Everything Drones

September 12, 2014

Drone owner located after device lands in family’s backyard

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Drone owner located after device lands in family’s backyard


Allen Park Police say the owner of the Drone came forward Friday morning, after seeing this report.

The device has been returned to him.

Officers say the owner is from Lincoln Park, and got the Drone as a gift. He put it in the air from a local school, and lost it in the trees. His daughter was taking a live feed of what the on-board camera was displaying, but its not believed anything was recorded, nor was he trying to intentionally invade anyone’s privacy.

Original Story:

A mystery drone is the talk of Allen Park, as a family there watched the flying device land in their backyard. The operator–nowhere to be found.

“We freaked out,” said homeowner Roman Urista. He and his family were sitting in the backyard around a fire recently, when the drone hovered overhead, lights on and propellers roaring. It crash landed in the family’s yard, still buzzing.

“It didn’t look like a hobby toy to me,” said Urista.

The Drone, valued at around $500, was equipped with an onboard camera.

The family was scared to go near the drone, and once they saw the recording device, they called police.

“If I lived in the neighborhood, I would be a little concerned,” said Lt. Dave Williams with the Allen Park Police Department.

“There’s no markings of ownership on it,” he said.

Which means whoever it belongs to remains a mystery the Urista family and officers would like to solve.

Police say flying a drone on a public street is legal, and due to privacy laws they can’t watch what was recorded.

Police are hoping the owner contacts them to claim the device.

July 3, 2014

Drone Crashes In Brighton Man’s Backyard

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Drone Crashes In Brighton Man’s Backyard

BRIGHTON, Colo. (CBS4)– A drone crashed into a Brighton man’s backyard and now the homeowner wants answers.


George Ray said the drone had a GoPro camera mounted on it and was videotaping over his property located off Interstate 76 near 136th Ave. early this morning.

(credit: CBS)

Ray said he heard a strange sound outside his bathroom, “All I could hear was a ‘Beep, beep, beep.”

When he looked outside he saw a drone with a camera.

“What dummy would be flying around a drone at 3:30, 3:45 in the morning? It doesn’t make sense,” said Ray.

Shortly after the drone made an unexpected landing, “This is where it landed at. Apparently it crashed right here, fell to the ground.”

George Ray shows CBS4's Suzanne McCarroll where the drone was flying before it crashed (credit: CBS)

Ray took his own video of the drone after it crashed. But why it was flying over his property in the first place remains a mystery.

He said his daily activities are not something anyone would be at all interested in recording, “I’m just a working dude, mowing the lawn, working around the yard.”

Ray handed over the drone and camera to the Adams County Sheriff’s Office. Although what happened is not a crime, it is considered out of the ordinary.

Deputies said the wandering drone has been returned to a very embarrassed owner who lost control of the drone. The drone had his name and phone number on it.

Ironically, Ray works for a company that makes drones for government use.

April 9, 2014

Prepare for drones that ‘perch’ on power lines to recharge, never have to land

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Prepare for drones that ‘perch’ on power lines to recharge, never have to land

Prepare for drones that ‘perch’ on power lines to…

Joseph Moore gave Business Insider a look at the technology he is perfecting.

By Douglas Ernst

The Washington Times

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Mr. Moore gave Business Insider a demonstration of the technology he’s perfecting by using a glider as proof of concept.

In short, if a drone is equipped with the a magnetometer it should be possible to make the aircraft capable of identifying magnetic fields given off by power lines, hone in on the signal they emit, and then maneuver in such a way that would allow the drone to perch until fully charged.

Developing such a system for fixed wing aircraft is desirable because of their ability to carry heavier loads than those that use a quadrotor design, Business Insider reported.

During the demo it was given by Mr. Moore, Business Insider reported that the glider, even without a fully-developed perching mechanism, was able to come “within centimeters” of a mock power line.

March 4, 2014

Facebook Wants to Build 11,000 Drones to Bring Internet to Africa

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Facebook Wants to Build 11,000 Drones to Bring Internet to Africa

All drones everywhere.


Check out this atmospheric satellite a.k.a. FACEBOOK DRONE. (Screengrab: YouTube)

Check out this atmospheric satellite a.k.a. FACEBOOK DRONE. (Screengrab: YouTube)

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! Nope — it’s a Facebook drone.

The social media site reportedly wants to use drones to bring Internet connection to the two thirds of the world that still lack connectivity, starting with parts of Africa. The initiative is part of the internet.org project, which Facebook backs.

To do so, Facebook could have bought some individual drones. Instead, overachievers that they are, they bought a drone companyAccording to TechCrunch, Facebook is shelling out $60 million to acquire Titan Aerospace, a company that makes “atmospheric satellites” — basically, solar-powered drones capable of staying in the sky for up to five years.

