Skip to content

February 1 2014

February 3, 2014




Defense contractors forecast 2014 as low point for some units

By Marjorie Censer, Published: January 26


For two of the largest defense contractors, 2013 proved to be a relatively stable year. Though sales declined, both General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin were able to preserve profits.

Still, executives from the contractors said they’re not out of the woods, indicating they expect 2014 could represent a low for sales in some of their businesses.

Phebe N. Novakovic, Falls Church-based General Dynamics’s chief executive, said last week that she expects the company’s information technology unit to see revenue drop close to 20 percent, making 2014 “the low water mark for revenue.”

Its combat systems unit, she said, is projecting a sales decline of about 4 percent, even though executives are counting on international sales to offset declining U.S. spending.

In that business unit, “we believe we’re almost there, and that the major slide is behind us,” Novakovic said. “I think we’re getting close to the bottom.”

Bruce L. Tanner, chief financial officer at Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin, said the contractor’s executives are optimistic “that 2014 is kind of the bottoming out,” he told reporters last week.

Roman Schweizer, an aerospace and defense policy analyst at Guggenheim Securities, agreed that the coming years will likely be a plateau for defense spending — but said not every company will fare the same. The Pentagon will likely make choices about whether to retain some of its key programs and which to prioritize, he added.

“There will be winners and losers,” Schweizer said. “There will still be meaningful events on a company-by-company basis that will alter the trajectory of some of these guys.”

In 2013, Lockheed saw sales decline about 3.9 percent to hit $45.4 billion. Profit grew 8.6 percent, reaching nearly $3 billion, or $9.13 a share, up from $2.7 billion, or $8.36 a share, the previous year.

Lockheed has been rapidly cutting costs to adapt to tightened government spending. In last week’s report, the company said it has recorded $171 million in severance charges in connection with recent job reductions, announced in November, to consolidate facilities and trim its workforce. The company also paid $30 million in severance to cut employees in its information systems and global solutions unit in 2013.

“We continue to have a mind-set toward sizing the business, getting our cost structure in line with the environment that we see in front of us,” Tanner said last week. “That is surely contributing to our ability to maintain our profitability.”

At General Dynamics, revenue hit $31.2 billion in 2013, a decline of less than 1 percent from the previous year. Profit for the year grew to $2.4 billion, or $6.67 per share, up from a $332 million loss, or 94 cents a share, in 2012 — mostly related to the company’s decision that year to devalue its information technology business by $2 billion amid falling government demand.

Novakovic said last week that only the combat systems unit — which specializes in military vehicles — was materially affected by sequestration and the shutdown. She said those events cut about $500 million in sales.



A Three-Horse Race Emerges for HASC Gavel

Thornberry Seen as Odds-On Favorite

Jan. 26, 2014 – 03:45AM | By JOHN T. BENNETT |

WASHINGTON — The race for the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) gavel is underway, and sources see the panel’s vice chairman as the odds-on favorite despite an expected challenge from an up-and-coming rival.

Sources expect the contest to succeed the retiring Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., to be a three-horse race, with HASC Vice Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, taking on panel members Mike Turner, R-Ohio, and Randy Forbes, R-Va.

Though nearly a year remains before the House Republican Steering Committee hears from each candidate and picks a new chairman, proponents of each member already are busy highlighting their candidate’s strengths.

Spokespersons for Thornberry, Turner and Forbes have made clear each is planning or at least seriously mulling a run.

The jockeying was set off Jan. 16, when McKeon announced he will not seek a 12th term. Even before the California Republican addressed reporters that morning, the handicapping of the field to secure the biggest chair on the HASC dais was underway.

The next chairman will inherit several major policy and budget matters that likely will remain unresolved when McKeon hangs up his member pin and voting card.

Those include what to do about the remaining seven years of sequestration cuts, a slew of troubled and expensive new-start weapon programs that will need close oversight, a potential US force of thousands in Afghanistan, an ever-changing al-Qaida threat and an emerging China. And the list does not stop there, also covering terrorist suspect detainee policy, the future of the armed drone program and more.

Conversations with several sources who have ties to the House Republican caucus and the House Armed Services Committee conjure up an image of the board above the betting window at Churchill Downs a few days before the Kentucky Derby.

