Now that Chuck Hagel's confirmation has gone off without a hitch (for the most part), it's John Brennan's turn to take the spotlight, and it look like those drone memos will be a real roadblock. We could've guessed as much a couple of weeks ago when a Justice Department "white paper" revealed details of how the Obama administration decides to kill American citizens in the war on terror. However, as the issue quietly hid in the shadow of Hagel's confirmation hearing, the neverending battle over the sequester and Seth MacFarlane's offensive Oscar performance, some senators still want to know why the Obama administration won't release all of the drone memos. The New York Times's Jeremy Peters reports that "Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, said Tuesday that he thought the confirmation process should continue to play out, and he indicated that he was willing to help delay it until Mr. Brennan answered further questions about drones." Sen. Rand Paul also wants answers.
Britain has lost 447 of its military drones in Iraq and Afghanistan. The aircraft have crashed, broken down or gone missing during operations, adding to international outrage over civilian deaths and debate over the safety of their use in Britain.
The UK’s Ministry of Defence (MOD) has reported that the loss of 447 unmanned drones was due to technical faults, controller error or not wanting to remove them from volatile enemy areas, according to the Guardian newspaper.
Small handheld devices, large UAVs, and a missile-carrying drone were all lost in the last five years.
Iran Captures "Another" Enemy Drone
(CNN) -- Iran said Saturday that it downed and captured another "enemy drone," the semi-official Fars News Agency reported.
The incident reportedly took place during Iranian military maneuvers in southern Iran.
"IRGC's electronic warfare systems detected electronic signals, which indicated that foreign drones intended to enter our country," said Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Lt. Gen. Hamid Sarkheili, Fars reported. "Our specialist forces then succeeded in bringing down the drone in the field of maneuvers."
Sarkheili said that Iran may release film of the drone.
Earlier this month, Iran said that it had decoded and released footage from a U.S. drone that it downed more than a year ago.
The black and white aerial footage, which Iran claims was from a RQ-170 spy plane, was aired by Iranian news agencies and placed on YouTube.
Iran said it downed the drone on December 4, 2011, near Kashmar in the country's northeast, some 225 kilometers (140 miles) from the border with Afghanistan.
At the time, U.S. officials acknowledged that the drone was missing and President Barack Obama asked Iran to return it.
Iranian military officials vowed not to return the plane.
In December 2012, Iran's navy claimed that it had captured another U.S. drone, after it entered Iranian airspace over the Persian Gulf.
However, a U.S. defense official, who could not be named because the official was not authorized to speak to the media, told CNN that whatever the Iranians claim to have, it is not an actively operating U.S. Navy drone.
And what happens to these drones when U.S. enemies capture them? They turn them into fighter jets
New Iran Fighter Jet Looks Just Like Missing U.S. Drone (Satire From Cap-News.Com)
TEHRAN, Iran (CAP) - As Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad unveiled what he called an "advanced new fighter jet," U.S. officials did a double-take upon seeing media pictures of the plane, which they say bears more than just a striking resemblance to an American unmanned aerial vehicle.
Mystery drone near JFK airport: FBI seeks public's help in investigation (+video)
A commercial pilot reported seeing a drone loitering near his aircraft as he was preparing to land on Monday. The FAA has tried to go to great lengths to make sure drones do not collide with piloted aircraft.
A Draganflyer X6, six-rotor remote controlled helicopter, flies above the Grand Valley Model Airfield in Mesa County, Colorado in January. A commercial pilot preparing to land at John F. Kennedy International Airport Monday reported seeing a drone flying near his aircraft.
Unmanned aircraft crash. In fact, they crash a lot—though there's no recent specific data, the Congressional Research Service reported last year that despite improvements "the accident rate for unmanned aircraft is still far above that of manned aircraft."
And while many of those accidents can be attributed to hostile fire or terrible flight conditions, a significant percentage of drone crashes is caused by human error.December 2004 Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) study of Defense Department drone crashes found human factors to be a causal factor in about a third of the cases the researchers examined.
But as four human factors engineering researchers have found, sometimes the accidents are by design. That is, the design of the systems that operators use to fly the drones are so bad that they invite accidents. A recent Ergonomics in Design article reported that a small but significant number of crashes could be directly attributed to bad ergonomics on ground control station hardware. These factors may have played a major part in crashes that were attributed to other causes.
Take, for example, one drone crash in 2006. As the operator brought the drone in for a landing, he meant to flip the landing gear button on the control joystick but accidentally hit the nearby ignition switch instead—shutting off the engine in mid-flight. The $1.5 million drone plummeted to the ground, a total loss. On another occasion, glare on a screen was so bad that a drone operator couldn't read an alert and mistook it for a landing signal—again killing the engines before the drone had landed.
Unmanned aircraft have been pushed into service so quickly in the last decade that their control systems were often still in development when they arrived on battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan. Despite many of the systems being based on technology very similar to the average PC—and the level of automation in drones continuing to increase as operations move from flying with a joystick to a mouse—the Department of Defense has still not developed human factors standards for ground control station systems, even as the systems have matured. Considering how much human factors engineering goes into nearly every bit of other weapons system procurement (and having worked as a contractor at the Army Test Lab at Aberdeen Proving Grounds at one point, I can attest that it's significant), that's a bit of a surprise.
The authors of the report were Dr. Qaisar "Raza" Waraich (an engineer at Smartronix who recently completed his PhD at George Washington University) and GWU faculty members Dr. Thomas A. Mazzuchi, Dr. Shahram Sarkani, and adjunct instructor David F. Rico (who has also done UAS design work for the US Navy). They surveyed 20 drone operators about the characteristics of their ground-control station systems and found that there was a 98 percent overlap in the input and output devices used by ground control workstations and those used by general purpose computers. Some devices even drew from the realm of computer and console gaming.
Therefore, they concluded, drone systems could benefit greatly from the application of well-established ergonomic standards for general-purpose computing workstations—specifically, the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society and American National Standards Institute's ANSI/HFES-100-2007 standards for computing workstations.
"The IO category of ANSI/HFES 100-2007 specifies the ergonomic shape of auxiliary input devices that best conforms to humans, bodily constraints, and layout," Waraich and his co-authors wrote. If the DOD used the standard as the basis for acceptable drone pilot workstations, such as button layout specifications that take hand and finger movements into account and try to avoid those that can cause hand fatigue, "many [drone] mishaps may be avoided."
Hopefully, the FAA will take human factors into account before it starts certifying any drones to fly in US airspace