Facebook is specifically interested in building 11,000 of Titan Aerospace’s “Solara 60″ aircraft,TechCrunch reported. The company’s site indicates the Solara aircraft have a bunch of communications abilities, which we expect will be useful for Facebook’s mission.

According to this comprehensive YouTube video, the Solara 60 can complete most of the same functions as an orbital satellite, but is cheaper and more versatile. It can also stay at an altitude of 20km for up to five years, without ever having to come back down and refuel. Fancy.

TechCrunch specified that Titan Aerospace’s products would only be used for the internet.org initiative, which means that if you’re reading this now, a fleet of Facebook drones probably won’tbe coming to a sky near you.

Check out Titan Aerospace’s Solara 50 and 60 aircraft:


February 6, 2014

Are drones the next target for hackers?

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Are drones the next target for hackers?

A "hacked" RQ-170 drone in Iran (Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty)A “hacked” RQ-170 drone in Iran (Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty)

Military and civilian drones have a crucial weakness that means they can be hacked, Katia Moskvitch discovers, so what might a stolen drone be used for?

If you were watching Iranian state TV in early December 2011, you would have seen an unusual flying object paraded in front of viewers. Windowless, squat, with a pointed nose, its two wings made it the shape of a manta ray. The trophy on show was an RQ-170 Sentinel stealth drone, a key weapon in the intelligence gathering arsenal of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Standing in a hangar on a military airfield, the drone was seemingly undamaged. Indeed, Iranian officials insisted that it had not been shot down; rather, they claimed an unusual coup: to have hacked the drone while it was flying near Iran’s border over Afghanistan and forced it to land.

Outside Iran, many snorted in disbelief at hearing such claims. Todd Humphreys, assistant professor of aerospace engineering at the University of Texas in Austin, US, was one of the sceptics. Soon, though, he would prove himself wrong.

So, how easy is it to hack a drone? Along with the military, could police and private citizens also lose control of their aircraft? And if so, what might a hacker do with a stolen drone?

One way to hack a drone involves messing with the system it uses to navigate. US military drones use encrypted frequencies of the Global Positioning System (GPS), and this was the RQ-170’s Achilles heel, said the Iranians. They first jammed its communications links, which disconnected it from ground controllers and made it switch to autopilot; it also interrupted the secure data flow from the GPS satellites. The drone was forced to search for unencrypted GPS frequencies normally used by commercial aircraft. At this point, the Iranians said, they used a technique called “spoofing” – sending the plane wrong GPS coordinates, tricking it into believing that it was near its home base in Afghanistan. And so it landed on Iranian territory, directly into the welcoming arms of its kidnappers.

The US rejected the hacking scenario, insisting that its flying robot simply had malfunctioned. Military drones usually have a back-up system to guide them home automatically if contact with operators is lost. But that clearly didn’t work.

Military reconnaissance drones carry camera footage that enemies covet. (Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images)

The more Humphreys thought about the incident, the more he felt that such an attack might work, at least in theory. Together with students at his university’s Radionavigation Lab, which he directs, he invited the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to watch how his team could spoof a civilian drone mid-air.

Using equipment costing less than $2,000, Humphreys mimicked the unencrypted signals sent to the GPS receiver on board a small university-owned drone. With DHS officials watching, he managed to fool the drone in a matter of minutes to follow his commands. “I first dismissed the Iranians’ claims as extremely unlikely, but have since revised my estimate to ‘remotely plausible’,” he says.

Confused drone

Jamming GPS satellite signals “so the drone’s sense of its own location begins to drift away from the truth” is quite doable for both military and commercial drones, he says, because these signals are so weak. “The US military is scrambling right now to reduce their drones’ susceptibility to GPS jamming, but it’s going to take some time before they’ve got a satisfactory fix.”

There are other vulnerabilities, too. Intercepting data links from the drone, such as knowing precisely what the plane is looking at, is also easy to do if the feeds are not encrypted. In 2008, Iraqi militants intercepted unencrypted video feeds from unmanned US spy planes. And in 2012, drones at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada were reportedly infected with malware after an operator apparently had used a drone’s computer to play “Mafia Wars” – and in the process installed a virus on the PC.

A military drone hacked by criminals is obviously a dangerous scenario. But what if hackers were to gain control of civilian flying robots? Drones are already being exploited for search and rescue organisations, police authorities for surveillance, or for crop or wildlife monitoring, for example, and they may soon be joined by postal services and online retailers.

A clever hack could make Parrot AR drones target each other. (Wikimedia)

Independent IT security analyst Samy Kamkar showed that taking control of a civilian drone was possible in December 2013. He equipped a Parrot AR Drone 2.0 with a tiny Raspberry Pi computer, a battery and two wireless transmitters. The microcomputer ran a simple piece of software, which directed the drone to search for the wi-fi signals used to control nearby Parrot drones. Once his drone had found a victim, the program used the wireless transmitters to sever the target drone’s link to its owner and took control. According to Kamkar, a handheld computer on the ground can do the trick too.

