Weekly Roundup 8/17/15

8/10/15 – 8/16/15

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At the Center for the Study of the Drone

Like many other regions of the world, Southeast Asia has been experiencing something of a drone boom. Hobbyists and professionals are becoming airborne in increasingly large numbers, militaries are vying to acquire or develop capable military unmanned aircraft, and governments are working to develop drone regulations as quickly as possible. Here’s what you need to know.


A U.S. drone strike reportedly killed five people in Yemen. The strike destroyed a vehicle traveling in Mukalla, the capital of the southern Hadramawt province. According to an unnamed local official who spoke with Agence France-Presse, the individuals who were killed were suspected of being members of al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula.

An email sent to Hillary Clinton during her tenure as secretary of state discusses the U.S. targeted killing program. The email includes a copy of a news article about a suspected U.S. drone strike, and possibly references classified information. According to several experts who spoke with the Associated Press, however, it is unlikely that the information was taken from a classified document.

The Federal Aviation Administration announced that reports of near-misses between drones and manned aircraft are up significantly this year. The FAA has received reports of 650 close calls so far this year, more than double the 238 incidents in all of 2014. Multiple investigations into drone operators who fly too close to aircraft are underway. (Wall Street Journal)

Meanwhile, a medical helicopter nearly collided with a drone in Southern California. According to local officials who spoke with the Los Angeles Times, the helicopter was carrying a snake-bite victim to a hospital in Fresno, California when the pilot spotted a large drone flying at around 1,000 ft. The pilot managed to avoid the drone by approximately 20 ft.

The Guardian reports that tech giant Google has been testing drones inside the United States as part of a deal with NASA. Google is working on a drone delivery project similar to Amazon’s but, unlike the Seattle-based internet retailer, it has not received permission from the FAA to fly drones. Instead, over the past year, Google has tested drones under the auspices of NASA’s exemption from the blanket ban on non-recreational drone activity.

The San Jose City Council approved a plan that could allow its police department to fly drones. The plan, which will have to be approved by the FAA, would allow police to use drones in a hostage situation or in the event of a live shooter. The plan, which will remain in effect for one year, would also allow police to begin training officers to fly drones. (San Jose Mercury News)

Stephen Ross, the owner of the Miami Dolphins football team, is investing $1 million in Drone Racing League, a New York-based company that is aiming at hosting its first public race this Fall. (Wall Street Journal)

Commentary, Analysis, and Art

At Marketplace, Ryan Calo and Brendan Schulman discuss the rising number of drone sightings and the pace of drone regulations.

At the Atlantic, Zach Musgrave and Bryan W. Roberts argue that it would be dangerous to weaponize artificial intelligence.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota have concluded in a study that repeatedly flying drones near black bears can significantly raise their stress levels. (Current Biology)

At Open Society Foundations, Richard Weir argues that a clear U.S. policy guidance on targeted killings has still not materialized, setting a dangerous precedent for other nations.

At the Intercept, Sharon Weinberger writes that millions of dollars were misspent in an attempt to combine the U.S. Air Force and the Army’s Predator drone programs.

At War on the Rocks, Paul Scharre argues that manned aircraft of the future are likely to be teamed with unmanned aircraft on a regular basis.

At Forbes, Gregory S. McNeal argues that a proposed bill in California meant to protect individual privacy goes too far in restricting drones.

At the Washington Post, Gordon M. Goldstein reviews William M. Arkin’s Unmanned: Drones, Data, and the Illusion of Perfect Warfare.

At Wired, Tim Moynihan takes a look at several new services that seek to pair expert drone pilots with customers.

Know Your Drone

The Korea Aerospace Research Institute has tested a long-endurance solar-powered drone, reaching an altitude of 46,000ft. (Business Korea)

The Israeli Defence Forces has announced that it will issue a call for proposals for a small, portable surveillance drone to be used by infantry forces. (Flight Global)

Defense contractor Boeing demonstrated its 2 kilowatt anti-aircraft laser system at the U.S. military’s Black Dart exercises, shooting down a small target unmanned aircraft in mid-flight. (IHS Jane’s 360)

Taiwan’s Chung-shan Institute of Science and Technology has unveiled a medium-altitude, long-endurance surveillance drone for the Taiwanese military, though it has so far declined to provide any of the aircraft’s technical specifications. (IHS Jane’s 360)

A team of researchers from four U.S. universities has received a $6 million grant from the National Science Foundation to develop a drone that will be used to study atmospheric conditions. (OSU Press Release)

Drones at Work

Model airplane enthusiasts on Long Island, New York are lobbying for an exemption from a proposed ban on drones in Suffolk County. (Wall Street Journal)

Aerobo, a Brooklyn-based aerial photography and videography company, is the first company to legally fly drones commercially in New York City. (New York Biz Journal)

Researchers in North Carolina are using drones to enhance efforts to study wildlife populations. (Coastal Review)

In Western Australia, officials are concerned that drones are being used to fly drugs into jails. (The West Australian)

City lawmakers in Ottawa are looking to use a drone—the “Goosebuster”—to chase away geese that are overwhelming the city’s beach. (Wall Street Journal)

Meanwhile, the Copeland Borough Council, which serves a county in Northwest England, is considering using drones to control the notoriously aggressive local seagull population. (BBC)

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