Weekly Roundup 9/16


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The state legislature in Texas passed a law that makes it illegal to take or possess photographs taken by drones under certain circumstances. While restricting use for citizens and journalists, The Texas Privacy Act grants exceptions to law enforcement, oil companies and real estate agencies. (Washington Post)

A drone strike in Afghanistan killed four militants and 16 civilians, Afghan officials reported. The strike reportedly targeted the combatants after they were picked up by a truck that was also carrying civilians. (New York Times)

NASA has deployed two Global Hawk drones, which are more commonly used by the U.S. military and CIA for surveillance, to monitor severe weather patterns. (NPR)

The government of Trinidad and Tobago announced that it will acquire four drones “to be used primarily for access for intelligence-gathering and to assist harbourmasters in sting operations,” according to National Security Minister Gary Griffith. (Trinidad and Tobago Guardian)

During negotiations with the government of Pakistan, the Pakistani Taliban insisted on an end to U.S. drone operations.  The demand was part of a list of 35 requests that Taliban commanders delivered to officials as part of a tentative ceasefire agreement with the government. (Wall Street Journal)

In response to the sighting of an Unidentified Unmanned Aerial Vehicle near the disputed Senkaku Islands, the Japanese government dispatched several fighter jets. China had previously announced that its navy was deploying drones, but did not confirm that the UUAV that prompted the Japanese response was a Chinese drone. (Washington Times)

Commentary, Analysis and Art

In a speech at Defence and Security Equipment International, the world’s largest arms fair, Sir Andrew Pulford, the chief air marshal of Britain’s Royal Air Force, drew from a Hollywood blockbuster to explain the future of unmanned warfare. “The Terminator 2 type world where machines can make decisions for themselves… that is undoubtedly coming.” Nevertheless, Britain’s Ministry of Defense announced that it has no immediate plans to develop lethal autonomous platforms. (Channel 4)

Writing for Dissident Voices, Brian Terrell considers, and opposes, targeted killing from a legal, moral and social perspective. “The burden of ‘due process,’” he writes, “can now be met when the president decides based on secret evidence that a citizen should die.”

Popular Mechanics has put together a simple infographic to explain how the Federal Aviation Authority regulates U.S. airspace, and how drones will fit into the existing system.

Drones were used to film the Burning Man festival in Nevada. (The Week)

Know Your Drone

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released an interactive online map showing the routes of Glider drones over the oceans. Gliders are unmanned aerial craft that travel over the sea for three to six weeks collecting data that will aid forecasters in preparing for hurricanes and other large storms. (Discovery.com)

Expal, a Spanish drone manufacturer, announced that their Shepherd-Mil drone is disguised to look like a bird. The company is confident that the drone can fly 1,000 ft over the enemy without being detected. (The Guardian)

The U.S. military has enlisted Northrop Grumman and Carter Aviation Technologies to develop weaponized drones that are capable of being launched from small ships without having to compromise performance or strike range. (NextGov.com)

Miniature drones were all the rage  at London’s Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI). Commentators noted that growth in demand for small unmanned vehicles, some weighing less than 2 lb, is matching demand for “multi-tonne” platforms. (Reuters)

DARPA announced that it is developing Hydra, a system for networked underwater drones. The system will include drones that cruise the seas searching for possible threats, mother-ships that launch mini-drones for surveillance missions and standby drones that can be summoned in emergency situations. (Gizmag)

MIT SENSEable City Lab’s Skycall system uses a quadcopter drone to guide visitors around the university’s campus. Chris Green, one of the leaders of the project, told Boston.com, “rather than the visitor diverting their attention to a map, the autonomous guide provides an intuitive navigational system of simply ‘following.’”

At the Center for the Study of the Drone

Public Studio’s new art exhibition, Under the Last Sky, re-appropriates electrical components used in unmanned aircraft systems to engage the spectator in a conversation about surveillance, the history and future of image making, and the impact of technology on war.

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Photo: The contested Senkaku Islands. Agence-France Presse