Weekly Roundup 8/26

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Six financial giants in Britain are reconsidering their investment in British Telecom after the telecommunications company was accused of providing technical support for American drone strikes in Yemen. Reprieve, a human rights organization based in London, published a report last month that accused BT of providing fiber optic communication cables to Camp Lemmonier, an American base in Djibouti that is used for African drone operations. (The Independent)

The energy company ConocoPhillips has been granted FAA approval for commercial drone use; it is the first company to receive UAV use approval in the United States. According to the FAA, the drones will be used to create “surveys of ocean ice floes and migrating whales in Arctic oil exploration areas” and “to support emergency response crews for oil spill monitoring and wildlife surveillance.” (Anchorage Daily News)

The U.S. state of Georgia is making a case for becoming the leader in using drones to monitor agriculture. Donald Chase, a peanut and corn farmer, said that this technology would inform him of the perfect time to pick the peanuts. (The Commercial Appeal)

Following in the footsteps of the Foreign Minister of Iraq, Yemen has requested drones from the United States to monitor terrorist activity. Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi defended the recent drone strikes in the country, and told military cadets that he hoped to acquire the technology from the United States. (Reuters)

Japan will deploy Northrop Grumman’s Global Hawk drone by 2015. The Tokyo-based daily newspaper Yomiuri Shinbun reported on Friday that Japan hopes to deploy the drones from an American Air Force base in the northern part of the country, and will split the aircraft’s operation with the United States. (The Diplomat)

The FAA temporarily grounded drones flown by researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, explaining that these schools do not have authorization to operate Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. The researchers at the universities are testing the machines for use in gathering video and photo from disaster zones. (St. Louis Dispatch)

A quadcopter drone lost control and crashed into a crowd of spectators at the historic Bull Run in Virginia. According to the Washington Post, nobody was seriously injured. (CBS 6)

Commentary, Analysis and Art

In a paper for the Brookings Institute, Air Force Col. Bradley Hoagland outlines the challenge of attracting recruits for flying drones, as it is considered boring in comparison to piloting manned aircraft. Hoagland argues that “the Air Force cannot wait another decade to ensure the RPA [Remotely Piloted Aircraft] community gets professionally developed..[it] must soon take on new measures to attract recruits.”

The BBC predicts that drones will play an important role in the cities of the future.

Arthur Holland Michel describes the experience of encountering the latest drone tech at the AUVSI Unmanned Systems 2013 convention. “Everywhere you looked, there was a lot of glue, balsa wood, mechanical failures, and engineers frantically trying to recharge batteries before their next demo.” (Fast Company)

Emily Dische-Becker investigates the use of quadcopter drones to capture images and footage of the destruction in the Syrian city of Homs. (Exit Left)

In response to Mark Bowden’s cover story in The Atlantic, Michael Lewis, also writing for The Atlantic, argues that drones “have the potential to dramatically reduce civilian casualties in armed conflicts,” making them the “most humane form of warfare ever.” Meanwhile, Hassan Abbas (also at The Atlantic) argues that while drone operations create more terrorists than they kill, they do so for a different set of reasons than “boots on the ground” operations.

In a New Yorker “Shouts and Murmurs” feature, Henry Alford describes encounters with a number of “drones.” For example, “2. Tasha L. Great Barrington, Mass. Publicist. Age fifty-two,” whose “overarching need to exist at the central point of all social groups, when wedded to her deep-seated suspicion of others’ motives, results in a preoccupation with boundaries not seen since Yalta.”

Know Your Drone

The Verge profiles Northrop Grumman’s Global Hawk, the drone that once tracked Osama bin Laden and is now hunting hurricanes for NASA. Since the Air Force used the Global Hawk to track wildfires in 2007, Northrop Grumman has been eager to highlight the non-military applications of the machine. “If we publicize a bit more the nontraditional uses it might change some perceptions,” said Jessica Burtness, a communications representative for the company.

The use of solar energy to power drones will allow for greatly increased flying time. (Forbes)

The U.S. Air Force is working on a technology to tag people or vehicles with a nanochrystal spray that permits the targets to be tracked by an infrared camera from a distance of 2km. According to the New Scientist, the technology joins a host of other non-lethal options currently being considered by the Department of Homeland Security.

DARPA will soon begin research work for the Hydra, an unmanned undersea vehicle that provides a “delivery mechanism for insertion of unmanned air and underwater vehicles into operational environments.”

DARPA is also developing mechanisms to protect drones against cyber attacks. (DIY Drones)

At the Center for the Study of the Drone

Dan Gettinger interviewed Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the feminist anti-war organization Code Pink.

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(Image: Gen. Peter Pace addresses troops at the “Thunder Dome” at Camp Lemmonier, Djibouti. Credit: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen)

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