushing for greater transparency from the Obama administration are reacting to the DOJ memo.

At the Electronic Intifada, Rania Khalek points out that the DOJ memo cites a 2006 Israeli Supreme Court case on targeted killing as part of the legal basis for the drone strikes.

At U.S. News and World Report, Naomi LaChance questions how much the DOJ memo actually reveals about American drone strikes and targeted killings.

At the Council of Foreign Relations, Micah Zenko and Sarah Kreps have published a new report on drone proliferation. “A set of norms to govern the use of drones would require increased transparency on U.S. drone strike practices and targeting decisions,” write Zenko and Kreps.

At Motherboard, Jason Koebler reacts to the FAA’s revised regulations for drone hobbyists. “The FAA is essentially saying that it’s going to keep harassing you until it can get its act together to put together formal commercial drone rules,” writes Koebler.

At the U.S. Navy’s Future Force blog, Isaac R. Porche III, Bradley Wilson and Erin-Elizabeth Johnson discuss the challenge of processing all the data that drones collect.

At the Jamestown Foundation, Maksym Bugriy writes about the proliferation of drones in Eurasia and, in particular, Ukraine.

At Defense News, Paul McLeary and Aaron Mehta examine the role that drones and other aerial intelligence platforms play in the expanding U.S. military operations in Africa.

Know Your Drone

British defense contractor Thales has unveiled a futuristic-looking drone “cockpit” that is designed to enable the pilot to operate multiple drones simultaneously. (Business Insider)

South African firm Desert Wolf has started accepting orders for a pepper spray and paintball gun-equipped “riot control copter” drone. A mining company has already placed an order for 25 Skunk drones, which are also equipped with lasers. (BBC)

Researchers at Harvard University announced that they have successfully tested bee-sized drones that can fly without the aid of external cameras sensors. (Motherboard)

German company SkySense is developing portable, wireless charging pads for drones. (DroneGirl)

Drones at Work

A man in Califorina is using a drone to monitor police abuses. (Los Angeles Times)

CNN and the Georgia Institute of Technology are pairing up to study the possibilities of using drones for newsgathering. (CNN Money)

A restaurant in Russia is now delivering pizzas with drones. Pizzas first took flight in Mumbai last month. (International Business Times)

The University of Florida will begin loaning drones to students—as long as they have the proper training, a professor’s endorsement and assume liability for accidents. (CNN)

Oregon’s Department of Forestry used federal grant money to purchase a drone in preparation for the forest fire season. (Elko Daily)

A number of drones and robotic systems will be deployed in naval exercises by Russia’s Baltic Fleet. (ITAR-TASS)

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