TIME Drones

Kentucky Man Arrested for Shooting Down a Drone Over His Property

Drone with Camera
Getty Images

"Everyone I've spoken to, including police, have said they would have done the same thing"

Kentucky police charged a man on Sunday for shooting down a drone that was flying over his home.

William H. Meredith, 47, told police in Hillview, Kentucky that his children alerted him to a camera-mounted drone hovering around the neighborhood. Meredith says he got his shotgun and waited for the drone to fly over his property before shooting, according to WDRB Louisville.

“Within a minute or so, here it came,” Meredith told WDRB. “It was hovering over top of my property, and I shot it out of the sky.”

Police arrested and charged Meredith with two felonies, first degree criminal mischief and first degree wanton endangerment. The owner reportedly told the police the drone was worth over $1800, and was being used to take pictures of a friend’s home.

FAA guidelines say drone pilots must receive permission from property owners pre-flight when flying over a residence — but a FAA spokesperson told local media that shooting at an unmanned aerial vehicle posed a bigger threat.

Meredith, however, said he had every right to take the law into his own hands. “Everyone I’ve spoken to, including police, have said they would have done the same thing,” he said.

[WDRB]

TIME Amazon

Amazon Wants a Special Air Zone For Its Fancy Delivery Drones

The Internet retailer wants a 200-foot space of air

Online retailer Amazon wants to someday deliver your order via drone — a high-speed one, at that — and it wants a special piece of the sky to shuttle those drones, according to a proposal the company unveiled on Tuesday at a NASA convention in California.

As part of its plan, Amazon suggests a 200-foot space of air — between 200 and 400 feet from the ground — be reserved for state-of-the-art drones flying at speeds of 60 knots or more. To keep things safe, it also proposes that a 100-foot cushion just above that airspace be made a no-fly zone to act as a buffer between drones and other aircraft, such as planes, according to The Guardian.

“The way we guarantee the greatest safety is by requiring that as the level of complexity of the airspace increases, so does the level of sophistication of the vehicle,” said Gur Kimchi, VP and co-founder of Amazon’s delivery-by-drone project, Prime Air, at the NASA event, according to The Guardian. “Under our proposal everybody has to be collaborative – vehicles must be able to talk to each other and avoid each other as the airspace gets denser at low altitudes.”

In Amazon’s world, the drones it and others use will be highly sophisticated, safe, and autonomous. The company has outlined five capabilities drones in the special zones must have. They include: sophisticated GPS that tracks the location of other drones in real-time; a reliable Internet connection; online flight planning to communicate the drone’s path; communications equipment; and sensor-based sense-and-avoid equipment to fly around other drones and obstacles.

Amazon’s proposal would also set some limits on drone hobbyists. Their aircraft would be confined to small pockets outside of these new flight areas unless they meet the criteria to fly among Amazon’s drones. Currently, they are permitted to fly up to the 400-foot mark.

But even if Amazon’s proposal becomes reality, it will likely be a while from now before drones flying in a special zone to drop off packages are an everyday thing. Only recently did a company complete the first successful drone delivery — and it wasn’t Amazon. The company is unfortunately still butting heads with the Federal Aviation Administration over how strict its regulations should be.

TIME Syria

Leader of al-Qaeda Offshoot Khorasan Killed in U.S. Air Strike in Syria

Muhsin al-Fadhli is seen in an undated photo provided by the U.S. State Department
Reuters Muhsin al-Fadhli is seen in an undated photo provided by the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C.

Muhsin al-Fadhli was killed while traveling close to the Turkish border

A Pentagon spokesperson has confirmed that a U.S. air strike in Syria earlier this month killed a top leader of al-Qaeda splinter group Khorasan who had rare advanced knowledge of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

On July 8, Muhsin al-Fadhli was traveling near Sarmada, a town in northwestern Syria close to the Turkish border, when a U.S. drone targeted and struck his vehicle. The BBC reports that he had previously evaded a similar attempt on his life last September.

Though the bloody rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) has prompted American counterterrorism efforts to pivot away from al-Qaeda, al-Fadhli, a former confidant of Osama bin Laden, had remained a major target. A 2012 U.S. State Department report recognized him as “al-Qaida’s senior facilitator and financier in Iran” and a ringleader in the 2002 terrorist attack on a French oil tanker off the Yemeni coast.

