The U.S. government uses them to bomb alleged terrorists in far-away places. Tech companies like Amazon, Google and Facebook are all toying with the idea of using them, and now they're a photographer's secret weapon. Drones are a big part of our lives, whether we see them or not. Drone Beat collects the best and most important stories every week.
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Drone Beat's coverage areas this week
Last update: Friday, 5:15 p.m. ET
U.S. launches 500th drone strike
On November 3, 2002, the CIA killed six suspected Al Qaeda militants in Yemen in the first ever American drone strike, an extraordinary occurrence at the time. A little bit over 12 years later, the number of strikes has grown to 500 this week, according to an estimate by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), and at this point we see drone strikes as totally normal.
"It is easy to forget that this tactic, envisioned to be rare and used exclusively for senior Al Qaeda leaders 13 years ago, has become a completely accepted and routine foreign policy activity," Micah Zenko, a fellow at CFR, wrote in a post.
While Obama authorized 450 drone strikes (http://t.co/2w3RcV3WMU) US also dropped ~25,000 bombs in Afghanistan during his presidency.— Micah Zenko (@MicahZenko) November 21, 2014
The number is an estimate because the U.S. government does not release details of all its targeted killings conducted by Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), but independent organizations have been keeping a tally of them based on news and on-the-ground reports.
The history of drones in a beautiful, animated form
Have you ever wondered where drones come from? The flying robots have enjoyed a crazy amount of popularity in the last couple of years, but they actually go way, way, back. Anyway, it's a long story, and it involves the World War, Marilyn Monroe and the CIA. To know the full history, just check out our animated video.
Oh, and since you're here, check out our interactive infographic on some of the most iconic drones out there. And if that's not enough, worry not, we also had a Google Hangout with two experts to talk about the future of drones. In the Hangout, we're joined by Arthur Holland Michel, the founder and co-director of the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College, and Peter W. Singer, New America Foundation's strategist and senior fellow, and award-winning author of 2009's Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century.
Drunk man tackles drone
An apparently drunk man wasn't very happy to see a drone film an open-air cumbia concert in Peru. As soon as he saw it, the man tracked it down and ended up swatting it out of the sky.
Check out the athletic tackle in the video below, spotted by Arthur Holland Michel at Motherboard.
UK shoppers can't get enough drones for the holiday season
The holidays are approaching and it looks like a flying robot is the perfect gift in the UK, so much that they're "flying off the shelves," as Mash reported this week.
The prospect of having thousands of new drone owners after Christmas has some concerned, though. The Civil Aviation Authority has produced a leaflet to inform new owners of the relevant regulations they need to be aware of, relating to both privacy and flight safety. And the UK's Information Commissioner's Office released new guidance for people operating drones just last week.
Court rules drones are just like any other aircraft
In what has been seen as a big victory for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the National Transportation Safety Board ruled this week that drones are just like any other aircraft, and thus, the FAA has authority to regulate them and fine pilots for operating them recklessly.
The ruling came in the case of Raphael Pirker, also known as "Trappy," who was fined $10,000 for a "reckless flight" in 2011, when he allegedly flew his drone "directly towards an individual standing on a ... sidewalk" while filming a video for the University of Virginia. The case will now go back to a judge that will have to decide whether the fine stands in light of this ruling.
Topless sunbathing woman captured by drone, ends up on real-estate billboard
This is pretty much the most illustrative privacy nightmare scenario a drone critic could ever think of.
A woman was sunbathing topless in Australia when a drone snapped a picture of her neighbor's property. The picture, unfortunately, also captured the woman, and her half-naked image ended up on a billboard advertising the sale of the house.
The real estate agency ended up removing the sign, but the woman wasn't very happy about it.
“It’s in the real estate magazine, it’s on the Internet and on the board and I’m really embarrassed,” Mandy Lingard said.
Some Americans are building military-style command and control centers
Robert Estes, a man from Southaven, Mississippi, has built a full-fledged mobile command and control center in a trailer, from which he can launch and control multiple drones — kind of like the military does.
Apparently, he's not the only one to have created something like this, asMotherboard reported last week.
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