• New technology proves effective in thwarting cyberattacks on drones

    Engineering researchers from the University of Virginia and the Georgia Institute of Technology have successfully flight-tested scenarios which could threaten drones, including ground-based cyber-attacks. The demonstration of U.Va’s System-Aware Cybersecurity concept and Secure Sentinel technology was part of a research project led by U.Va. engineers to detect and respond to cyber-attacks on unmanned aerial systems.

  • Terrorists develop tactics to evade U.S. drones

    The CIA’s use of Predator drones against Islamic militants in the Middle East began shortly after the 9/11 attacks and has increased dramatically during the Obama administration. As the number of drone strikes in Yemen increased, AQAP militants began to develop tactics to hide themselves from a drone’s sensors.

  • DHS IG questions value of CBP’s border drone program

    DHS’s 8-years-old drone program, now consisting of nine drones operating in Arizona, Texas, and North Dakota, has been unsuccessful, according to a just-released DHS inspector general report. Customs and Border Patrol(CBP) expected 23,000 total flight hours per year, but it only logged about 5,100 in fiscal year 2013. The inspector general’s report notes that drones helped in less than 2 percent of apprehensions of illegal immigrants.CBP has used the dronesto cover just 170 miles of the U.S. border – and a 2014 GAO report noted that a fifth of CBP drone flights were conducted within the interior of the United States and beyond the 100-mile range of operations of CBP jurisdiction points.

  • Speedy, agile UAVs for troops in urban missions

    DARPA aims to give small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) advanced perception and autonomy rapidly to search buildings or other cluttered environments without teleoperation. The program aims to develop and demonstrate autonomous UAVs small enough to fit through an open window and able to fly at speeds up to twenty meters per second (45 miles per hour) — while navigating within complex indoor spaces independent of communication with outside operators or sensors and without reliance on GPS waypoints.

  • FAA would allow four private companies to operate drones in U.S. airspace

    The Federal Aviation Administration(FAA) announced the other day that it would allow four private companies to operate drones in U.S. airspace. The drones will be used to survey land, inspect remote oil rigs, perform agricultural and environmental research, monitor construction projects, and collect geographical data. The FAA has banned most drone flights as they pose a risk to the safety of manned aircrafts, and in some cases to privacy. The drone industry says that if drones are integrated into U.S. civilian airspace, the domestic economic impact would surpass $82.1 billion between 2015 and 2025, while creating more than 100,000 high-paying jobs.

  • University of Maryland opens new drone test facility

    The University of Maryland has recently opened a new drone test site on the Eastern Shore which will allow researchers and students to help in the safe development of drones for use in U.S. airspace. The university will partner with companies to develop projects in a safe space. Already there are plans to use drones to monitor fish populations in the nearby Chesapeake Bay, examine power lines in the southern part of the state, and perform jobs which are considered “dirty, dull [or] dangerous,” in the words of the head of the facility.

  • Smaller lidars could be mounted on UAVs for underwater scans

    Bathymetric lidars — devices which employ powerful lasers to scan beneath the water’s surface — are used today primarily to map coastal waters. At nearly 600 pounds, the systems are large and heavy, and they require costly, piloted aircraft to carry them. Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) researchers have designed a new approach that could lead to bathymetric lidars that are much smaller and more efficient than the current full-size systems. The new technology would let modest-sized unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) carry bathymetric lidars, lowering costs substantially. These advanced capabilities could support a range of military uses such as anti-mine and anti-submarine intelligence and nautical charting, as well as civilian mapping tasks. In addition, the new lidar could probe forested areas to detect objects under thick canopies.

  • Satellites help assess risk of epidemics

    Changes in the environment, global trade, and travel are all factors in the ever-increasing numbers and movement of pests. Identifying and predicting the distribution of existing local species as well as the spread of new exotic ones are essential in assessing the risk of potential epidemics. Researchers have developed Vecmap — an all-encompassing software and services package including a smartphone app for field studies with a time and location information system, all linked to an online database. The database pools satellite information with results from field research, and satnav adds location information. The new approach greatly reduces the complexity of tracking species compared to traditional methods.

  • Drones watch over U.S. borders

    Since 2000, the number of Border Patrol agents on the 1,954-mile U.S.-Mexico border has more than doubled, to surpass 18,000, and fencing has increased nine times — to 700 miles. Some members of Congress and border state lawmakers are calling for more border agents and more fencing, but the Obama administration is looking to drones to help reduce the number of illegal immigrants and drugs entering the United States, while simultaneously shifting resources and agents to parts of the border where illegal activity is highest.

  • Legal framework needed to govern soon-to-arrive autonomous killer drones: Experts

    With about 8,000 unmanned aircrafts and roughly 12,000 unmanned ground vehicles, the U.S. military boasts the world’s largest drone arsenal, followed by Israel, with China, Europe, India, and Russia in the second tier. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) will pose a challenge to current international laws of warfare since someday, and sooner rather than later, they will be able to act autonomously – and kill autonomously. The international community has yet to adopt special laws to govern the use of drones in combat.

  • EMS drone dramatically increases survival chances of heart attack patients, accident victims

    A Dutch graduate student has designed an unmanned, autonomously navigating mini airplane that can quickly deliver a defibrillator to where it is needed. When the emergency services receive a cardiac arrest call, this drone can quickly deliver a defibrillator to the emergency scene. Via a livestream video and audio connection, the drone can also provide direct feedback to the emergency services and the persons on site can be instructed how to treat the patient. The drone finds the patient’s location through the caller’s mobile phone signal and makes its way to the location using GPS. The drone can carry up to four kilograms of medical equipment.

  • U.S. opens a second drone base in Niger

    The Pentagon has reached an agreement with the government of Niger to open a second U.S. drone base in the landlocked country. The base, in the city of Agadez, will help the U.S. Air Force track Islamist militants who have gained control of remote parts of North and West Africa. U.S. and French troops already operate out of a military base in Niamey, Niger’s capital, where drones are set to conduct reconnaissance flights throughout the region.

  • Using drones in law enforcement work

    Using unmanned flight systems for domestic surveillance can provide emergency responders information during fires, earthquakes, storms, and man-made disasters, said John Hill, director of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security.He said that the general public is open to the use of unmanned systems when informed about their use.

  • Firefighters mull using drones in fighting wildfires

    Federal wildland firefighting officials are exploring the deployment of drones to assist in surveillance and reconnaissance missions during a wildfire. Drones sent to survey fire patterns during a wildfire could help keep firefighters out of risky situations by providing real-time information to officials on the ground. Few wildfire officials have used drones in the line of duty, and managers with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management(BLM) and U.S. Forest Servicesay that while the technology has potential, agencies do not have the budget and have not developed protocols to integrate drones into regular firefighting operations.

  • Current White House drone policy a “slippery slope”: Report

    An 81-page report, released last Thursday by the Stimson Center and authored by a bipartisan panel of former intelligence and defense officials, warned that the present targeted drone strike policy could represent a “slippery slope” toward never-ending war. The report stresses that drone operations should always be “having a positive effect on U.S. national security and not trading short-term gains for more negative longer-term strategic consequences.”