At the time of his death, security officials had identified him as the leader of Khorasan, a Syria-based cabal of senior al-Qaeda members believed to possibly “pose as much of a danger as the [ISIS],” as National Intelligence Director James Clapper said last September. As ISIS conducted its public campaign of gruesome theatrics, al-Qaeda kept something of a low profile, purposely disassociating itself from what President Barack Obama had dubbed “junior varsity” jihadism. Despite ISIS’s rising profile, it is the elusive al-Qaeda leadership that possesses the organization and experience to execute a terrorist attack on Western soil, the New York Times reports.

Al-Fadhli was a seasoned jihadist. He was just 20 years old in 2001, but was already sufficiently elevated in al-Qaeda’s ranks to learn in advance of the planned assault on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

Accordingly, his death comes as a symbolic if not insurmountable blow to the group’s leadership.

“[Al-Fadhli] is certainly one of the most capable of the al-Qaeda core members,” Congressman Adam Schiff, who sits on the House Intelligence Committee, told the Times last year, following a botched attempt on the extremist’s life. “His loss would be significant, but as we’ve seen before, any decapitation is only a short-term gain. The hydra will grow another head.”

TIME Poland

Lufthansa Plane and Drone Nearly Collide in Warsaw

lufthansa airline plane
Alexander Hassenstein—Getty Images A Lufthansa Boeing 747-400 arrives in Munich International Airport on July 16, 2015.

The flight landed safely three minutes after the near-miss

A Lufthansa flight carrying 108 passengers narrowly missed colliding with a drone as it made its descent into Warsaw Chopin Airport on Tuesday.

The commercial drone, whose origins remain unclear, came within a frightening 100 meters of the plane as it flew about 760 meters above ground, according to the Polish Air Navigation Services Agency (PANSA).

According to The Aviation Herald, the pilots told on-ground air traffic patrollers to “take care of your airspace” and that the situation was “really dangerous.” The flight, which was coming in from Munich, landed safely about three minutes after the incident.

The incident is currently under investigation by local authorities.

TIME Drones

This Is How the Air Force Plans to Fix its Drone Pilot Shortage

NIGER-MALI-FRANCE-WAR
MARTIN BUREAU—AFP/Getty Images

You can up your salary by $15,000 by taking this job

If you’ve ever thought it would be cool to join the military, the United States Air Force is sweetening the deal, offering a $15,000 per year bonus to people who sign up to be drone pilots for either five or nine years.

The plan is being implemented due to a shortage of drone pilots, according to The Wall Street Journal. The offer is available to existing Air Force Pilots, although the Journal also notes that 80 pilots graduating flight school this year will be automatically placed in the corps of drone pilots.

The United States has used drones for both airstrikes and surveillance throughout the world. The Obama administration’s use of drones in the “War on Terror” has garnered ferocious criticism from both sides of the political aisle, but if this program is any indication, the mechanization of war looks to be something that will expand, not recede.

One other change that could be made to expand the pool of drone pilots would be to allow enlisted airmen, rather than just officers, to pilot drones. As of now, that’s not happening.

TIME Syria

U.S. Drone Strike Kills Senior ISIS Leader

Mideast Syria Islamic State
Uncredited—AP This photo provided by a website of the Islamic State militants, taken June 25, 2015, shows fighters of the Islamic State group infiltrate toward Syrian government forces positions in the predominantly Kurdish Syrian city of Hassakeh, Syria

Tariq bin Tahar al-'Awni al-Harzi, a Tunisian, was killed along with another fighter

(WASHINGTON) — A coalition airstrike in Syria has killed a senior Islamic State leader, who has been responsible for moving fighters and weapons from Libya to Syria, the Pentagon said Thursday.

A senior U.S. official said that Tariq bin Tahar al-‘Awni al-Harzi, a Tunisian, and another fighter with him were killed by a U.S. drone strike and that there were no reports of any civilian casualties in the operation. The official was not authorized to discuss the operation publicly so spoke on condition of anonymity.

According to Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, al-Harzi was killed June 16 in Shaddadi. He said that al-Harzi coordinated the use of suicide bombing attacks in Iraq, and helped with the movement of foreign fighters back and force across the Syria-Iraq border.

Davis said al-Harzi’s death will hurt the Islamic State’s ability to move foreign fighters in and out of the region.

