Weekly Roundup 9/14

A still from BBC's interview with Tushevs Aerials. The Tushevs are visiting Bard on Saturday, Oct. 19 for a live demonstration.

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Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai urged President Obama to end drone strikes in the northwestern territories of her country. After her meeting at the White House, Yousafzai told members of the press, “I also expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fuelling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people.” (Washington Post)

After nearly 350 asylum seekers died in two boat accidents near the island of Lampedusa, the Italian government announced that drones will be used to patrol their Mediterranean coast. Prime Minister Enrico Letta said that he would increase the number of boats and aircraft devoted to patrolling the waters, in order to “make the Mediterranean as safe as possible, and not, as it has become in recent days, a tomb.” (The Telegraph)

Frontex, the European border agency, is considering hybrid drones to aid in border surveillance. OPAs (Optionally Piloted Aircraft) can carry a human pilot but may also be flown by remote control. Frontex is hoping that the drones will allow it to avoid the strict anti-drone flight regulations in Europe. (EUobserver)

A police department in Gadsden, Alabama spent $150,000 of a federal government grant on a drone that crashed into a tree during its first surveillance flight. The Gadsden Police Department had not been given FAA clearance to fly the drone. (New York Post)

Police in the Netherlands have used drones over 130 times since 2009. The surveillance flights have led to four arrests in cases related to marijuana cultivation. (Dutch News)

Six anti-drone protesters in Britain were sentenced this week for breaking into a Royal Air Force base . In June the protesters broke through the fence and planted a peace tree on the grounds of RAF Waddington, the first unmanned aircraft base in Britain. Some observers have noted that the sentences handed out to the protesters were lenient. (The Guardian)

Protesters in Maine are staging a ten-day, 280-mile Maine Drone Peace Walk in opposition to the presence of surveillance and weaponized drones in the state. (Bangor Daily News)

Raphael “Trappy” Pirker, the leader of the extreme drone video collective Team Black Sheep, is facing $10,000 in fines from the FAA for allegedly flying his drone “in a careless and reckless manner” over the campus of the University of Virginia. Pirker was flying the drone to make a promotional video of the campus for the company Lewis Communications. (The Verge) Keep an eye out for our interview with Pirker, coming soon.

Commentary, Analysis and Art

The BBC featured Georgi and Nina Tushev, the drone flying duo behind Tushevs Aerials. “Once we toss the plane in the air,” explains Nina Tushev, “and it’s flying, it’s as though I’m inside the plane. But I’m not; I’m standing on the ground, and it’s pure joy.” The Tushevs are visiting Bard on Saturday, October 19th for a live demonstration. 

At Politico, Josh Gerstein writes that in recent months, President Obama has been back-pedaling on some of his national security choices–including the extensive use of drones–in a return to the promises of his 2008 election campaign.

BBC News interviewed Lt. Col. Bruce Black, a drone pilot who has flown Predator missions over Iraq and Afghanistan. “When you are sitting in the box flying one of these things, you lose sense of the fact you are sitting in Nevada,” Black told the BBC.

Dan Jangblad, the chief strategy office for SAAB Aerospace, explains the current state of the drone industry in Europe. (Wall Street Journal)

In response to Jangblad, Kenneth Anderson at Lawfare Blog explains the barriers to European drone integration. “Everyone understands that drones are going to transform much of aviation over the next several decades, and Europe finds itself behind in several key drone sectors at the level of production, even as its designs are in some vital areas cutting edge.”

In the forthcoming edition of the Western New England School of Law Review, Sudha Setty applies the theory of interest convergence to drones as a framework for understanding why targeted killings became a popular counter-terrorism tool. (Available on SSRN)

Geoff Dyer writes in the Financial Times that the power of the drone lobby indicates that the military-industrial complex is alive and well.

Joshua Foust explains on DefenseOne that the reason the military is developing greater autonomous capabilities is because “the only way to make a drone truly secure is to allow it to make its own decisions without a human controller: if it receives no outside commands, then it cannot be hacked (at least as easily).”

Know Your Drone

The Russian aviation company Sukhoi is developing a 20-ton weaponized attack drone capable of engaging targets both on land and at sea. (Live Science)

The École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and the Swiss National Centre of Competence for Research in Robotics (NCCR) announced a tech competition in which drone developers will work to develop small, cheap drones capable of carrying 20 kg of freight. The contest, which is called the Flying Donkeys Challenge, will be staged around Mount Kenya. The project is intended to speed the development of cheap freight drones for developing countries.

The King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia announced that it has produced several small, non-weaponized autonomous drones. (Saudi Gazzette)

The French company SenseFly, a subsidiary of Parrot, created a high-resolution 3D map of the Matterhorn with a fleet of small drones. (IEEE Spectrum)

Zoorkal, an Australian textbook rental company, has announced that it will begin delivering textbooks with an autonomous drone. The company, which will initially limit its delivery radius to the Central Business District of Sydney, claims that the drone will deliver textbooks to customers in as little as two minutes. (Tech World)

The UK’s Natural Environment Research Council has announced that it will use submersible drones as part of a research project to study currents in the Atlantic Ocean and the effects of those currents on global weather. (The Engineer)

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Photo: A still from the BBC’s recent interview with Tushevs Aerials. The Tushevs are visiting Bard on Saturday, October 19 for a live demonstration of their drone. 

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