Weekly Roundup 9/25/17

In a live-fire demonstration at the Army’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, a 30-kilowatt class laser weapon system developed by Lockheed Martin brought down five unmanned aerial vehicles. Credit: Lockheed Martin

September 18, 2017 – September 24, 2017

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Multiple U.S. airstrikes killed 17 Islamic State fighters in Libya, the first reported strikes in Libya since January. In a statement, U.S. Africa Command said that the strikes targeted a militant base 150 miles southeast of Sirte, a coastal city that was an ISIS stronghold until last year. The Washington Post reported that the strikes were carried out by drones.

In the first ruling of its kind, a U.S. federal judge has declared some aspects of a municipal ordinance restricting drone use in Newton, Massachusetts to be invalid. In a lawsuit brought by a local doctor and drone hobbyist, U.S. District Judge William Young found that some aspects of the ordinance impinge on the Federal Aviation Administration’s authority to regulate the airspace. The ordinance had banned drone operations below 400 feet over private property without permission of the property owner and required all drones to be registered with the city. (Ars Technica) For more on local drone laws, click here.

The Trump administration has drafted a revised set of guidelines for drone strikes and special operations raids outside of conventional battlefields. The New York Times reported that the proposed policy dismantles some limits established by President Obama on targeting but preserves a rule aimed at preventing civilian casualties. The policy also eliminates the requirement for a high-level official to review each strike and gives more authority to the Pentagon and the CIA in conducting operations. President Trump has yet to sign the revised guidelines.

A drone reportedly struck a U.S. Army helicopter above Staten Island in New York City. An Army Black Hawk helicopter was supporting security operations for the United Nations when the drone hit one of its rotor blades. The helicopter landed safely in New Jersey. (ABC7)

After a two week assessment, the Australian Defense Force has resumed using drones made by Chinese firm DJI in unclassified settings. During the review of potential cyber vulnerabilities, the ADF had grounded all of its DJI drones. (Reuters)

Police in Denmark have jailed a 28-year-old man on suspicion of sending drone aircraft and infrared cameras to ISIS. An international warrant has been issued for the suspected recipient of the items, who is believed to be in Turkey. (Associated Press)

Commentary, Analysis, and Art

At Lawfare, Robert Chesney summarizes the proposed changes to U.S. policy for drone strikes outside of conventional battlefields.

At Just Security, Luke Hartig raises questions about the implications and implementation of the proposed drone strikes policy.

Also at Just Security, Lt. Col. Alan Schuller reviews a study of lethal autonomous weapons systems undertaken by the U.S. Naval War College.

At the Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf argues that a revision of the targeted killing policy would make drone strikes “less safe, less legal, and less rare.”

The New York Times reports that the Pentagon has launched a $700 million program dedicated to countering ISIS drones.

At War on the Rocks, Jean-Baptiste Jeangene Vilmer looks at how France will use its armed drones.

At Aviation International Online, Vladimir Karnozov considers the extent of Russian drone operations in Syria.

In a speech to British troops in Iraq, U.K. Defense Minister Sir Michael Fallon argued that the U.K. should begin awarding military medals to drone pilots. (The Telegraph)

At USNI News, Megan Eckstein writes that the U.S. Navy is accelerating the development of unmanned maritime systems.

During a panel discussion at the DSEI exhibition in London, Rear Admiral David Hahn argued that the U.S. should take a “cautious” approach to developing and fielding autonomous weapons. (USNI)

In a statement, DJI responded to Australian Defense Force’s decision to temporarily ground its drones during an assessment of potential cyber vulnerabilities. (Gizmodo)

At Air and Space Magazine, Preston Lerner looks at how a TDR-1 drone carried out the first drone strike during World War II.

At Al-Monitor, Metin Gurcan writes that Turkey is increasingly relying on armed drones in its campaign against Kurdish separatists.

An audit by NASA’s inspector general has found that the space agency’s drone-related research in support of the FAA has “achieved all planned schedule and technical milestones.” (FedScoop)

At Wired, Sophia Chen looks at how archaeologists are increasingly turning to drones to create 3D models of ancient structures.