Humphreys calls Kamkar’s work “a clever hack” and predicts that “it won’t be the last one against commercial drones; hackers will find flaws and exploit them.”

David Mascarenas, who works for the National Security Education Center at Los Alamos National Labs, agrees. As drones are nothing but flying computers, he says they “have the potential to exhibit never before seen security flaws that couple both cyber and physical security concerns.”

Yet what would be the motivation for a hacker to take control of a civilian drone?

“The reason to hack a drone would be like any other reason people hack,” says Peter Singer, director of the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence at Brookings Institution, a think-tank based in Washington DC. “It might be to cause an act of terror, an act of mischief, to carry out some kind of crime, or the “white hat” type, to show that it can be done in order to warn others of the vulnerabilities.”

DHL delivery drones carry cargo that hackers may want to steal (Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)

Delivery drones could be hacked to steal their cargo, the expensive machine itself, or even to encourage black market activities. “If a drone can deliver a book, it can also be used to deliver narcotics” or sneak contraband into a prison, says Mascarenas. Indeed a drone has already been used for smuggling cigarettes into a prison yard in Georgia, US.

Another example might be corporate espionage. A drone that normally operates within a factory could be redirected and tagged with a tiny broadcasting camera, allowing a hacker to spy on sensitive commercial information.

Then there may simply be people who don’t want drones spying on them. One town in Colorado has already proposed drone “hunting licences” that would allow people to shoot down drones. While Humphreys says the idea is farcical, the anti-surveillance sentiment behind it is real. “If I saw an unfamiliar drone snooping around my back yard, you can bet I’d be sorely tempted to jam its GPS receiver to shoo it away – or bring it down,” he says. “GPS jammers can be purchased for less than $50 online and they’re quite effective.”

So can the threat be prevented? At the Los Alamos National Laboratory Engineering Institute, Mascarenas and colleagues are testing software that would make drones unpredictable – for example by taking random paths while still achieving their goals – to reduce the possibility of ambush.

Yet such methods will likely prove to be the start of an arms race between hackers and the security professionals who wish to stop them. “The bottom line is that a drone is a flying computer. And computers can be hacked,” says Singer.

Use of drones spreading as cost falls: think-tank

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Use of drones spreading as cost falls: think-tank

Drones will become an increasingly common tool of warfare and surveillance as their cost falls, a leading think-tank said Wednesday, although humans will retain ultimate control over lethal strikes.

The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) also noted a continuing trend of Asian military spending surging ahead as European defence budgets shrink, in its annual assessment of the world’s armies.

At the launch of the Military Balance 2014 at the IISS’s London headquarters, its military aerospace expert Doug Barrie said the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, would increase, although they would continue to co-exist next to manned aircraft.

He said the assumption entering the 21st century had been that autonomous drones would soon completely replace piloted planes.

“I think there’s been a step back from that to some extent. I think you will see mixed use for quite some time,” Barrie said, but acknowledged that the range of drones’ capabilities would increase.

“We’re going to see more of these things. They will proliferate from the kind of system you can stick in your backpack up to full-blown combat strike,”he added.

‘More drones means more ethical questions’

The IISS said the increased use of drones was accompanied by legal and ethical questions, including whether attacks could be justified as self-defence and whether they constitute a proportional response to the status of individuals targeted.

There has been particular concern over the potential use of fully autonomous armed UAVs, without humans piloting the devices from the ground.

“Machine-based decision-making as the basis for lethal action will remain a threshold legislatures and the public will likely be unwilling to cross,” the report said.

The report said that drones were once seen almost exclusively in Western armed forces, but the proliferation of smaller systems had reduced costs, enabling greater use by private companies, individuals and countries with limited financial resources.

UAVs have been used overwhelmingly in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, in effectively uncontested airspace, the IISS noted.

However, such calculations may change if they were up against active air defence weapons. Russia and China have been developing GPS-jamming technology, the think-tank said.

In ongoing trends, the report noted the relative shift towards Asia in the balance of military power, with defence budgets in the region rising as Western ones tighten.

The United States remained by far the world’s biggest defence spender in 2013, with a budget of $600.4 billion, the report said, followed by China ($112.2 billion), Russia ($68.2 billion) and Saudi Arabia ($59.6 billion).

In terms of defence budgets as a share of gross domestic product, Afghanistan was top on 13.8 per cent, followed by Oman (11.7 per cent), Saudi Arabia (eight per cent) and Iraq (7.2 per cent).

But in real terms, Asian defence spending was 11.6 per cent higher in 2013 than in 2010, while it had fallen by 2.5 per cent in Europe.

‘Nuclear suicide mission’

Experts said maritime drones were lagging behind UAVs but there was now substantial investment.