Thornberry is the field’s Honor Code, the — very — early odds-on favorite to win the 2014 Derby at 6-1. “He’s lost to Buck by a single vote and has been right by Buck’s side for six years,” one GOP House aide said.

Turner is viewed as his top competitor, but even those impressed by the Tactical Air and Land Forces subcommittee head believe he is mostly interested in setting himself up to succeed Thornberry — meaning he most resembles a slew of Derby possibilities now slotted at 50-1 to 100-1. Then there is Forbes, the Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee chairman and the early longshot, who sources say likely has 200-1 or worse odds.

Thornberry, with a year to go before the decision is made, has a pedigree and training that make him seem unbeatable to many handicappers.

His proponents say his one high-profile loss — to McKeon for the same gavel — made him better. Sources say Thornberry began raising more money for GOP members and candidates, which they claim was one of the main areas in which McKeon had an advantage.

“This really is Thornberry’s to lose. He’s the guy,” said one defense industry lobbyist with ties to House GOP caucus. “There’s no reason to skip him — and there’s got to be a reason. He’s so knowledgeable of the issues. He blew away the Steering Committee last time.”

A Thornberry aide said he “plans to make his case to the [House Republican] steering committee when the time comes.” The aide said Thornberry believes his “case … is very strong.”

So does McKeon, who has broken with precedent by endorsing Thornberry to take the gavel next January. Congressional and other sources said it is exceedingly rare for an outgoing committee chairman to publicly endorse another member to succeed him.

Count among them one Turner aide, who was quick to note his boss has been urged to run by folks from across the defense-industrial-congressional complex.

“Members from across the Republican spectrum — both junior and senior members — have come up to Mr. Turner and encouraged him to do this,” the Turner aide said. “It’s all gamut of people: it’s other members, it’s industry people, and it’s Pentagon people.”

The aide noted Turner often is among the most active panel members when HASC crafts its annual Pentagon policy bill, offering numerous amendments on a list of issues.

Several sources believe Turner’s strategy is a long-play that acknowledges Thornberry is well-positioned to take the gavel, meaning Turner is angling to succeed Thornberry when his potential chairmanship ends.

Some in Washington see Turner as a rising star inside the House GOP caucus, with several current and former aides saying he has become one of the party’s most articulate and forceful critics of the Obama administration.

The Turner aide did not directly address those predictions, but he did note “a lot of members don’t run for chairman just once — that’s the case on a lot of committees.”

Sources see Forbes as a long-shot. But because he is seen as a hard worker and knowledgeable about defense and national security issues, none ruled out the chance the dark horse might pull the upset.

The industry lobbyist said some Steering Committee members are annoyed Forbes is pushing the National Republican Congressional Committee, House GOP leaders and his fellow members to withhold campaign cash from gay candidates.

“Forbes is just taking himself out of the [HASC] race with this stuff,” the defense lobbyist said.

Still, a Forbes aide signaled he is considering jumping into the race.

“Congressman Forbes considers his work on the Armed Services Committee to be the most rewarding of his 12 years in Congress,” the Forbes aide said. “When the time is right to choose a new HASC chairman, [he] looks forward to discussing his record of bipartisan accomplishment with his House Republican colleagues. In the meantime, he continues to focus on his chairmanship of the Seapower subcommittee and his leadership of the bipartisan Asia-Pacific Security Series.”


Global Hawk Wins in 2015 Request, Sources Say

Jan. 26, 2014 – 03:45AM | By AARON MEHTA | Comments

Sources say funding for the Global Hawk Block 30 UAV will be restored in the US Air Force’s fiscal 2015 budget submission due in March.


WASHINGTON — The Global Hawk UAV looks to be a big winner in the US Air Force’s fiscal 2015 budget submission, an impressive turn of events for a program the service has spent years attempting to kill.

The Global Hawk Block 30 will be funded when President Barack Obama’s budget arrives March 4, said two sources with knowledge of budget discussions. The sources confirmed that funding will come at the expense of the U-2 spy plane, which the Air Force had promoted as a cheaper alternative to the unmanned system. The news was first reported by Aviation Week.

Things can still change, but one source called the Block 30 decision as secure as anything in the Pentagon’s budget. While funding is less secure for the Global Hawk Block 40 — a more advanced version of the UAV that includes an improved radar — sources indicate it will likely receive funding as well.