According to the military joint task force coordinating the operations in Iraq and Syria, there were airstrikes at four locations in Syria that day, including two near Al Hasakah, which is near Shaddadi. Thestrikes near al Hasakah hit an Islamic State tactical unit and destroyed a vehicle and two antenna arrays.

Last September, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed economic sanctions on al-Harzi and seven other individuals that it said have helped finance or facilitate the movement of foreign fighters joining the Islamic State and the Nusra Front. Both groups have been targeted by coalition strikes in Syria.

Treasury officials designated al-Harzi a global terrorist, saying he was based in Syria. The Treasury statement identified him as the Islamic State group’s “amir of suicide bombers,” saying he recruited foreign fighters for suicide attacks in Iraq and Syria.

In a related matter, Vice President Joe Biden spoke with Iraq Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi Thursday to talk about the ongoing efforts to defeat Islamic State militants.

TIME

Why This Huge Retailer Is Betting Big on Drones

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Skip Brown—Getty Images/National Geographic Creative A nine year old boy flies his drone in a local park.

It expects them to fly off the shelves

Sam’s Club is hoping to see a drone on every child’s wish list when the holidays come around this year.

The retail chain, a division of Wal-Mart Stores, plans to stock its locations with roughly a dozen different models of consumer drones ahead of this year’s holiday season, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The chain expects drones to fly off the shelves once the holiday gifting season begins. There will be plenty of varieties of the product for Sam’s Club customers to choose from, including entry-level drones that cost as little as $100 as well as higher-end devices that cost thousands of dollars and come equipped with high-resolution cameras or claws that can pick up certain objects.

Sam’s Club, which made the move after one of its pricier drone models started selling particularly well online, likely hopes its bet on drones will help to boost consumer electronics sales at a time when rivals like Costco are seeing stronger sales growth.

One way Sam’s Club has looked to differentiate itself from rivals like Costco is by focusing on its customers who are small business owners — a segment that makes up as much as one-third of the retailer’s membership base. As the Jorunal notes, Sam’s Club has found that roughly half of the customers buying its drone products do so with professional goals in mind, from real-estate agents looking to take pictures of properties from the sky to professional photographers using the devices for event photos.

To help boost drone sales, Sam’s Club even plans on setting up in-store interactive drones that customers can touch while watching demos of the products flying around the store.

TIME China

China Uses a Drone to Curb Cheating on College Placement Exams

China entrance exam uses drone to prevent student from cheating
Dong Lifei/Imaginechina An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), or drone, used to detect radio signals to prevent student from cheating, hovers over an exam site during the first examination of the 2015 National College Entrance Exam, also known as Gaokao, at Heluo Middle School in Luoyang city, central China's Henan province, 7 June 2015.

The drone scanned for signals being sent to devices that were sneaked into the test

Chinese education authorities flew a drone over two testing centers in Luoyang, China on Sunday in an effort to curb cheating on the National College Entrance Exams.

The drone, with six propellers and as big as a gas pump, scanned for signals potentially being sent to devices that were sneaked into the test, The Guardian reports. The drone can fly as high as 1,600 feet above the ground and cost hundred of thousands of yuan (tens of thousands of dollars).

Performance on the college entrance exams largely determines where Chinese students are placed for college, which can have a long-term impact on their future job opportunities. The country has recently seen a bout of cheating on these exams, including students selling answers, hiring people to take the tests for them and using wireless equipment to communicate during the test.

Since late May, the Chinese education ministry has arrested 23 students for creating plans to cheat on the test. Cheating charges can bar students from taking the test for up to 3 years and can hurt placement prospects.

About 9.5 million students began the test, which lasts between two and three days, on Sunday.

[The Guardian]

TIME Drones

Passenger Plane Barely Dodges Drone Above New York

Near-collision occurred on the way to LaGuardia Airport

A passenger airliner had to take evasive action to avoid hitting a drone in the skies above New York Friday morning.

Shuttle America Flight 2708 reported climbing 200 feet to avoid an unmanned aircraft on the way to LaGuardia Airport, according to a statement from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The drone was reportedly operating in the area near Prospect Park in Brooklyn at an altitude of 2,700 feet. The FAA said it would investigate the near-collision, but didn’t provide any information on who was operating the drone.

The FAA is in the process of drafting rules to regulate how drones can operate in public airspace. Currently the organization’s guidelines for hobbyists warn against flying above 400 feet or within five miles of an airport. But Prospect Park is some ten miles from New York JFK, its nearest airport.

 

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