Meanwhile, “we’ve seen an explosion of unmanned systems on land, with armies having lots of drones, and with small drones, the genie’s out of the bottle,” said IISS land warfare expert Ben Barry.

In Syria, Barry said neither side had a clear advantage, nearly three years into the civil war.

“The rebels are probably hampered as much by the lack of unity between the various groups as the factional infighting,” he said.

“I think it’s unlikely that we’ll see a decisive shift on the battlefield for at least six months.”

For North Korea, while its ageing aircraft could not penetrate South Korean or Japanese air defences with a nuclear weapon, “a nuclear suicide mission by a mini-submarine cannot be ruled out”.

As Western forces withdraw from Afghanistan this year, Nato faces pressing issues at its September summit in Britain, working out what shape the “post-operational alliance” should take.

February 5, 2014

Jesse Ventura hiding from drones

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Jesse Ventura hiding from drones
By: Tal Kopan
February 5, 2014 06:44 AM EST
Former wrestler and Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura says he has gone “off the grid” in Mexico to avoid drones knowing where he is.

Ventura spoke with CNBC’s “Closing Bell” from an “undisclosed location in Mexico” on Tuesday, prompting the hosts to ask him where he was and why he was there.

“I’m off the grid. I move about with my TV show so that the drones can’t find me and you won’t know exactly where I am,” Ventura said, talking over the host’s question as to whether it was a hoax.

The former third-party governor hosts a show called “Off the Grid” on Ora TV. Ventura said he could remain off the map “as long as we have solar power and we can reach the satellite.”

“I view the United States, today, much like East Berlin. And I’m off the grid. I’ve tried for 20 years to warn the country about the Democrats and Republicans, and nobody’s listening.”

Ventura said after years being on “the inside, looking out,” he was now viewing the country “from the outside looking in.”

“I now view the United States from the outside, and I don’t like what I see,” Ventura said. “You know what the favorite T-shirt was off the grid down here a couple years ago? A picture of [former President] George Bush, and it said weapon of mass destruction. Is that the way we want the United States portrayed throughout the world? I don’t think so.”

Ventura ignored another question from the host asking how he could be off the grid with Internet access.

(He decried the role of money in politics and said his own campaign raised less than he made as governor. He also said his current TV effort was not about money.

“I don’t need the money. I’ve made the money,” Ventura said. “I don’t need no more money; I can live right now and my family until I die.”

He said he’s helping the nation in his new role.

“I’m solving problems. … I’m a job creator,” Ventura said. “And I’m not only creating jobs, putting Mexicans to work, I’m stopping them from running across the border now and taking our jobs, because my whole staff said that if I wasn’t down here, and I didn’t have them, they’d be coming up to America, looking for jobs.”


Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 6:58 pm



By W. Alejandro Sanchez

Over the past several years, drone usage has become increasingly widespread, not solely among global military powers but also among rising mid-level military powerhouses and even among less-economically developed nations. The combination of increasingly inexpensive drones and the intention by countries that manufacture them to sell this technology to friendly governments are two critical factors that are fomenting drone usage across the globe.

In recent years, the Council on Hemispheric Affairs has issued a number of reports about drone usage in Latin America. This analysis aims to highlight the main aspects of this intriguing piece of military technology.

1. The U.S. is not the major provider

Even though the U.S. continues to be the largest supplier of conventional weapons to Latin American states, it is Israel, more so than Washington, which has become the foremost provider of drone technology. In US News Jason Koebler explains: “So far, the market for drones in Central and South America has been completely dominated by Israeli companies such as Elbit Systems — which has sold its Hermes drones to Colombia — and Israel Aerospace Industries [IAI] — which has sold drones to Ecuador and Brazil.”[1]

Israel sold some $500 million worth of drone technology to Latin American clients between 2005 and 2012. While this may not sound like a huge stream of sales as compared to other weapons deals (a December 2013 deal between Brazil and the Swedish company Saab for 36 Gripen warplanes is estimated at $4.5 billion), such transactions are bound to increase in volume in the near future so long as Latin American states continue to enjoy a strong economy and regional armed forces see drones as an advantageous weapon.[2]

For the immediate future, it is likely that Israel will continue to be the prime beneficiary of a steady flow of drone sales to Latin America. Apart from, consummated sales of UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) technology to Brazil and Mexico, other nations are considering purchasing Israeli drones. For example, Guatemalan President Otto Perez has expressed his interest in IAI drones to combat drug trafficking across the border between Guatemala and Mexico. [3] Likewise, there have been reports that the Chilean Navy may have switched its interest in purchasing Boeing’s Scaneagle drones to Elbit’s Hermes 900.[4]

As for why the U.S. lags behind Israel on the drone market, Koebler explains: “American companies hoping to sell drones overseas need special permission from the State Department before they can begin selling drones to foreign companies.”[5] Moreover, it is not just about bureaucratic red tape that prevents these transactions as “not all the big American defense contractors are ready to try selling unmanned aerial vehicles to countries in Latin America.”[6] Koebler indicates that the North Carolina-based UTC Aerospace Systems, which produces the Vireo drone, as the main company that is trying to sell drones to Latin American clients.