A drone video by pilot Gabriel Kocher features a race up the side of a mountain. (Gizmodo)

Know Your Drone

U.S. defense firm Lockheed Martin has developed a prototype for a counter-drone laser weapon. (Unmanned Systems Technology)

Estonian drone maker Threod is developing a new variant of the Stream tactical surveillance and reconnaissance drone. (Unmanned Systems Technology)

Consumer drone maker Parrot unveiled the Bebop 2, an updated version of its small multirotor drone. (The Drive)

Russia’s Experimental Design Bureau is reportedly developing a range of guided missiles for unmanned aircraft. (National Interest)

The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation is developing a 30 meter-class naval autonomous unmanned surface vehicle with a range of up to 540 nautical miles. (Jane’s)

Tengoen, a Chinese firm, unveiled a series of military drones, including a 20 m wingspan model with an endurance of 35 hours. (Jane’s)

A team from University of Zurich and NCCR Robotics is developing an eye-inspired camera that would allow drones to operate in a range of conditions, including darkness. (Phys.org)

In an operation in the Arabian Gulf, the Australian Navy completed its first manned-unmanned teaming flights between a ScanEagle reconnaissance drone and an MH-60R helicopter. (Jane’s)

The PLA’s chief test pilot said at a defense seminar that pilots in China’s fighter jets will be able to control drones via satellite within five years. (ECNS)

U.S. firm Battelle unveiled the DroneDefender Version 2, a new variant of its anti-drone jamming rifle. (Defense News)

An Indiegogo campaign has been launched to fund a foldable consumer drone called the Moment. (The Drive)

A group of Chinese research institutes is developing a freight drone using a modified manned aircraft. (China Daily)

Chinese drone maker DJI has proposed the design of an unmanned aircraft traffic management system based largely on existing systems and technologies. (The Digital Circuit)

Drones at Work

The Israel Defense Forces used its Iron Dome missile defense system to shoot down a drone operated by Hezbollah over the Syrian-Israeli border. (Jane’s)

U.S. firm Matternet has announced that its first medical supply drone delivery network in Switzerland will be operational next month. (The Verge)

A team of researchers from the Amazonas State University is using drones to monitor the health of forests in the Amazon by sensing gasses emitted by trees. (Phys.org)

In a test, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems flew a Predator B drone 1,075 nautical miles from a facility in Grand Forks, North Dakota, the longest flight of a drone in U.S. civilian Class A airspace. (Intelligent Aerospace)

An independent lifeboat service in the U.K. is testing drones to aid in search and rescue operations. (BBC)

U.S. aerial cinematography outfit Brooklyn Aerials made a short film that was lit entirely by lights mounted on drones. (PetaPixel)

A drone hobbyist has released a video showing how he flew a small multirotor drone inside a moving train. (PetaPixel)

Dog-walking startup Wag used a drone to search for a dog lost by one of its walkers in Long Island. (New York Daily News)

The North Little Rock police department in Arkansas has acquired a drone for emergency operations. (Associated Press)

The city of Annapolis in Maryland is set to begin using drones to investigate traffic accidents. (CBS Baltimore)

The South Sioux City council in Nebraska passed a first reading of an ordinance that would regulate drone use in the city. (Sioux City Journal)

Industry Intel

The U.S. Navy awarded Boeing Insitu a $9.98 million contract for six ScanEagle drones for the government of the Philippines. (DoD)

The U.S. Army awarded General Atomics Aeronautical Systems a $27 million contract for service work on the MQ-1C Gray Eagle. (DoD)  

The U.S. Air Force awarded General Atomics Aeronautical Systems a $9.8 million contract modification to procure and install sensor exploitation technologies for the MQ-9 Reaper. (DoD)

The Defense Logistics Agency awarded Raytheon a $24.2 million contract for unmanned aircraft spare parts for the U.S. Navy. (DoD)

Endeavor Robotics won a contract to supply U.S. government customers with 75 FirstLook throwable unmanned ground vehicles. (Shephard Media)

The Canadian government awarded Kongsberg Geospatial a contract for the Emergency Operations Airspace Management System, a portable display designed for first responders working with drones. (Shephard Media)

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