A high-altitude, long-range UAV, the Global Hawk is touted by manufacturer Northrop Grumman as the best platform for airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR). It was funded heavily after the 9/11 terrorist attacks but fell out of favor with the Pentagon by the end of the last decade following a series of cost overruns.

When the Pentagon submitted its fiscal 2013 budget, it included a plan to kill off the Global Hawk. But Northrop activated its network of supporters on Capitol Hill, and ever since, Congress has protected the aircraft — much to the consternation of Air Force officials who insisted the U-2 can perform the same tasks at a much lower price. Northrop has delivered 17 Block 30s and nine Block 40s, company figures say.

The fiscal 2014 omnibus appropriations bill, signed into law by Obama on Jan. 17, contained $10 million to study whether the U-2’s sensors, particularly the SYERS-2A camera, can be installed on the Global Hawk. If that technology can be coupled, it would provide another talking point for doing away with the older, manned spy plane — although one source cautions not to read too much into operational justifications.

“History indicates that they will try to justify [moving away from the U-2] through an operational explanation, but the bottom line [is] there’s just not enough money to keep them both,” one source said, adding that this decision is driven in large part by the service’s wish to avoid another bruising fight with Congress.

“What we have long maintained is that the platforms are in many ways complementary, and if we could afford to keep both, we would,” Lt. Gen. Robert Otto, Air Force deputy chief of staff for ISR, said in a Jan. 23 interview. “I believe we are at the point where there are only hard choices, and we cannot afford to keep both platforms. And so this is another area where there is a robust debate over which platform should we keep as we go forward.”

Otto added that while the U-2’s defensive systems would allow it to survive longer in a contested environment, neither aircraft is ideal for ISR against an area with high-level anti-access/area-denial technologies.


Per service policy, an Air Force spokeswoman declined to comment on budget details prior to its submission to Congress. A Northrop spokeswoman added that the company looks “forward to continued operations in the foreseeable future.”

While the Global Hawk seems poised for a victory, other platforms are left fighting for a shrinking pot of money.

The KC-10 tanker and A-10 close-air support aircraft remain likely to receive cuts in the upcoming budget, despite massive congressional outcry in favor of the A-10. The Air Force has identified those planes as potential “vertical cuts” that could remove single-mission fleets from service as a cost-cutting measure.

One program still fighting for life, according to sources, is the Combat Rescue Helicopter (CRH), the service’s replacement for the Sikorsky HH-60 Pave Hawk used for search and rescue. The service has said it would select an offering from the team of Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin, the sole bidder for the program, once funding becomes available. Service programmers have been looking for ways to fund the program in 2015, sources said.

As with Global Hawk, politics on the Hill could play a role in the Air Force’s decision.

Dozens of House members wrote a December letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel voicing support for the program. Congress also successfully put a rider into the fiscal 2014 budget bill protecting funds for CRH. Deborah Lee James, the new Air Force secretary, responded to the signatories on Jan. 17.

“This matter is pre-decisional, pending the outcome of the president’s fiscal year 2015 budget review process,” James wrote. ■

Marcus Weisgerber contributed to this report.


Drones Could Be Coming to American Skies Sooner Than You Think

by Press • 29 January 2014



On message boards and Facebook groups, he’s known as Trappy. Fellow drone hobbyists call him an “aerial anarchist” and marvel at the videos he’s taken with his five-pound foam aircraft of the Statue of Liberty, the French Alps and the Costa Concordia, the Italian cruise ship that ran aground in the Mediterranean in 2012.

“Ask anyone who the most daring pilot is,” says Trappy himself, never one for false modesty. “The answer is probably going to be unanimous.”

But ask officials at the Federal Aviation Administration, and they’ll tell you Trappy is a 29-year-old Swiss thorn in their side named Raphael Pirker, someone who flies recklessly, flaunts the agency’s rules and might even threaten its slow, careful plans for the safe integration of commercial drones into American skies.

In 2011, the FAA slapped Pirker with a $10,000 fine after he flew his Styrofoam drone around the University of Virginia while filming an ad for the university’s medical school. With that, the most famous pilot in the underground drone world became a test case for the FAA’s authority to prohibit people from making money off their hobby.


