Weekly Roundup 7/29

The Kaman K1200 (K-Max), an unmanned helicopter, was used extensively by the Marines in Afghanistan before returning to the U.S. last week. Credit: U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Lisa Tourtelot
The Kaman K1200 (K-Max) unmanned helicopter was used extensively by the Marines in Afghanistan before returning to the U.S. last week. Credit: U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Lisa Tourtelot

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President Obama will intervene in the development of national drone regulations, issuing an executive order granting the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, part of the Commerce Department, the mandate to develop privacy rules governing commercial drone use. The Federal Aviation Administration has been criticized for being slow to develop privacy rules for commercial drones. According to Politico, the White House confirmed that it is pushing to coordinate efforts among the federal agencies on the issue.

In a letter to the FAA, a group of university and college professors objected to the agency’s federal bans on drones, arguing that the rules hamper research and education initiatives. “We’ve canceled courses, we’ve stopped teaching certain areas in my expertise,” said Paul Voss, a professor at Smith College, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. “It’s draconian.”

Meanwhile, the FAA extended by 60 days the period for public comment on proposed laws regulating drone activity in U.S. airspace. The Academy of Model Aeronautics, America’s largest association of model aircraft hobbyists, requested more time to educate its members about the issue. The AMA, which is comprised of 180,000 members, has criticized the FAA’s proposed rules for being too restrictive. (The Examiner)

A group of international NGOs rejected the United Nations’ offer to provide drones for humanitarian operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In a statement submitted on July 14 to the UN Stabilization Mission (MONUSCO), the NGOs argued that to accept the offer would be a dangerous, “blurring of the lines” between humanitarian and military work. MONUSCO deployed several unarmed reconnaissance drones to the DRC in December 2013. (IRIN)

The Jordanian military shot down a drone over the border with Syria. “Any violation of the kingdom’s border will be dealt with firmly and forcefully and the armed forces will not allow any tampering with the security of the country,” said Mohammad al-Momani, a government spokesman, in an interview with Reuters.

The Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe is seeking two surveillance drones to monitor the crash site of Malaysian Airlines flight 17 in eastern Ukraine. According to an unnamed source from OSCE who spoke with IHS Jane’s, the OSCE has invited companies to submit bids for two UAVs to patrol the area of the crash and provide aerial protection for OSCE personnel.

Commentary, Analysis and Art

Open Source Imagery Intelligence blog features a YouTube video that appears to show an American Predator drone flying over Anbar province in Iraq.

The Washington Post has a map of the all of the areas in the U.S. where it is illegal to fly a drone.

As the United States withdraws from Afghanistan, the Washington Post’s Dan Lamothe examines the role that the K-Max unmanned helicopter played in closing down bases.

At Defense News, Paul McLeary writes that American and Iranian drones are carefully avoiding each other in the air over Iraq.

At the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Alice Ross looks into American drone operations in Afghanistan and explains the difficulty of obtaining data on strikes.

At Al Jazeera, Chase Madar argues that CIA drone strikes really do feed extremism.

Drone Selfies is a project by the art collective IOCOSE in which a Parrot quadcopter drone poses as a self-obsessed teenager. “We imagined what would the ‘life’ of a drone be like in an alternative present where war and terror were over,” said Filippo Cuttica of IOCOSE in an interview with the Creators Project.

At Slate, John Frank Weaver argues that “if courts are going to treat corporations like humans, they should do the same for robots.”

At the Guardian, Spencer Ackerman looks at the U.S Navy’s efforts to develop a carrier-based drone.

Amos Chapple, a photographer, used a drone to take aerial shots of his travels in India. (Guardian)

At the Drone Girl blog, Sally French offers a few resources resources for the first-time drone buyer who wants to make aerial videos.

At CNN, Priya Satia explains how the drones of today have roots in the birth of airpower during the First World War.

At LA Activist blog, Dan Bluemel provides an update on grassroots efforts to prevent the LAPD from flying drones.

At Motherboard, Shawn Musgrave reports on the FBI’s refusal to release information about its drone program.

At GreenTech Media, Jeff St. John considers how drones could prove useful for energy utility companies.

The American Way of Bombing (Cornell University Press) features a series of essays on the “evolution of ethical and legal norms governing air warfare.”

Know Your Drone

Versus profiles the Prox Dynamics Black Hornet, a tiny camera-equipped military drone that weighs as much as three sheets of paper.

Two security researchers, Mike Tassey and Richard Perkins, have retrofitted a surplus military target drone as a surveillance drone that seeks out and intercepts Wi-Fi networks. (Wired)

The military is testing a quadcopter drone that remains tethered to the ground with a microfilament power cable, allowing the vehicle to remain airborne indefinitely. (War is Boring)

Airware, a San Francisco based startup, has raised $25 million to launch a drone operating system. (The Verge)

Spanish engineers have developed a simple way to turn a smartphone into a quadcopter drone. (BBC)

Defense contractor Northrop Grumman has exceeded its allotted budget for the Navy’s Triton high-altitude surveillance drone by $720 million, 25% of the cost of the entire program. (Bloomberg News)

Drones at Work

A drone hobbyist found a man who had been missing for four days. “As we were making the last turn to fly it, we noticed a man out in the field sort of stumbling, looking a little disoriented,” said David Lesh. (Mashable)

Police in Thailand intercepted a drone that was delivering mobile phones to inmates at Khao Bin prison. (Bangkok Post)

Police in Seattle confiscated a drone from an amateur hobbyist after reports that the aircraft hit the Space Needle. There was no visible evidence of the crash at the Space Needle, or on the drone. (USA Today)

The El Dorado Sheriff’s Department in California is investigating an incident in which a drone may have endangered firefighters and air attack units battling a wildfire. (Sacramento Bee)

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