Weekly Roundup 8/25

A satellite photo of the Iranian uranium enrichment site Natanz. Iran claimed that it shot down an Israeli drone near the site. Credit: PublicIntelligence.net
A satellite photo of the Iranian uranium enrichment site Natanz. Iran claimed that it shot down an Israeli drone near the site. Credit: PublicIntelligence.net

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At the Center for the Study of the Drone

The ongoing protests in Ferguson have turned the nation’s attention on police militarization. Like many militarizing police departments, the St. Louis Police own a robot. Though this particular robot wasn’t used in the protests, more and more robots from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are making their way into local police forces. Dan Gettinger takes a look at how and why this is happening.


According to documents obtained by the Washington Post, the Yemeni government paid out over $1 million in compensation to the families of victims of a U.S. drone strike that occurred on December 12, 2013. The U.S. military’s Joint Special Operations Command strike hit a caravan of vehicles departing from a wedding. The compensation was divided among relatives of the 12 people who were killed and the 15 who were wounded in the strike.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps claims that it shot down an Israeli drone near the Natanz nuclear enrichment site. According to the statement, “the downed aircraft was of the stealth, radar-evasive type and it intended to penetrate the off-limit nuclear area in Natanz.” (Al Jazeera)

China has reportedly deployed drones in Xinjiang province after unrest in the region left nearly 100 people dead. The Legal Daily, a state news agency, reported that the drones provided “important intelligence in tracking down and arresting terrorists.” The Uyghur American Association has protested the deployment. (New York Times)

The Jacksonville Naval Air Station will become a hub of the U.S. Navy’s global Triton high-altitude surveillance and reconnaissance drone operations. The Navy is building a 31,000-square foot control station for the first squadron of Triton drone pilots and operators. The Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton drone can remain airborne for up to 24 hours. The U.S. Navy plans to buy 68 Tritons. (Florida Times-Union)

The Los Angeles Police Department is searching for the owner of a drone that was spotted flying at LAX Airport earlier this month. On August 4, a commercial airliner pilot saw a quadcopter drone flying at 4,000 feet, ten miles east of the international airport. “You don’t expect to see one at 1,000 feet when you’re doing 130 mph going to an emergency call to the Coliseum,” said LAPD Air Support Capt. Gary Walters in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.

Three lawsuits were filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to challenge the Federal Aviation Administration’s June 2014 directive that places strict limits on model aircraft and commercial drones. The lawsuits were filed by the Academy of Model Aeronautics, Council on Governmental Relations and a group of businesses hoping to use drones commercially. (U.S. News)

A new report by the UN Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters called for a commission to study transparency and accountability surrounding drone strikes. According to the report, the commission should also “examine the distinction between armed/military drones and unarmed/peaceful/civilian drones.” (Just Security)

Commentary, Analysis and Art

At the Washington Post, Greg Miller argues that aerial intelligence from drones would not be enough to enable effective airstrikes against ISIS in Syria,.

Meanwhile, the New York Times puts together a graphic of all the known targets of U.S. airstrikes against ISIS in northern Iraq.

At Real Clear Defense, James Hasik lays out five reasons why the U.S. Navy needs the Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike drone (UCLASS), and Loren Thompson examines how the UCLASS program—and its hefty price tag—came about.

Meanwhile, at the U.S. Naval Institute, Dave Majumdar describes the challenges to incorporating an unmanned strike fighter into the U.S. Navy.

At the Atlantic, Rose Eveleth takes a look at how the phrase “killer robots” is used in anti-drone campaigns and considers what it actually means.

At War on the Rocks, T.X. Hammes looks at the “demise of [Israel’s] ‘mowing the grass’” strategy and reflects on how Hamas drones contribute to the changing strategic picture.

On Twitter, Charles Lister points out that aerial footage in an ISIS promotional video could have have been made with a drone.

Vice News’ Charles Davis visits a protest against police drones in Los Angeles.

At Popular Science, Kelsey Atherton takes a look at how zoning rules could be used to safely integrate drones into urban airspaces, without the need for strict federal regulations.

In a podcast at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Birmingham University Professor Stefan Wolff explains the U.S. drone strike strategy in Yemen and whether it can serve as a model for airstrikes in Iraq.

Also at the Bureau, Victoria Parsons puts together a timeline of “20 calls for transparency around U.S. drone strikes.”

At Dawn, Shameen Khan and Taimur Sikander consider the efforts to identify the casualties of U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan.

In an interview with Micah Zenko at the Council on Foreign Relations, Sarah Kreps explains her new book Drone Warfare.

At EE Times, Jean-Pierre Joosting argues that drones and sensors could be used for automated inspections of critical infrastructure like bridges in the United States.

Know Your Drone

Northrop Grumman has unveiled a concept for an unmanned, vertical-launch spacecraft that it will propose for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency X-S1 competition. (Aviation Week)

The Iranian military has unveiled two new high-altitude surveillance drones. (ABC News)

The U.S. Army is developing a hack-proof, ultra-portable ground drone that can clear mine fields and improvised explosive devices. (War is Boring)

Researchers at WAVE Lab at the University of Waterloo have developed a system for a drone to autonomously dock to an unmanned ground vehicle. (Gizmag)

National Defense Magazine takes a close look at underwater drones, how they are used in both military and civilian capacities, and how they are set to become more prolific and advanced in coming years.

Drone software and hardware company 3D Robotics picks its favorite Kickstarter campaigns for drones that use its software.

Drones at Work

Disney wants to use to use aerial drones to carry puppets and other kinds of marionettes during nighttime exhibitions at its theme parks. (MarketWatch)

In India, Amazon could begin begin testing PrimeAir, the company’s proposed drone delivery system, as early as October. (The Economic Times)

African SkyCam is a drone journalism project in Kenya. “UAVs aid storytelling from a new perspective,” said founder Dickens Olewe in an interview with SciDevNet.

A drone was used in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. (Motherboard)

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

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