Weekly Roundup 7/13/15

7/6/15 – 7/12/15

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At the Center for the Study of the Drone

Max Abrahms, an assistant professor of political science at Northeastern University and a term member at the Council on Foreign Relations, has written numerous influential works on the internal dynamics of terrorist organizations. His forthcoming study examines how the targeted killing of militant leaders might impact the tactical preferences of these organizations. We spoke with Abrahms about the effects of the U.S. targeted killing program on al-Qaeda and its affiliates.

Last week, we published a comprehensive database of companies and individuals operating drones commercially in the U.S. This week, we collaborated with The Verge to create a sleek, searchable feature based on our research.


A U.S. drone strike reportedly killed at least four suspected members of al-Qaeda and wounded several others in Yemen. According to unnamed Yemeni security officials who spoke with the Associated Press, the strike targeted a vehicle in the port city of Mukalla.

A U.S. airstrike reportedly killed several leaders of the Islamic State in Afghanistan. The strike, which is suspected to have been carried out by a U.S. drone, took place in the eastern Nangarhar province. Among those who are believed to have been killed is Shahidullah Shahid, the chief spokesperson for ISIS/ISIL in Afghanistan. (Washington Post)

The Lebanese Army is claiming that it has captured an Israeli drone that crashed in the Mediterranean Sea near the northern city of Tripoli. According to unnamed security officials, the drone, which appears to be an Israeli-made Hermes 450, was on a scouting mission around Tripoli’s port area before it crashed. Israel has not confirmed whether it lost a drone in the area. (Haaretz)

Meanwhile, in Yemen, a drone was reportedly shot down near the border with Saudi Arabia. The drone is thought to be a Seeker UAV made by South Africa-based Denel Dynamics. It remains unclear who owned the aircraft. (IHS Jane’s 360)

The Associated Press reports that construction on the first drone business park in the United States is set to begin next week. The planned 1.2 million square-foot park—called “Grand Sky”—will be built in Grand Forks, North Dakota. General Atomics, a defense contractor that manufactures the Predator and Reaper drones, tentatively agreed last week to establish a training academy in Grand Forks.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe reported that drones operated by its Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine were jammed during a reconnaissance mission. The OSCE drones were monitoring a military caravan in rebel-held areas in eastern Ukraine that included several battle tanks and armored personnel carriers. The OSCE reported that continued monitoring was impossible in the area due to the persistent jamming. (Press Release)

The Philippines has issued its first commercial drone permit. The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) has allowed SRDP Consulting Inc., an engineering firm, to use drones for mapping. (GMA News)

The U.S. Army has closed its training program for the RQ-5 Hunter UAV at Fort Huachuca in Arizona. The Hunter, which was first introduced in the Army in 1996, had its final flight last week with the 2-13th Aviation Regiment, which trained Hunter pilots. The regiment will transition to training pilots for the General Atomics Gray Eagle. (KVOA)

Commentary, Analysis, and Art

Amnesty International and the Forensic Architecture program at Goldsmiths, University of London released an interactive map of Israeli airstrikes in Gaza during last summer’s conflict.

At Rupprecht Law, Jonathan Rupprecht questions whether it is really necessary for a civil drone operator to obtain a pilot license.

At Public Radio International, Steve Curwood takes a look at how the South Africa-based Air Shephard Initiative is combining predictive analytics with drone surveys to find rhino poachers.

At Just Security, Jennifer Daskal takes a look at a recent decision by the Federal Prosecutor General in Germany, who ruled that U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan were legal.

At Fusion, Rafa Fernandez De Castro takes a look at how Mexico is “becoming the drone capital of Latin America.”

At the Palm Beach Daily News, Aleese Kopf writes that one town council is taking a hard line position on drones.

The National Geographic assembled a gallery of this year’s best drone photography.

At Wired, Daniel Culpan takes a look at the drones that have gone places that humans can’t reach.

At Bloomberg Business, Rachel Adams-Heard writes that the number of companies allowed to fly drones has increased in spite of the fact that federal regulations are unfinished.

The Uplink

In The Uplink, we ask an expert, policy maker, or insider to comment on a current event in the world of drones.

Last month, the U.S. Navy appointed Rear Adm. Robert P. Girrier as its first director of unmanned weapon systems to coordinate the Navy’s undersea, air, and surface unmanned vehicles development programs. What does this mean for the future of unmanned systems in the Navy?

John Jackson, Professor, U.S. Naval War College, “Unmanned System and Conflict in the 21st Century”

I believe the assignment of Rear Adm. Girrier as the Director of Unmanned Weapons Systems is a very positive development. Unmanned systems have great potential to improve the way the Navy fights, but priority action must be taken to identify the technologies that offer the best chance to increase combat effectiveness and reduce both costs and risks to our war-fighters. New and innovative systems always compete for resources against more established programs, and care must be taken to ensure that adequate funds are provided to invest in the most promising technologies, whether manned or unmanned. Rear Adm. Girrier is well known and respected throughout the Navy, and his intellect and energy will ensure that innovation and adaptation will be the hallmarks of tomorrow’s fleet. His task will be to make manned-unmanned teaming a reality across the entire maritime spectrum. We look forward to welcoming him back to the Naval War College to provide our students with his vision for the future.

Know Your Drone

At War on the Rocks, David Blagden looks at the U.S. military’s experimental Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel, which is designed to track enemy submarines over long distances.

New photos have emerged of China’s Divine Eagle, a high-altitude drone designed to detect enemy stealth aircraft. (Popular Science)

A group of U.S. Air Force intelligence officials have developed a simple web-based program to allow improved collaboration on drone missions. (Defense Systems)

Swedish company CybAero has received permission from the Swedish government to sell 70 of its Apid helicopter drones to the Aviation Industry Corporation of China, China’s largest drone manufacturer. (Flight Global)

Japanese farmers have been using drones since the 1980s. A video report by the Financial Times shows how drones can be helpful for agriculture.

Israel Aerospace Industries has developed a drone “HelpDesk” to monitor the health of the company’s unmanned aircraft. (I-HLS)

Drones at Work

The Swiss Post and Swiss WorldCargo have begun testing a drone delivery system that will focus on transporting emergency supplies and high-priority packages. (Gizmodo)

Google is beginning to test self-driving cars in Austin, Texas. (TNW News)

RTI Viewpoint explains how to use drones to assist with a forensic examination.

The Louisville Fire and Rescue department reportedly owns four drones and has used them on multiple occasions to help fight fires. (WDRB)

Canada’s York Regional Police will begin using an Aeryon SkyRanger drone to map the scenes of traffic accidents. (TheStar.com)

Pakistan is looking to deploy surveillance drones to Balochistan, a province where there is considerable unrest. (Express Tribune)

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