Sramana Majumdar

"Violence, Identity and Self-determination: Narratives of conflict from the Kashmir Valley" 4:15 PM, Monday 18 Nov Room 239, BYC Bryn Mawr College

Exposure Index

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AgriRover brings Mars rover technology to the farm

This prototype is designed for constant, high-resolution surveying and adjustment of soil properties – a farmer’s Roomba.  This design came from a team in New Zealand, providing another indication of the increasingly international character to the unmanned vehicles industry.

Family of grandmother killed in US drone strike arrive for Congress visit

Many have suggested that Congress primarily hears about the drone strikes from the military and intelligence communities, who generally wish to defend their operations.  This attempt to give voice to the other side of the story comes at a time of rising discontent over the US drone strikes, both abroad and at home.

Pakistani Party Votes to Block NATO Supply Lines if Drones Persist

On 1 Nov. a drone strike killed the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Hakimullah Mehsud.  Pakistani opinion on drone strikes being what it is, this event has touched off a political firestorm in Pakistan, culminating in the resolution discussed in this article.  Many in Pakistan believe that the United States made this high-profile strike to purposefully derail the upcoming peace talks between the Taliban and the Pakistani government.

DARPA Plans to Arm Drones With Missile-Blasting Lasers

Lasers have long been the headline-grabbing weapon of the future, so it is perhaps no surprise that they should appear along with drones.  Though already deployed and widely used, drones and other robotic systems still have an aura of science fiction about them.  Time will tell if the weight and size requirements defined by lasers and their required energy supplies make this combination practical.  Previously proposed aerial laser systems were merely reflectors linked to ground-based laser generators.

Drone Issue Hovers More Than Ever, Even as Strikes Ebb

In further fallout from the previously noted Amnesty International/Human Rights Watch report, the Pakistani government’s ability to deny cooperation with the US drone strikes program is a looking particularly doubtful, perhaps contributed to the increase in Prime Minister Sharif’s attempts to end the strikes.

US drone strikes could be classed as war crimes, says Amnesty International

Variations of this story have been produced by many major news organizations around the world, including the New York Times (“Civilian Deaths in Drone Strikes Cited in Report“, “The Deaths of Innocents“), al Jazeera (“US strikes condemned in rights report“) in addition to the Guardian story directly linked by this post.  This appears to be a milestone in the global attempt to reach an understanding on the use of unmanned vehicles – and a major problem for the legitimacy of the U.S. drone strikes program.

SenseFly and Drone Adventures Toss UAVs Off the Summit of Matterhorn

Not only did these drones get good aerial photographs of very rough terrain, they used teamwork to do so.  In labs, roboticists are developing the methods for dozens or robots to work together, but for now six UAVs coordinating flight patterns and dividing a job between them are an impressive sample of things to come.

Rise of the drone hobbyists

The drone industry owes much to the hobbyists and universities who developed much of the technology.  Going forward, the industry will owe even more to the hobbyists for creating acceptance and familiarity amongst the wider public.  The article mentions the recent story of a man who died in an accident involving his drone helicopter.  The article fails to point out that that incident concerned a scale model helicopter with a gasoline engine, as opposed to the lighter, foam-built, battery-powered UAVs described in this article.

Q&A: Privacy implications for aerial drones

The greatest public concern over domestic drone use is that of privacy.  At last weekend’s Drones and Aerial Robotics Conference held at New York University, a legal scholar considered what drones meant for privacy, and suggested that perhaps recent technological advances required some changes to how we think about what privacy is.  It is far from clear at this point what the eventual legal and social consensus will be, but responding to privacy fears will be necessary if drones are to be accepted and their potential realized.

Machine gun-toting robots may soon back up U.S. soldiers

Various kinds of unmanned vehicles have long been used in war – from self-guiding missiles and torpedoes to the more recent bomb-disposal robots.  This article points toward a future where unmanned vehicles will not just track targets selected by humans or keep humans out of dangerous situations, but actively and autonomously assist human soldiers.