Weekly Roundup 9/23


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According to FireEye, a cybersecurity company, the targets of Chinese cyber attacks on the United States have been the American defense contractors who manufacturer drones. A Shanghai-based unit of the People’s Liberation Army is suspected to have hacked at least 20 defense companies in search of drone technology. Darien Kindlund, a manager at FireEye, told the New York Times, “I believe this is the largest campaign we’ve seen that has been focused on drone technology.”

In a CIA drone strike in Pakistan’s Shawal Valley, seven militants were killed. The Shawal Valley has long been the target for drone strikes since it is a known refuge for the Taliban and al-Qaeda-affiliated groups. (Long War Journal)

An unidentified object suspected of being a drone was seen flying above Belfast, Ireland, unleashing a storm of speculation on the web. The city police denied that it was one of the three drones owned by the force. (Belfast Telegraph)

The massive increase in Arctic ship traffic has resulted in an urgent need to find tools to combat potential oil spills in the region. National Geographic reports that drones are part of this growing toolkit.

The New York Times reports that the United States military is falling behind the private sector in developing unmanned vehicles.

During the recent flooding in Colorado, U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) prohibited Falcon UAV, a Colorado-based drone manufacturer, from using unmanned aircraft to make damage assessment maps of the affected area. (Slate.com)

Commentary, Analysis and Art

After FEMA grounded its drone in Colorado, Falcon UAV told their side of the story: “Not being one to bow to federal bureaucrats we still went up to Lyons to do a site survey for how we can conduct a mission in the near future to provide an adequate damage assessment to this storm ravaged community.”

In two lectures at Texas A&M University, Ronald Sievert and Richard Rosen discuss the constitutionality of drone warfare. “The people we are attacking,” explained Rosen, “especially those who are alien enemy combatants, have no constitutional rights at all.” (The Battalion)

While the drone that approached Chancellor Merkel earlier this week was harmless, researchers in the Netherlands describe the threat posed by mini-UAVs in the wrong hands. Sean Gallagher lists a number of possible scenarios in which mini drones are used to harm civilians. “During a public speech by a VIP, the VIP is shielded from the audience by bulletproof glass. However, a terrorist deploys a Mini UAV equipped with an explosive, which flies over the shielding glass. The explosive detonates close to the VIP wounding him fatally.” (ArsTechnica)

Deloitte GovLab, a think tank, conducted a “drone census” to gather information about the businesses, organizations, universities and individuals who are driving unmanned vehicle development and integration in the U.S.

Two of the creators of the drone census, Matt Caccavale and Samra Kasim, summarize their findings in a post for Slate.com. Among other findings, the census revealed that university research continues to push drone technology development, and that a growing share of organizations seeking to develop drone technology have civilian, rather than military, applications in mind.

Historian Lloyd Gardner, whose book Killing Machine: The American Presidency in the Age of Drone Warfare will be released by The New Press in October, speaks to Publishers Weekly about America’s “perpetual high-tech, low-casualty war on terrorism.”

Idaho’s new drone law will not target hobbyists. “There are good uses for this kind of technology,” the ACLU’s Advocacy Director Leo Morales said. “But as Idahoans we value our privacy. It’s something protected by the Constitution.”

At the Air Force Association’s annual conference, Gen. Mike Hostage, chief of the air service’s Air Combat Command, explained that military drones are all but useless against manned aircraft. “Pick the smallest, weakest country with the most minimal air force — [it] can deal with a Predator,” explained Hostage.

Know Your Drone

The Week describes a new generation of biomimicry drones that look like pigeons, hummingbirds, squids and snakes.

In Australia, activists from the organization Animal Liberation are using camera-equipped quadcopters to verify that farms claiming to produce free-range eggs actually meet the requirements of free-range farming. (ABC)

High school students in Palo Alto, California are experimenting with the use of drones to film news events. This weekend, members of a journalism class filmed a football game.

Embry Riddle Aeronautical University has announced that it will offer a master’s degree in drone technology. (The Post and Courier)

DARPA has released another call for research into unmanned aerial systems. This latest request emphasizes the need for reduced costs. The Pentagon has shifted its focus towards cost-saving technologies since sequestration took effect in March of this year. (Lohud.com)

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Image: The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy, a ice breaking vessel that could deploy drones to help combat arctic oil spills. Retrieved from National Geographic. Prentice Danner//U.S. Coast Guard