Weekly Roundup 8/28/17


A drone featured in a demonstration of the Army’s Micro Autonomous Systems and Technology program on August 22. Credit: Jhi Scott

August 21, 2017 – August 27, 2017

If you would like to receive the Weekly Roundup in your inbox, please subscribe at the bottom of the page.


Hezbollah’s military media unit announced that it used drones to strike Islamic State positions in the Western Qalamoun area in Syria. It was not immediately clear whether the strikes by the group, which has a long-running drone development program, resulted in any casualties. (Reuters)

A group of technology experts published an open letter to the UN warning of the dangers of lethal autonomous weapons. The signees, who include Tesla CEO Elon Musk, argue that lethal autonomous weapons “will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at time scales faster than humans can comprehend.” The letter was addressed to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, a body dedicated to restricting the use of weapons such as landmines. (Washington Post)

Drone manufacturer DJI is warning customers it will ground any DJI Spark drones that do not operate using updated firmware. In a statement, the China-based manufacturer said that the update was necessary to fix flight control issues. (BBC)

Commentary, Analysis, and Art

At the Financial Times, Emily Feng and Charles Clover look at how drone swarm technology is spurring a debate within China’s military establishment.

Also at the Financial Times, Michael Pooler considers how robots are transforming Amazon’s warehouse logistics.

At Hackernoon, Daniel Jeffries argues that AI raises more immediate concerns than the hypothetical ethical challenges of killer robots.

At RealClearDefense, Sandra Erwin writes that defense technologists—including the signees of the open letter—are conflicted over whether a ban on autonomous weapons is practicable.

A report by the Infrastructure and Projects Authority warns that the U.K.’s Protector and Watchkeeper drone programs are facing “significant issues.” (Drone Wars UK)

At Forbes, Ian Morris looks at how Nokia’s new OVNI drone is tailored for search and rescue operations.

Meanwhile, in Switzerland, drone users are pairing with search and rescue dogs to improve response time. (Business Times)

At Lexology, Edward W. Sauer and Charles F. Donley II look at what it will mean for the drone industry if Congress fails to pass an FAA reauthorization bill.

At Air & Space Magazine, Garrett M. Graff looks at how drones are taking on a bigger role in emergency response.

At Vertical Magazine, Elan Head examines recent advancements in cockpit and remote-operation autonomy for helicopters.

At Oxford Bibliographies, Ulrike Esther Franke offers 60 recommended readings on drones.

At the Washington Post, Sarah Kreps and Miles McCain argue that Congress should not stay silent on the rising number of U.S. drone strikes.

At the Associated Press, Lolita C. Baldor looks at how Iranian drones pose a growing challenge to U.S. Navy ships in the Persian Gulf.

A report by Reuters suggests that robot manufacturers have been slow to address cybersecurity vulnerabilities in their products.  

A cartoon by xkcd considers the dilemmas posed by wayward drones. (xkcd)

Know Your Drone

U.S. drone maker General Atomics Aeronautical Systems revealed new details about its Gremlin reusable drone, which it is developing for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. (Aviation Week)

Meanwhile, General Atomics is developing communications denial capabilities for its range of military drones. (Jane’s)

In a demonstration at a U.S. Navy exercise, defense firm General Dynamics launched an aerial drone from an unmanned undersea vehicle. (Jane’s)

Meanwhile, at the same exercise, Northrop Grumman conducted a simulated seabed warfare mission with two unmanned surface vehicles, three unmanned undersea vehicles, and a manned helicopter representing an aerial drone. (Jane’s)

Northrop Grumman is developing a new variant of its RQ-4 Global Hawk drone for the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, which is seeking a high-altitude long-endurance drone that can carry a high-energy laser to destroy intercontinental ballistic missiles. (FlightGlobal)

Researchers at Stanford University have developed a fixed-wing drone equipped with microspines that allow it to land on vertical surfaces. (TechCrunch)

The Colorado Department of Transportation has unveiled an unmanned truck that can be used for construction projects. (Fox Business)

A team at MIT has developed small RFID reader-equipped drones that can be used for inventory tracking in large warehouses. (Engadget)

Polish Armaments Group announced that it plans to begin manufacturing the Polish Armed Forces’ DragonFly strike drone in 2018. (iHLS)

Lockheed Martin and Denmark’s MyDefense Communications are looking to integrate the KNOX counter-drone system on the Lockheed Martin Indago quadrotor drone. (UPI)

Russian firm ZALA Aero Group unveiled a man-portable counter-drone system. (Jane’s)

The Israeli Air Force has announced that its upgraded Hermes 900 medium-altitude long-endurance drone is now fully operational. (Globes)

Drones at Work

Israeli firm Flytrex has launched a small-scale drone delivery service in Reykjavik. (Engadget)

The government of Tanzania has announced that it will begin using Zipline drones for deliveries of urgent medical supplies to remote areas by early 2018. (NPR)

The police and fire departments of the town of Weyauwega in Wisconsin are jointly purchasing a drone for a range of operations. (Waupaca County News)

A U.S. Air Force Predator drone crashed near Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, the second such crash in Turkey in four days. (Air Force Times)

The U.S. Special Operations Command is seeking consumer drone pilots to take part in its ThunderDrone program, which aims to develop new technologies for small unmanned aircraft. (Stripes)

State agencies used a number of drones to monitor traffic and parking at this year’s New York State Fair. (New York Upstate)

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems announced that it flew an MQ-9B SkyGuardian through unrestricted U.S. airspace for two hours from Arizona to California. (UPI)

Australia will begin using drones to patrol beaches for sharks. (Reuters)

Industry Intel

Battelle and DeDrone have partnered to combine their existing counter-drone platforms into a new system. (UPI)

NASA awarded SRC a contract for LSTAR V2 radar systems for use in the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Traffic Management system. (FBO)

The U.S. Navy awarded Insitu a $16.9 million contract for spare parts for the Navy’s ScanEagle drones. (UPI)

The U.S. Navy awarded Insitu a $10.1 million contract for contractor logistics support for the RQ-21A UAS. (FBO)

The U.S. Navy awarded Northrop Grumman a $684,506 contract modification to transition the Datalink Control Processor software to a Linux operating system. (FBO)

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is soliciting proposals from Dynetics, Saab Defense and Security USA, and SRC for the Mobile Force Protection counter-drone program. (UPI)

The Paraguayan Ministry of Defense is soliciting proposals for a counter-drone system that can intercept Brazilian drones. (IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly)

Ambient Intelligence Technology, a Japanese startup that makes underwater drones, raised $1.8 million in a funding round led by Beyond Next Ventures. (Deal Street Asia)

For updates, news, and commentary, follow us on Twitter.

[includeme file=”tools/sympa/drones_sub.php”]