This is not to say that American-made drones are not already being operated by Latin American governments and their security forces. Specifically, Mexico and Colombia are currently using such military technology. Regarding Bogota, the Americas Society/Council of the Americas explains that “this Andean country has reportedly been using U.S.-made drones since 2006 to fight drug trafficking, track guerrillas, and assist in hostage rescue efforts.” Namely, Bogota employs the ScanEagle, produced by Boeing.[7] As for Mexico, the U.S. has been flying drones such as the Predator and GlobalHawk over Mexican airspace to provide surveillance information to help crack down on drug trafficking and other criminal activities across the U.S.-Mexico border.[8] (It is worth noting that both Colombia and Mexico have also reportedly bought Israeli drones.)[9]

As for other nations, there have been reports over the past years that countries like Russia, China and even Iran are collaborating with certain Latin American nations so that they can develop their own drone technology. Nevertheless, exact details about the specifications of these UAVs are still unclear. For example, in March 2012, then-Southern Command chief General Douglas Fraser explained to reporters that Iran was expanding its influence to Latin America by helping Venezuela, a regional ally, to build drones.[10] Months later, in June 2012, the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez declared that, with Russian aid, his nation had succeeded in building its own drones. This past May 2013 there were reports that Venezuela had launched drones to combat drug trafficking, though interestingly they were reportedly built with Iranian help, not Russian. [11]

Finally, it should be noted that other nations and companies are trying to gain a beachhead in the Latin American drone market. For example, according to the Spanish defense news agency Infodefensa.com, Bolivia’s two drones are the South Korean model Ucon System Remoeye-006.[12] Moreover, the Uruguayan army is currently evaluating two different types of UAVs: the Discoverer and Discoverer II, produced by the Swedish company Unmanned Systems Groups.[13]

2. The Geopolitical Factor

Up to this point the discussion has involved the sale of drones, or providing drone technology, to interested Latin American states. These considerations highlight an important factor of the Latin American drone-craze. A quick overview of drone sales highlights how alliances and good diplomatic relations between nations determine which vendors will sell drones to which client-states. For example, the U.S. has provided billions of dollars to Colombia and Mexico over the years, via a variety of bilateral initiatives such as Plan Colombia and the Merida Initiative; hence it makes sense that Washington is willing to give Bogota and Mexico City access to UAVs. Similarly, Israel has sold Colombia weapons in the past, such as Kfir warplanes; hence Jerusalem is likely to sell Bogota drones as well.[14]

Meanwhile, Venezuela, particularly during the lengthy Chavez presidency, enjoyed strong ties with countries like Russia and Iran. In fact, Venezuela has spent billions of oil-dollars in Russian technology over the past decade; hence it comes as no surprise that Moscow is willing to aid Caracas to fabricate its own drones.[15]

The issue of alliances and geopolitical interests regarding drones in Latin America was perhaps best exemplified in 2011, when the Israeli government prohibited Brazil from selling drone technology that Brasilia had acquired from Israeli Aerospace Industries, to Bolivia and Venezuela.[16] The reason for Jerusalem’s decision is not surprising. Venezuela, during the Chavez regime in particular, was a close supporter of the cause of the Palestinian people. Moreover, both Bolivia and Venezuela have forged close relations with Iran.[17] Hence, it is in the Israeli government’s interest to be assured that its drone technology is not shared with governments that have close relations with Israel’s foes.

3. Native Drone initiatives

An important issue that should be stressed is that Latin America is not solely purchasing drones from military powers like Israel or the U.S. Some Latin American countries are also trying to learn how to manufacture them domestically.

A few of the numerous domestic drone programs in Latin America will be enumerated here. For example, the Peruvian air force is fabricating three types of drones: one prototype has been labeled Pegasus, another is called Quinde (the Quechua name for humming bird) and another has so far not been named.[18] Similarly, Ecuador’s air force has two drone prototypes named UAV-1 Phoenix and UAV-2 Hawk. A March 2013 article in the magazine Diálogo (published by U.S. Southern Command) explains that both models are expected to be operational for reconnaissance and surveillance operations over Ecuador’s airspace in 2014.[19] Likewise, Argentina’s army has built a drone prototype called UAV Lipan.[20]

Additionally, Brazil’s premier aircraft manufacturer, Embraer, is also trying to make a name for itself in the drone market. An April 2013 article by the news agency Agence-France Presse explains that Embraer’s “web of drones, radars, sensors and communication systems – is in the experimental stage. It is deployed 650 kilometers (400 miles) along the border of Mato Grosso do Sul state with Paraguay and Bolivia.”[21] Some analysts expect to see Embraer in the near future as a supplier of drones to other Latin American nations, akin to the company’s already significant presence as a producer of Tucano and Super Tucano military aircraft.

