Weekly Roundup 7/15

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At the Center for the Study of the Drone

When the news broke that Israel had shot down a Hamas-operated unmanned aircraft, we took a moment to look back at the decade-long history of Hamas’ and Hezbollah’s drones.


A CIA drone strike in Pakistan reportedly killed at least six people and injured several more. Missiles fired from a drone hit a convoy of vehicles and a compound in the Dattakhel area of the North Waziristan tribal region. This strike is the fourth in Pakistan this year. (Al Jazeera)

Israel shot down an armed drone belonging to Hamas over the southern city of Ashdod. The aircraft, which Hamas claims was manufactured inside of Gaza, was downed by an Israeli Patriot missile 14 miles north of Gaza. The Ezzedeen al-Qassam Brigade, Hamas’ military wing, claimed that the drone was one of several that were dispatched on “special missions” inside Israel. (The New York Times)

Taiwan may be using drones to spy on military movements in mainland China. The Taipei Times reports that, according to an unnamed source in Taiwan’s defense ministry, the United States has expressed concern over Taiwan’s expanded UAV program. Taiwan’s drone program is based in the western province of Taitung.

Amazon has formally asked the Federal Aviation Administration for permission to test its delivery drones. Amazon claims that its service will deliver packages weighing 5 pounds or less within 30 minutes of purchase. “One day, seeing Amazon Prime Air will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road today,” Paul Misener, Amazon’s vice president of global public policy, said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. Amazon is reportedly working on the 8th or 9th prototype of the aircraft.

Meanwhile, the FAA announced that it will allow Sempra Energy to conduct limited drone tests. If the tests are successful, the drones may be used by San Diego Gas & Electric to seek out the sources of power failures. Sempra will test a small infrared camera-equipped quadcopter aircraft manufactured by Physical Sciences Inc., a Massachusetts-based company. (Los Angeles Times)

Lawmakers in Australia are considering placing limits on drones to protect privacy. “Eyes in the Sky,” a report recently released by the Australian Law Reform Commission, acknowledges the challenge posed to lawmakers by the increasing popularity of drones and proposes that citizens be allowed to file civil suits in cases where their privacy is breached. “The challenge we face is to realise the potential of this innovative technology while protecting against its risks,” said Commission Chair MP George Christensen. (ABC)

A Pew Research poll found that there is widespread opposition to drones around the world. In 39 of the 44 countries surveyed, a majority or a plurality of respondents did not approve of U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan or Yemen. The poll also considered the popularity of American spying by the National Security Agency, favorability of the U.S. and approval of President Obama.

New York Police Department Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence John Miller said that police have seen five drone-related incidents in the past six months, including, this week, an encounter between an NYPD helicopter and two quadcopters. He cautions that the police will take action against those using their drones in a dangerous manner. (CBS News)

Drones deemed “dangerous” could soon be banned in New York City. Councilman Paul Vallone is writing a bill that would restrict drones that pose a danger to other citizens. He said that he intends to mirror FAA regulations in order to keep hobbyists in line. (Motherboard)

The United States is looking to change a policy regarding its overseas drone exports. The 1987 Missile Technology Control Regime, which limits the sale of armed drones, was created with the fear that unmanned aerial vehicles would carry nuclear weapons. The policy is considered by specialists to be out of date and economically impractical. (Defense News)

Commentary, Analysis and Art

At NBC News, Alexander Smith explains that, according to most experts, Israel need not worry about Hamas drones.

At the Electronic Intifada, Rami Almeghari describes witnessing what appeared to be an Israeli drone strike in Gaza.

At NBC News, Keith Wagstaff questions whether border patrol drones are worth the cost.

At Forbes, Gregory McNeal writes that concerns about “peeping tom drones” could threaten the development of drone journalism.

At Time Magazine, Medea Benjamin discusses the drone industry’s PR problem and what can be done to fix it.

At Foreign Policy, Vera Mironova and Valerie Hopkins describe how the privately-funded drone given to the Ukrainian military is part of a larger campaign by the public to support the military.

At Defense News, Wendell Minnick writes that China has a “mature, broad-based” drone industry.

At the National Interest, Rachel Stohl argues that, when it comes to debating drones, it is “time to move past fear and confusion.”

Know Your Drone

Researchers at MIT and Cornell University are developing small light-equipped drones that autonomously create the optimized lighting for photo shoots (MIT News)

A team of students at Virginia Tech has won a NASA competition to design a high-altitude drone for hurricane monitoring. The students chose to name their concept the Gobble Hawk, a jab at the Northrop Grumman Global Hawk high-altitude drone, which NASA currently uses for weather monitoring. (IEEE Spectrum)

The European Space Agency’s StarTiger program has developed a concept for a quadcopter spacecraft that could autonomously drop objects and vehicles onto the surface of Mars. (Gizmag)

France and the UK have announced an agreement to jointly develop a combat drone to replace some of its manned fighters by 2035. (Defense News)

A team of five U.S. Marines is testing the four-legged Boston Dynamics Big Dog unmanned ground vehicle in Hawaii. The Big Dog is being used to carry cargo for re-supply missions within the Kahuku Training Area Facility. (DVIDS)

Drones at Work

Dronestagram, the drone photography website, has announced the winners of its first-ever International Drone Photography awards. The winning photo was taken at Bali Barat National Park in Indonesia. (The Creators Project)

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction confirmed that it might fly drones over two of its prisons to prevent escape attempts and smuggling. (Dayton Business Journal)

Meanwhile, the Ohio Department of Transportation has purchased a stationary unmanned blimp to conduct aerial surveillance during disasters or periods of heavy road traffic. (Dayton Business Journal)

David Abney, the CEO-elect of UPS, said at a Rotary Club luncheon in Atlanta that he can foresee drones being used for “very time-urgent, time-sensitive, expensive shipments.” (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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