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

532084605
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.

 

TIME GoPro

Next Up for GoPro: Virtual Reality and Drones

GoPro goes public on Wall Street
Seth Wenig—AP GoPro's CEO Nick Woodman holds a GoPro camera in his mouth as he celebrates his company's IPO at the Nasdaq MarketSite in New York, June 26, 2014.

GoPro made its name strapping rugged cameras onto helmets. Now it's pushing into virtual reality and drones

Virtual reality is becoming the name of every big tech company’s game. That includes GoPro, the company that gave extreme sports enthusiasts a camera they can strap onto their helmets.

At the Code tech conference outside Los Angeles Wednesday, GoPro CEO Nick Woodman unveiled the company’s next product: A camera system for snapping images that can be turned into virtual reality.

The new awkwardly named product, Six-Camera Spherical Array, will be available sometime in the second half of the year for an as yet undisclosed price. As the name implies, it’s made up of six cameras.

GoPro previously acquired a startup named Kolor, whose technology is serving as the backbone of the virtual reality camera system. Kolor’s software will turn the photo and video shots into virtual reality while people can use its smartphone app to view the imagery.

To get the full effect of virtual reality, users would have to don virtual reality headsets like Oculus, Google Cardboard, and Microsoft’s HoloLens. For smartphones, YouTube 360 and Kolor’s apps also work.

Woodman also said that GoPro [fortune-stock symbol=”GPRO”] is working on a drone — a quadcopter, in this case — that is slated to come out in the first half of 2016. Again, no details about pricing.

Woodman also added that while the company is working on its own drone, it would continue to work with other manufacturers whose drones can be equipped with GoPro’s cameras.

 

TIME Gadgets

This Origami Drone Folds Up and Fits in Your Pocket

It can unfold and deploy in half a second

For all those who are tired of dealing with those pesky cumbersome drones: finally, here’s one that can fold up and fit in your pocket.

The little, origami-inspired quadcopters can unfold and deploy themselves in half a second, Live Science reports.

Dario Floreano, who led the research on the drone, told Live Science, “You can take it out of the box, switch on the motor, and it’s ready to fly.”

Researchers say they could be used to take photographs and make contact with survivors in disaster zones.

Future models of these drones will be lighter with stronger arms that could withstand crashes, according to Mashable. The current prototype has been patented and will debut May 25 at a robotics conference in Seattle.

TIME Drones

Man Detained for Trying to Fly Drone Near White House

The White House was briefly placed on lockdown

A man was detained Thursday afternoon for allegedly attempting to fly a drone over the White House fence.

The unnamed person was held by the Secret Service, CNN reports, and a portion of the White House was briefly placed on lockdown.

President Obama is currently out of the White House at Camp David.

The incident comes just months after a quadcopter drone crashed into the White House lawn, causing a lockdown.

TIME apps

This App Will Tell You Where It’s Legal to Fly a Drone

Bundeswehr Holds Media Day
Philipp Guelland—Getty Images A small surveillance drone flies during the annual military exercises held for the media at the Bergen military training grounds on October 2, 2013 near Munster, Germany.

FAA to release B4UFLY app for drone hobbyists this summer

A new smartphone app will tell drone enthusiasts whether they’re cleared for takeoff, sparing them the trouble of interpreting a thicket of regulations on no-fly zones, the Federal Aviation Administration announced.

The app, called B4UFLY, will give hobbyists a simple “yea” or “nay” based on their location. “It only takes a few taps to find out if you’re cleared to fly,” FAA’s Michael Huerta said in a public announcement of the new app.

“We need to make sure hobbyists and modelers know where it’s okay to fly and where it isn’t okay to fly, because there can be very real consequences if you don’t,” Huerta added. “The incident on the White House lawn earlier this year is a good example,” Huerta continued, referring to a drone enthusiast who mistakenly crashed a quad copter within the White House’s secured compound (a definite “nay” for the B4UFLY app).

B4UFLY will release to 1,000 beta testers on Apple devices this summer, with an Android version slated for later development.

TIME Drones

Watch a Drone Vandalize a Kendall Jenner Billboard in New York City

It had some help from graffiti artist KATSU

Drones have been tracking stray dogs in Houston, flying onto the White House lawn and now: finding their creative voice.

Early on Wednesday, a graffiti artist named KATSU piloted a hacked Phantom drone to paint red lines across a massive billboard of model Kendall Jenner’s face, WIRED reports, supposedly marking the first time a drone has been used for graffiti in such a way.

“It turned out surprisingly well,” KATSU told WIRED. “It’s exciting to see its first potential use as a device for vandalism.”

[WIRED]

TIME Innovation

Social Justice and the Cellphone Camera

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. Technology’s greatest gift to social justice is the mobile phone camera.

By Robinson Meyer in the Atlantic

2. How did America fall so far behind on basic scientific research?

By Michael Hiltzik in the Los Angeles Times

3. The U.S. needs a drone oversight board.

By David Medine and Eliza Sweren-Becker in Defense One

4. Here’s how citizen scientists discovered five new supernovas.

By Calla Cofield in Space.com

5. U.S. CEOs are eager to do business in Iran — but they’re not alone.

By Barbara Slavin in Al-Monitor

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com