Finally, it should be mentioned that the considerable sentiment in favor of building drones throughout the region, instead of buying them from non-Latin American military industries, could foment greater international cooperation between different state agencies. For example, in 2012, the ministries of foreign affairs of Argentina and Brazil signed a cooperation agreement to jointly research and develop drones.[22] Nevertheless, COHA has been unable to find new information on this agreement, namely whether the bi-national prototype is actually being manufactured or if these intentions did not go farther than a document.

4. A Drone Discussion in Latin America

In the Western Hemisphere, apart from the U.S. and Canada, the only other country that has passed legislation to provide guidelines regarding the use of drones is Brazil.[23] This shows the lack of a badly needed regional debate about the present and future of drone usage both for military and civilian operations. What should be the limits to drone usage? And what should be the limits on what kind of drones can be built? Should Latin America attempt to construct armed drones in the future or should a ban on armed drones be implemented?

One exception was a mid-November 2013 event at the headquarters of the Organization of American States (OAS) on drone usage in Latin America, which was organized by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).[24] Journalist Diego Cupolo explains that the event was an opportunity for human rights advocates to examine the implications of unregulated drone use in Latin America and to call for guidelines and boundaries on drone usage.

This is not to say that drones are not being openly exhibited in Latin America for military officers, government officials and the public in general to observe. For example, the 2013 SITDEF, a weapons exhibition that took place in Peru, had drones as one of its exhibits.[25] But what is lacking is a discussion regarding drone usage, potentials and limitations, to educate policymakers and the public alike. Up to now, there does not seem to have been a conference on drones in Latin American states similar to the one that was organized by the IACHR and which took place at the OAS in downtown Washington DC.

To look at the situation another way, there is a plethora of literature in English about the usage by the American military and intelligence services of drones in the so-called War on Terrorism. For example, the International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic of Stanford Law School and the Global Justice Clinic at New York University School of Law have published a comprehensive analysis of the operations and repercussions of drone technology entitled Living Under Drones: Death, Injury and Trauma to Civilians from US Drone Practices in Pakistan.[26] Moreover, there are several scholars on drones in the U.S., most prominently Peter W. Singer – a renowned scholar and director of the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence at the Brookings Institution.[27]

Latin American news services regularly publish updates on drones purchases and other initiatives. Nevertheless, there is a lack of debate regarding military and civilian uses of drones apart from the occasional op-ed or commentary in a Latin American newspaper. One important essay that discusses what this technology means for the region is Julio Sanchez’s “Drones tecnologia hasta ahora incomprendida” in Mexico’s El Economista.[28]

Part of the reason for this lack of literature in Latin America is that, unlike in the U.S., drone technology remains relatively new as only a limited (but growing) number of countries are currently utilizing it. More scholarly work regarding drones will hopefully appear in the near future to inform the Latin American population about the capabilities and perils of this new technology. Latin America needs a Spanish (and Portuguese)-speaking version of Brookings’ Peter Singer.

5. Drone Usage is Ahora, not Mañana

Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and seemingly Venezuela already use drones while recent reports demonstrate that nations like Chile, Ecuador and Peru will begin using them in the very near future. Even nations which are not known for being military powerhouses with significant defense budgets, like Guatemala and Uruguay, have shown their interest in utilizing drones for security operations, thanks to the lowering cost of purchasing these small, unmanned aircraft.

The price of drones varies dramatically – a plethora of articles by different Latin American news outlets give differing amounts, depending on the supplier, buyer and specifications. For example, the Peruvian news magazine Caretas reports that in 2010, the Peruvian government spent $548 thousand for three MicroFalcon LE drones from the Israeli company Innocon.[29] Also in 2010, Brazil reportedly purchased 14 Israeli Heron drones in a deal worth $350 million.[30] As for civilian drones, the company 3D Robotics, based in Tijuana, reportedly manufactures drones for civilian use ranging from $600 to $1300.[31]

Moreover, the fact that several of these nations also have domestic drone programs exemplifies that the usage of drones in Latin America is here to stay. Barring some regional economic meltdown which would slash defense budgets, there is the institutional will and available technology for Latin American governments and security forces to become drone users within the next five years.

In other words, the era of drones in Latin America has begun, and the question now becomes how extensive and effective their usage will be.

6. Latin America is still far from the World Powers

As much as Latin American security forces have done a quantum stride in both acquiring drones or manufacturing them domestically, Latin America’s inventory of this technology constitutes unarmed drones. This is not surprising because countries that possess technology for armed drones are not in any hurry to sell them.