Pirker has asked a judge with the National Transportation Safety Board to throw out the fine, and a decision is expected any day now. In the meantime, the case exposes what would seem to be a rather large loophole in the law: The FAA has been saying since 2007 that commercial drone use is not allowed, but the agency never went through the official rule-making channels to make it illegal. I asked an FAA spokesman at least five times whether flying a drone for profit is illegal and, after several attempts to follow up, was told that the agency was not prepared to answer that question.

As a result, the case against Pirker hinges not on whether he was operating a drone for commercial purposes but instead on whether the FAA can prove that he was flying in a “reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another.” In other words, the FAA needs to show that Pirker could have killed someone or seriously damaged a building with what is essentially a flying toy. If the agency fails and his fine is thrown out, the ruling could be taken as a sign to would-be commercial drone operators that the FAA lacks the authority to stop them—at least until it can issue an official rule, a process that typically takes more than a year. All of which could mean that the agency’s multi-year effort to plan for the gradual introduction of commercial drones—with safety controls and privacy protections to reassure those who worry about allowing small, flying cameras to operate with impunity—would fall by the wayside as the skies immediately open to a buzzing, whirring horde.

Whether the FAA is ready or not, the drone age could suddenly be upon us.

Read more:



Report calls for increased reliance on Guard, Reserves

Local impact unclear, but Springfield Air Guard base could benefit.

Posted: 9:43 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014

By Barrie Barber and Jessica Wehrman – Washington Bureau


The Air Force needs to use Reserve and Guard members more in order to remain prepared for action during an era of budget cuts, a congressionally-mandated commission says in a much-anticipated report released Thursday.

The 127-page report by the National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force calls for the Air Force to add Guard and Reservist slots while making “prudent” cuts in active-duty airmen.

The report makes 42 recommendations, but none are geographic, meaning the direct impact on Ohio’s five Air Force installations — four Air National Guard, one active duty and two Reserve wings — is unclear. But it calls for an Air Force that increasingly uses Guard and Reservists alongside active-duty Air Force personnel.

“We know that will be difficult,” said Commission Chairman Dennis McCarthy, a former assistant secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs. “We know it may be more difficult in some units than others. It’s going to be, we think, a progressive process, not a ‘throw the switch and everything becomes magically integrated.'”

The report also recommended closing or “warm basing” some facilities, but did not point to any specific bases. An assessment of Air Force roles in homeland security and disaster assistance was urged.

The commission visited Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and Springfield Air National Guard Base and had a hearing in Columbus last July on a nationwide tour of 13 military installations. Four of the bases were in Ohio. The report is the result of 19 days of hearings involving 154 witnesses.

In making its recommendations the commission had two objectives: Save money and maintain readiness for future conflicts.

But commissioners argued that their recommendations weren’t just aimed at saving money. They said Guard and Reservists were willing and capable of doing more. “These are things that should be done even if there wasn’t a fiscal requirement to do so,” McCarthy said.

The eight-member commission, comprised primarily of former military leadership, did not make any base-specific recommendations, but the vision they depicted seemed to be of an Air Force where Guard and Reservists increasingly worked side by side with active-duty military and where the Air Force leaned heavily on those part-time military.

“Going forward, there’s no doubt in my mind that our Air Force is going to rely more, not less, on our National Guard and Reserve forces,” Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said in a statement to this newspaper. “This makes sense from not only a mission standpoint, but from an economic standpoint. I think there will be a great deal of symmetry between many of the recommendations from the commission and what the Air Force proposes for its way ahead.”

Michael Gessel, Dayton Development Coalition vice president of federal programs, said the impact of the report’s recommendations could mean good news for the Springfield Air National Guard Base, but how Wright-Patterson is affected isn’t clear.

“The report called for a smaller Air Force and an Air Force that had a broader sharing of authority among the three (reserve) components,” he said. “I think that the report, to a certain extent, endorsed the status quo. It did not call on major changes, though perhaps the recommendation that the Guard and Reserve have a more major role in headquarters operations suggests they would have more influence in Air Force decision-making.”

Russell Rumbaugh, a senior fellow at the Stimson Center in Washington, D.C., said the report was bold in some of its conclusions. In advocating for an increased reserve force, the report said that would save money initially unless or until those units are deployed. Rumbaugh called the proposal a “repudiation” of the Air Force’s 2012 plan to Congress that favored more cuts in the National Guard and Reserve than in active duty.

