Weekly Roundup 8/19

U.S. fighter jets and drones aided a counteroffensive by Kurdish Peshmerga infantry against fighters belonging to the Islamic State. Credit: Rick Findler / AFP – Getty Images

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At the Center for the Study of the Drone

The FBI’s secretive domestic drone program has been on a budgetary roller coaster in the past few years. Shawn Musgrave takes a look at the shifting fortunes of the FBI drones, and considers how certain figures within the Bureau are pushing to make drones an indispensable tool.

We listened to Young Drones, a new indie rock opera about two drones that quit their jobs monitoring the Alberta tar sands in pursuit of a simpler life.


An American drone strike in Yemen killed three suspected al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula militants. Two missiles reportedly hit a vehicle carrying the three men on a road in a large swath of desert near the border with Saudi Arabia. (The Guardian)

The Kurdish Regional Government has requested surveillance drones and other weapons from the U.S. government to aid in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq.  According to The Daily Beast, Kurdish government officials argued that more aerial intelligence assets were required to support ground forces.

California state safety officials urged drone hobbyists to steer clear of areas where there are wildfires. In the past few weeks, hobbyists have flown drones near three different wildfires. Firefighters expressed concern that the drones could cross paths with one of their own manned aircraft. “We won’t see these things, they’re so small. And by the time you see these things it’s too late,” said Mike Ferris, a Forest Service officer, in an interview with the Statesman-Journal.

The Los Angeles Police arrested a drone hobbyist named Tom Zebra for flying his drone around the San Pedro harbour in contravention of a city injunction against flying unmanned aircraft around public beaches. According to TMZ, the LAPD believe that this law can also be applied to all publicly-owned properties and the areas that surround them. Zebra has on numerous occasions flown his aircraft over police stations around the city.

Meanwhile, the California State Legislature is considering a bill proposal that would curb paparazzi drone use in order to protect the privacy of celebrities and other individuals. “There are certain lines that paparazzi shouldn’t cross,” said celebrity photographer Giles Harrison, “and I feel that the use of drones to photograph celebrities more than crosses that line.” (Los Angeles Times)

The Federal Aviation Administration opened its sixth and final drone test site. Researchers at Virginia Tech’s Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership now have FAA approval to conduct tests that will contribute to the development of regulations and technologies  for the integration of unmanned aircraft into U.S. airspace. (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Commentary, Analysis and Art

At the Washington Post, Patrick Anderson reviews Unmanned, a new espionage novel  about drones by Dan Fesperman.

At Bloomberg News, Willem Marx argues that the conflict in Gaza helped Israeli arms manufacturers sell drones.

The National Security Network released a report that advocates for the establishment of strict limits on the President’s legal authority to carry out drone strikes.

At Forbes, John Goglia points out an apparent contradiction in the way the FAA defines aircraft.

Also at Forbes, Gregory McNeal argues that the FAA’s investigation into cases of drone journalism raises questions about whether First Amendment rights are being violated.

At Gizmodo, Adam Clark Estes describes his failed attempt to fly the popular and commercially-available DJI Phantom.

In light of the FAA’s temporary flight restriction over Ferguson, Missouri, Matthew Waite at Drone Journalism Lab considers whether or not such a restriction could reasonably apply to small journalism drones.

At the Diplomat, Siddharth Sivaraman and Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan argue that India should buy more U.S. drones and other American weapons in order to diversify its arms imports.

At War on the Rocks, Paul Scharre argues that thousands of robots could help the U.S. military with medical evacuations on the battlefield.

Know Your Drone

The U.S. Navy carried out exercises in which an X-47B combat drone prototype operated alongside a manned F-18 fighter jet.

Researchers at KU Leuven in Belgium are developing drones that are optimized for delivering packages.

U.S. Air Force captain Michael Byrnes has proposed a small, lightweight stealth drone as the future generation of air-to-air combat aircraft. (War is Boring)

Drones at Work

At the New York Times, William Neuman and Ralph Blumenthal examine how drones are aiding archaeologists in Peru.

China has been using drones to search for victims of a recent earthquake in Yunnan. (Motherboard)

A Mexican drone manufacturer is building drones to help farmers find diseased crops. (Eurasia Review)

Australian rules football team The Hawks are using drones to film their training sessions. (The Age)

For Mashable’s take on the week in drone news, check out Drone Beat.

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