Certainly, Latin American nations could try convincing the U.S. or Israel to allow them to buy armed drones in the near future, but this is an unlikely scenario for the time being. The other option is that Latin America could try building its own armed UAVs, but this is still years away from happening.

By comparison, the U.S. is continuously crossing milestones in drone technology. For example, on July 2013, the U.S. Navy successfully landed a drone aboard an aircraft carrier, the USS George H.W. Bush.[32] Additionally, the U.S. is already working on perfecting underwater drones.[33]

Certainly, Latin American governments could try to make a “giant leap forward” in drone technology by cooperating with each other to build a Latin America drone. This idea is not unthinkable because in November 2013, seven European nations (France, Germany, Greece, Italy, The Netherlands, Poland and Spain) signed an agreement with the unified goal to build a European drone apparatus by 2020.[34] The goal of the “Euro-drone” is to challenge Washington’s and Jerusalem’s dominance on the drone market. Similar multinational initiatives for military cooperation also have occurred in Latin America. For example, the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) has united to design “UNASUR I,” a regionally-built military aircraft for training applications.[35]

Given the aforementioned examples of multinational cooperation, it is conceivable that Latin America, via UNASUR for example, could try to build an armed drone by combining regional experts and resources, with Brazil’s Embraer taking a prominent lead. Nevertheless, Brazil and other countries with domestic drone programs, like Peru and Ecuador, are still at the prototype level and years away from having the knowledge, barring extra-regional aid, from managing to build a sophisticated unarmed (or armed) drone. Hence, even if UNASUR could unite to design a drone (and it is debatable whether this could happen), the region’s combined skills and capacity may not be developed enough (yet) to carry out the project.

7. Drones for good

Latin American governments, as well as their security forces (both military and police), believe that drones can be a game changer when it comes to pulling off effective security operations. Even without weapons, unarmed drones can serve in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations (ISR). How successful they can be remains debatable, but it has been reported that, for example, Colombia has used its ScanEagle drones for counter terrorism operations as well as to protect the country’s vital oil industry. Meanwhile, reports in 2012 explained that a special forces unit (BOPE) of the Brazilian police has begun using drones to monitor crimes, including drug sales, in the shantytowns (known as favelas in Portuguese) around Rio de Janeiro.[36]

As for the future, security operations will continue to be a priority. For example, Peru believes that drones can be of use to combat the narco-insurgent movement Shining Path, which operates in the dense Peruvian highlands known as the VRAEM (Valley of the Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro Rivers).[37]

But drones could have other uses. For example, Brazil has deployed Israeli-made drones to monitor the Amazon rainforest and crack down on environmental crimes (such as illegal logging and pillaging of natural resources).[38] Moreover, archaeologists in Peru want to utilize the high-resolution cameras on drones for exploration of designated targets because these machines provide a resourceful “eye in the sky” for archaeological digs.[39]

Certainly, drones can have positive uses. However, the fact that drones can also be used by the civilian population requires a comprehensive discussion about a citizen’s right to privacy, which may limit these unmanned aerial vehicles as to what kind of operations drones can be used for, particularly over populated areas.

8. Drones for Evil?

In an October 2013 interview with The Voice of Russia – America, COHA discussed the possibility of how criminal entities could use drone technology in the near future. Certainly, drug cartels that have shown to be unsurprisingly adaptive to new technologies: perhaps the best example comparison are the narco-subs: crudely-built submarines that are only able to partially submerge and can transport a small crew but also high amounts of illegal narcotics (i.e. cocaine) from South America to the north. For example, in November 2013, Colombian security forces seized a narco-sub in the Narino department, which had the capacity of ferrying up to eight tons of cocaine. The submarine had space for four operators as well as an air conditioning system, a diesel engine, radar and a GPS system.[40]

There is little doubt that criminal or guerrilla groups can find a use for drones. Criminal entities, particularly drug cartels, have the willingness to try new technologies and, most importantly, the monetary funds to acquire them. Moreover, basic versions of drones are already being built by private industries, such as 3D Robotics, which has a manufacturing plant in Tijuana, Mexico.[41]

Nevertheless, a drone is not easy to set up, utilize and maintain. Hence, a criminal entity like Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel or Colombia’s FARC cannot simply acquire UAVs as technicians are also needed either to teach criminals how to use a drone or begin working for criminal entity themselves. This potential, worst-case scenario makes it even more necessary for Latin American governments to create guidelines and proper oversight on drone production and usage so they do not fall into the wrong hands.

9. Drones In War

As a final point, the debate over drones should embrace a wider discussion about interstate warfare. Non-armed drones can be used for ISR operations, and they could help Latin American militaries crack down on narco-insurgent movements like the Colombian FARC and ELN, Peru’s Shining Path and Paraguay’s EPP. But could a drone start a war or exacerbate inter-state disputes and tensions?

