• Improving precision of drone navigation

    Researchers are working to bring a new level of precision to the navigation systems used to guide drones. The work is supported through a contract with Southern Company, one of the U.S. largest energy companies, which plans to use unmanned aircraft to enhance safety for crews in the field and improve reliability for customers. The researchers have designed a prototype which uses onboard ultrasound sensors to relay information on the aircraft’s location to its operator.

  • White House will not seek law allowing law enforcement access to encrypted messages

    The Obama administration has decided not to seek legislation which would require tech companies to design their devices in a way which would give law enforcement agencies access to individuals’ encrypted messages, the White House said on Saturday. The tech industry, led by giants Apple, Google, Facebook, IBM, and Microsoft, has mounted a vigorous campaign opposing any administration moves to weaken ever-more-sophisticated encryption systems which are designed to protect consumers’ privacy.

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  • FAA expands efforts to tackle risk of drones near busy airports

    A steep increase in reports of small unmanned aircraft in close proximity to runways is presenting a new challenge for the FAA. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has entered into a Pathfinder agreement with CACI International Inc. to evaluate how the company’s technology can help detect Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) in the vicinity of airports.

  • FAA proposes $1.9 million civil penalty for unmanned drone operations

    The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) the other day announced the largest civil penalty the FAA has proposed against a drone operator for endangering the safety of U.S. airspace. The FAA proposes a $1.9 million civil penalty against SkyPan International, Inc. of Chicago. The FAA says that SkyPan conducted sixty-five unauthorized operations in some of the U.S. most congested airspace and heavily populated cities, violating airspace regulations and various operating rules.

  • European Court of Justice: U.S. data systems expose users to state surveillance

    The European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg has ruled that U.S. digital data storage systems fail to provide sufficient privacy from state surveillance. The ECJ declared the American so-called safe harbor scheme “invalid.” The ruling, which is binding on all EU members states, stated that: “The United States … scheme thus enables interference, by United States public authorities, with the fundamental rights of persons…” The ruling will have far-reaching ramifications for the online industry and would likely lead many companies to relocate their operations.

  • The growing link between intelligence communities and academia

    The events of September 11 2001 were a catalyst for change in the intelligence profession.One noticeable change: The number of universities offering an intelligence studies-related degree has grown from  a handful to few dozen. Universities are starting to develop curricula that feature practical real-world exercises and structural analytical techniques. This is often happening in collaboration with the intelligence community. Like most businesses or agencies do, universities are starting to develop specific niches. This expansion is being led by the International Association for Intelligence Education (IAFIE), which was formed in June 2004. The field will only grow. It’s a necessary expansion to produce the professionals needed to ensure America’s national security and that of its allies for generations to come.

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  • Engineers design invisibility cloak for military drones

    Inspired by the well-known Invisibility Cloak from Harry Potter, electrical engineers have created a new design for their cloaking device, using a Teflon substrate, studded with cylinders of ceramic, which is thinner than any prior development and does not alter the brightness of light around concealed objects. The Teflon has a low refractive index, while the ceramic’s refractive index is higher, which allows light to be dispersed through the sheet without any absorption. Compared to an invisibility cloak, this technology has not only the ability to conceal, but the ability to increase optical communication signal speed and to collect solar energy.

  • Data show drone attacks doomed to fail against ISIS in Syria

    This week, the Washington Post published a story about a new U.S. plan to use lethal drone strikes in Syria to destroy ISIS capabilities on the ground. The desire to do something — anything — to destroy the capabilities of a group so luridly destructive is understandable, but our haste to show results will likely result in a hollow victory at best. But there is a problem: there’s no evidence that drone strikes work. On the contrary, ample evidence shows drone strikes have not made Americans safer or reduced the overall level of terrorist capability. The strikes amount to little more than a waste of life, political capital, and resources. Drones cannot deliver victory over ISIS, but in any event, lacking a cohesive, articulate political strategy for governance and post-ISIS reconstruction, no military solution can produce the results we’re looking for. Lacking the political strategy, more of the same in Syria promises no better.

  • Apple's encryption prevents it from complying with U.S. court order

    Apple said it could not comply with a court order to hand over texts sent using iMessage between two iPhones because the company’s encryption system makes it impossible to do so. The Justice Department persuaded the court to issue the order to facilitate an investigation involving guns and drugs. Legal experts say this is the first known direct face-off between the U.S. government and Apple over encryption. The FBI contends that such encryption puts the American public at risk because it makes it harder, if not impossible, to track and catch terrorists, pedophiles, and other criminals.

  • Counter-drone technologies demonstrated at DoD’s Black Dart event

    Small, unmanned aircraft systems (UASs, aka UAVs, for unmanned aerial vehicle), or drones, are easy to obtain and launch and they are hard to detect on radar, making them of particular concern to law enforcement and the Department of Defense. Earlier this month DHS circulated an intelligence assessment to police agencies across the United States warning about drones being used as weapons in an attack. DOD says that Black Dart 2015, which began 26 July and ran through 7 August, is the Department of Defense’s largest live-fly, live-fire joint counter-UAS technology demonstration. One of the innovative developers of counter-UAS technologies is SRC Inc., a not-for-profit company formerly affiliated with Syracuse University. The company showed its SR Hawk surveillance radar, which is integral to its layered approach to defending against UASs.

  • Sandia teams with industry to improve human-data interaction

    Intelligence analysts working to identify national security threats in warzones or airports or elsewhere often flip through multiple images to create a video-like effect. They also may toggle between images at lightning speed, pan across images, zoom in and out or view videos or other moving records. These dynamic images demand software and hardware tools that will help intelligence analysts analyze the images more effectively and efficiently extract useful information from vast amounts of quickly changing data. Sandia Lab and EyeTracking, Inc. will research and develop tools to improve how intelligence analysts gather visual information.

  • Sound waves disable drones by disrupting the drone’s gyroscope

    Hobbyists’ drones are becoming a growing national nuisance – violating people’s privacy, breaching security-sensitive airspace, disrupting attempts by firefighters to bring wildfires on the West Coast under control, and more. South Korean scientists report that sound waves could offer an effective protection from drones.

  • Bill requiring Internet companies to report “terrorist activity” opposed by digital rights groups

    A coalition of digital rights groups and trade associations last week released a joint letter opposing a proposal in the Senate to require U.S. tech firms to police the speech of their users and to report any signs of apparent “terrorist activity” to law enforcement. The letter says that this sweeping mandate covers an undefined category of activities and communications and would likely lead to significant over-reporting by communication service providers. The letter urged senators to remove the “terrorist activity” reporting requirements from the Intelligence Authorization Act (S. 1705).

  • New air traffic management system to make drone air traffic safer

    Researchers are now working on a new, low-altitude traffic management system to keep fast-moving flyers safer as they cruise through increasingly crowded skies. A handful of organizations are participating in the first phase of the NASA Ames Unmanned Aerial Systems Traffic Management project to enable safer use of low-altitude airspace, of 500 feet and below, where autonomous aerial vehicles, helicopters, gliders, and other general aircraft are operating.

  • DHS warns local law enforcement to watch for drones used by terrorists, criminals

    DHS has circulated an intelligence assessment to police agencies across the United States warning about drones being used as weapons in an attack. The bulletin went out Friday and warned state and municipal law enforcement agencies that terrorist and criminals may begin to use drones to advance their goals. “Emerging adversary use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems [UAS] present detection and disruption challenges,” the intelligence bulletin warns.