Weekly Roundup 9/29

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At the Center for the Study of the Drone

Our co-director Dan Gettinger spoke on Northeast Public Radio about The Drone Primer: a Compendium of the Key Issues. (The Primer is available for free download here).

Meanwhile, our other co-director, Arthur Holland Michel, spoke to The San Francisco Chronicle about commercial drones, regulations, perceptions, and what public opinion might look like in five years.


A U.S. drone strike reportedly killed between five and 11 people in Pakistan. At least four missiles were said to have hit a vehicle and a compound in North Waziristan. In a statement, the Pakistan foreign ministry urged for a cessation of strikes. It is the first U.S. drone strike in 49 days and the eighth to take place in Pakistan this year. (CNN)

Meanwhile, a second U.S. drone strike in Pakistan killed four suspected militants, including two Arab fighters. The strike took place on a compound in the town of Wana in South Waziristan, one of the semi-autonomous regions bordering Afghanistan. (The Guardian)

And in Yemen, a U.S. drone strike reportedly killed four suspected members of al-Qaeda. The strike hit a vehicle that was driving in the Nisab district in the Sabwah Governorate in southern Yemen. (AFP)

Retaliating to the U.S. drone strike in Yemen, militants fired an M72 anti-tank rocket on the U.S. Embassy compound in Sana’a. The attack was carried out by Ansar al-Sharia, an affiliate of al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula. In a statement, the U.S. Embassy said that there were no casualties from the attack. (Reuters)

The Federal Aviation Administration authorized six companies to use drones for filmmaking. The approval marks the first time that the FAA has allowed commercial drones to fly over populated areas. “Today’s announcement is a significant milestone in broadening commercial use,” said Secretary of Transportation Anthony R. Foxx in a conference call with reporters. (New York Times)

The Washington Post reported that the White House is planning to issue a directive requiring all federal agencies to report on drone surveillance flights inside the United States. The Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, and NASA maintain and fly fleets of drone aircraft inside the United States. “An interagency review of the issue is underway,” Ned Price, a White House spokesman, told the Post.

Deutsche Post announced that it will begin testing a system to deliver medicine with drones. DHL plans to use drones to deliver medicine to the island of Jusit from Norddeich, a port town in western Germany. The drones are programmed to autonomously fly the seven-and-a-half-mile route each day, weather permitting. (Wall Street Journal)

Lawyers with Reprieve, a British human rights organization, have suggested they will submit a judicial review challenge of the use of U.K.’s use of Reaper drones unless the Ministry of Defense declassifies information about where these systems are being used outside of Afghanistan. “The public must be allowed to know when and where our government sends armed drones,” said Kat Craig, Reprieve’s legal director, in an interview with the Guardian.

Due to improvements in reliability, the U.S. Navy may purchase fewer of the Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton high-altitude, long-endurance surveillance drones. The Navy currently has 68 of the drones on order. (Reuters)

Hui Sheng Shen and Huan Ling Chang, two Taiwanese nationals, are pleading guilty to charges that they attempted to smuggle U.S. drone technology into China. (China Morning Post)

Andreas Meissner, a German national, was banned from all U.S. national parks for one year and charged fines and restitution of $3,200 for crashing a drone into Yellowstone National Park’s Lake Yellowstone. Meissner was reportedly shooting a film for Run and Ride for Reading, a German nonprofit. “This is, frankly, a new management challenge for us at Yellowstone,” said Al Nash, a spokesperson for Yellowstone National Park, in an interview with Colorado’s 9News.

Meanwhile, documents released by the National Parks Service reveal that a drone landed on the bust of Abraham Lincoln at Mount Rushmore. The documents also reveal that the Death Valley National Park, where the monument is located, acquired its own drone in 2010. (Ars Technica)

Commentary, Analysis and Art

At The Washington Post, Michael Berry and Nabiha Syed argue that, as unmanned systems technology evolves, American legislators must be prudent in enacting anti-drone legislation.

At Wired, J.M. Legard lays out his plan to connect remote villages in Africa with drones. “[Drone] stations could nudge communities away from settlements strung out alongside roads to something safer and quieter,” writes Legard.

At the Social Good Summit in New York City, Yael Maguire, the engineering director of Facebook’s Connectivity Lab, spoke about the company’s plan to use drones to provide internet access. (Wired)

At the Daily Beast, Robert Caruso argues that drones won’t be enough to stop ISIS.

At Just Security, Christopher Rogers reports on a recent panel discussion on drones at the UN Human Rights Council.

At CNN, Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider consider the acceleration of Hezbollah’s armed drone program.

Cirque du Soleil, ETH Zurich, and Verity Studios created a performance featuring drones dressed as lampshades “The collaboration resulted in a unique, interactive choreography where humans and drones move in sync,” the partners wrote in a description of the film on YouTube.

At Robohub, Markus Waibel takes a closer look at the Cirque du Soleil performance.

At War is Boring, David Axe takes a look at the secret operations of the RQ-170 Sentinel surveillance drones.

At The Boston Globe, Katherine Whittemore gives an overview of some of the available books on drones.

At Fox News, John Brandon describes his first experience with a “follow-me” drone.

At Business Insider, Jillian D’Onfro argues that NASA’s new initiative to develop a system to integrate drones into the national airspace, is “the best hope to stop a potential drone disaster.”

Also at Business Insider, Steven Tweedie compiled a list of the seven most viral drone videos.

On HBO’s “Last Week Tonight,” John Oliver probes the Obama administration’s policy, loopholes, and lack of transparency around its use of drones. “Drone strikes,” Oliver says, “will be as much a characteristic of the Obama presidency as Obamacare.”

Know Your Drone

Iran has unveiled its newest military drone, which it claims is capable of air-to-air combat. (War is Boring)

At The Boston Globe, Hiawatha Bray profiles  some of the developments in solar-powered drone technology.

Engineers at the Nanjing University of Technology are looking to designing legged robots that are equipped with cannons. (Eastern Arsenal)

Nixie is a concept for a wearable aerial drone that wraps around the user’s wrist. (Gizmodo)

Researchers in Greece are developing a tentacled octopus robot in the Aegean Sea. (IEEE Spectrum)

A startup called Drone Deploy has raised $2 million to develop piloting and imagery analysis software that makes it easier to use drones for commercial applications. (Wall Street Journal)

Drones at Work

A video on YouTube showed pro-Russian separatists using a drone to help mortar crews target the Donetsk International Airport. While the video was posted last week, the date of filming has not been confirmed. (The Interpreter Magazine)

The U.S. Navy may start using small quadcopter drones to defuse sea mines. (Vice News)

In Australia, teams developed and flew custom-made drones across the outback to locate a mannequin named Outback Joe. The UAV Challenge, in partnership with Queensland University, is now in its eighth year. (CSIRO)

A Canadian woman with cerebral palsy will have the chance to see the world from aerial perspective via drone. (Metro News)

Drones are helping construction workers digitize the terrain of work sites. (Equipment Now)

And tax collectors in Argentina are using drones to catch wealthy tax evaders. At least 200 undeclared mansions and 100 secret swimming pools have been spotted by the drones. (The Telegraph)

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

For Mashable’s take on the week in drone news, check out Drone Beat.

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