Around the world, there already have been drone-related incidents that did not result in an armed conflict. For example in 2011, Iran shot down a U.S. drone, but this did not lead to a war between Tehran and Washington, though relations soured. Trying to correctly foresee what would be the repercussions of a Peruvian reconnaissance drone that flies too close to the Chilean border or crosses into Chilean territory (the two countries that have an ongoing maritime dispute) would require taking into account too many variables. For space reasons, we cannot go in-depth into this scenario, but scholarly work is available on geosecurity issues, tensions and the success (and lack thereof) of confidence-building mechanisms in Latin America.[42]

Suffice to say that non-armed drones add another factor to modern-day Latin American geopolitics, which can either serve to promote cooperation (i.e. by exchanging intelligence from reconnaissance drones to combat transnational criminal networks), to be used as a tool of war during armed conflicts, or which can foment distrust at times of international peace.


As 2014 begins, the era of drones usage in Latin America has arrived. Countries, like Brazil, Colombia and Mexico are already using them, while Argentina, Chile, Ecuador and Peru, among several others, will more aggressively use them in the near future. For the time being, these drones are being purchased from Israel, but the U.S. Sweden, Russia and Iran are either selling drones or providing the “know how” technical support for their regional allies to build their own.

Moreover, Latin America has a strong interest to use these state-of-the-art devices because they can be useful for security operations, as well as for non-military use. But a major problem is that this technology remains very new to the region, and more debate among policymakers and civic society is required. Given the potential benefits and perils of unmanned aerial vehicles, it is critical for regional governments to establish guidelines, which must be properly enforced, on what is and what is not permissible regarding drones.

W. Alejandro Sanchez, Senior Research Fellow at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs

Author’s Note: This work is an expansion on previous ones done by this author and the Council on Hemispheric Affairs regarding drone usage in Latin America. Other publications on this important topic include:

Diego Cupolo. “Drone use soars in Latin America, remains widely unregulated.” Upside Down World. December 19, 2013. http://upsidedownworld.org/main/international-archives-60/4615-drone-use-soars-in-latin-america-remains-widely-unregulated-

Patricio Barrunuevo. “The Future of Drones in Latin America.” Council on Hemispheric Affairs. Report. November 6, 2012. http://www.coha.org/the-future-role-of-drones-in-latin-america/

W. Alejandro Sanchez. “Latin America puts forward a mixed picture of Drone usage in the Region.” Council on Hemispheric Affairs. Commentary. October 8, 2013. http://www.coha.org/latin-america-puts-forward-a-mixed-picture-on-the-use-of-drones-in-the-region/

W. Alejandro Sanchez. “Latin America expands Drone use.” The Voice of Russia – American Edition. Interview with Ric Young. October 21, 2013. http://voiceofrussia.com/us/2013_10_21/Latin-America-expands-drone-use-6743/

January 29, 2014

Drones over the vineyards

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 1:55 am

Drones over the vineyards

drone vineyard

Bernard Magrez, owner of 40 chateaus/wineries around the world, has floated a first for Bordeaux: unmanned drone surveillance.

Vitisphere reports that he has purchased a €50,000 octocopter with a camera to surveil his own vines at the rate of 25 acres an hour. That compares with a rate of about ten for a team of eight humans. Maybe the drone will spy on workers to see if zey are ze nap in zevineyards??

The drone has a range of eight miles and can go 8,000 feet high. No word if it can alsodeliver Amazon orders. But it will probably contribute to promotional videos for the estates.

The post Drones over the vineyards appeared first on Dr Vino’s wine blog.

January 28, 2014

North Dakota Cow Thief Is First American Arrested, Jailed With Drone’s Help

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 5:06 pm

North Dakota Cow Thief Is First American Arrested, Jailed With Drone’s Help

A SWAT team also got involved in the armed standoff.


The ominously named Predator drone. (Photo: Getty)

The ominously named Predator drone. (Photo: Getty)

Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane — it’s a Predator drone finding you because you wouldn’t give your neighbor his cows back after they wandered onto your property.

That’s right: Rodney Brossart, a farmer from North Dakota, was located by Predator drone and arrested, Forbes reports. Sentenced yesterday, he is the first American to be sent off to prison thanks to drone assistance.

In June 2011, Forbes reports, police attempted to arrest him because he wouldn’t return three cows that had grazed onto his property. This resulted in “an armed standoff between Brossart, his three sons and a SWAT team” on his property. It ended only after the family of perps was located by a Predator drone borrowed from Customs and Border Patrol.

Mr. Brossart tried to have the case dismissed on the grounds that there was no warrant for the drone surveillance, but a federal judge rejected his motion.

Forbes points out that it’s disconcerting that drones created to protect American borders are now being used to apprehend American citizens, although a manned helicopter could have done the same thing. The danger, though, is that widespread drone use could be easier to achieve than buying a helicopter for every local precinct in the country.

Let this be a lesson to us all: next time, just give the damn cows back.

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