Weekly News Digest for the Week of November 7, 2016

FCC Investigates Stingray Spies While DAPL Works in Secret at Standing Rock

Georgianne Nienaber

November 2, 2016

(Huffington Post) A ban on drones in the airspace around the Dakota Access Pipeline construction area was lifted Tuesday, November 1st. The resulting footage is a lot of construction, and a drill site with a scenic view less than ½ mile from the Missouri River. Despite the ban, Water Protectors, or protestors, at the site have been under close surveillance by low-flying planes, helicopters, and drones. Local cell phone communications have been compromised and possibly recorded with IMSI (international mobile subscriber identity) catchers such as Stingrays. Unmarked vans lurk on back roads, and fixed winged UAS and helicopters are ever present at the site; reports of heating phones and draining batteries when not in use indicate IMSI theft of protestors is occurring. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has opened an investigation into the use of Stingray technology against Water Protectors. According to Minnesota Senator Al Franken, the use of Stingray technology on site violates the Communications Act, specifically “the willful interference with a communications network,” and local law enforcement doesn’t have the requisite licensing to use Stingray tech.

Army Debuts Strategy to Counter Drone Threats

Jen Jusdon

November 2, 2016

(Defense News) The US Army has released a new strategy into the Army Training and Doctrine Command to counter enemy UAS. The strategy is leveraged with “cross-domain solutions” such as working with partnering inter-organizational and multinational government organizations. This new system strives to address potential UAS threats before the drones can even take off by implementing counter UAS strategy by air, land, and sea—all jointly with foreign partners for the first time. This cross-domain strategy will offer more electronic warfare and cyber-electromagnetic activity cells to share surveillance information among international military domains. According to the strategy, the Army will focus its counter UAV efforts in four different areas: mission command, detection, identification and defeat. This includes increasing air space control, technology, and training individual troops to recognize the sound and sight of a UAS and be able to communicate the distance direction and model of drone to higher command. The strategy also addresses the prevention of UAS proliferation among the US and international partners to prevent UAS tech getting into enemy control, and increasing UAS striking facilities.

Why Nasa is Testing Swedish Mini-Drones

Lee Roden

November 1, 2016

(The Local, Sweden) A drone startup called Bitcraze has created tiny 27 gram drones which can be pre-programed to work autonomously. Bitcraze co-founder Tobias Antonsson said that the drones’ ability to fly in swarms is a valuable prospect for NASA. The drones have been in development since 2009, and their stark progression since then has enticed the US space agency. Bitcraze drones are agile, programmable, synchronized, and interactive. In a video, a man holding sensors walks through an unorganized “swarm” of drones and they all move aside enough for him to walk through. Antonsson couldn’t say much about NASA’s testing protocol, but stated that NASA is investigating swarm technology and how to solve a single task faster with a swarm instead of one drone. He speculates that the Bitcraze autonomous swarm capability will also have practical uses for light shows, educational projects, and even search and rescue missions.