“That’s a really big deal compared to the original budget recommendation from the Air Force,” he said.

The report suggested eliminating the Air Force Reserve Command, but keeping its personnel and equipment and to integrate reserve airmen with active forces among a range of duties and units, such as space operations and ICBM operations, Rumbaugh said.

“The conclusions are very much move what you can,” he said.

Cyber defense and piloting unmanned aerial vehicles were key areas reserve forces could make a difference, said Mark Guzinger, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington, D.C.

“Those are all things that airmen at their home stations might be able to pick up a greater share of the load without having to deploy abroad,” the former Air Force B-52 pilot said.

Locally, Air Guard and Reserve forces play an active role in real-world missions. The Ohio Air National Guard’s 178th Fighter Wing flies unmanned aerial vehicles overseas and piloted remotely from Springfield, and the Air Force Reserve 445th Airlift Wing at Wright-Patterson flies C-17 troop and cargo missions around the world.

Col. Jeffrey J. McGaillard, 445th Airlift Wing commander, said he was not surprised by the commission urging more capabilities in the Guard and Reserve. He said his unit, which had had a decrease in missions overseas, was ready to handle more when asked.

“There’s a lot of untapped capability in the Guard and Reserve,” he said. “By and large, we are super experienced.”

Congressional lawmakers made no definitive remarks about the report Thursday, but said they would consider its recommendations.

“Certainly, my subcommittee will be looking both to the Air Force and commission while we focus on the future mission of the Air Force,” U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton and chairman of the House Tactical Land Forces subcommittee said in an email.

In a statement, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said he was “encouraged that the commission focused on the strategic importance of the National Guard and Reserve, while also highlighting the important role that research and development programs have in our national defense.”

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said the commission “produced a number of valuable recommendations” that will be considered.

F. Whitten Peters, a commissioner who served as Air Force Secretary from 1999 through 2001, suggested that cutting aircraft at Guard and Reserve bases might endanger a skilled workforce desperately needed.

“We’ve got to make sure we keep talented people,” he said. “To me, the biggest disservice we make to our traditional Guard and Reserve is not telling them what their future is.”


Journalists await new drone regulations. And wait, and wait…

by Press • 30 January 2014

by Jeremy Barr

Across the U.S., journalists are sitting, watching, and waiting on the sidelines while the Federal Aviation Administration develops rules for the safe operation of small drones.

A few journalists have experimented with drone technology, using lightweight, remote-controlled craft to shoot aerial pictures and video footage. But under existing FAA guidelines, they’re prohibited from using drones as part of a broader ban on for-profit, commercial operation.

The announcement of new, Congressionally mandated regulations on the commercial use of small drones has already been delayed until November, and any such regulations will be followed by a comment period. Some say the process could take another year or more. Until then, only hobbyists — who are allowed to operate under a 1981 FAA agreement — can use the crafts. And that’s not sitting well with journalists.

“How is it that anyone can go down to a hobby store and fly this around, and me, with $30,000 worth of equipment, I can’t do this?” asked Matt Waite, a journalism professor at the University of Nebraska and founder of the school’sDrone Journalism Lab.

“A 15-year-old kid can walk down there with their birthday money and can be up in the air in an hour,” Waite, who occasionally contributes to Poynter, said by phone.

FAA spokeswoman Alison Duquette said hobbyists operate under “very restrictive” rules, and that her agency steps in to “address” instances of careless or reckless drone operation that are brought to its attention.

“I don’t know if the FAA is being consistent,” said Matthew Schroyer, founder of and the Professional Society of Drone Journalists, which counts 123 journalists in 21 countries as members.

“The FAA regulations are preventing a lot of good journalism from happening,” he said in a phone interview.

And the ambiguity surrounding the rules has led to some drone journalism of questionable legality.

On Jan. 3, I wrote about a photographer for The (Spokane, Wash.) Spokesman-Review who published aerial video of a community event taken by a camera ship.

Jesse Tinsley, who has a pilot’s license, argued that the video “occurred in a gray zone” because it was shot on his off-time, using his own equipment. But the FAA disagreed, saying there is “no gray area” when it comes to drone journalism.

“We are working on [new] rules, but in the interim we have to have rules that protect people on the ground and in the air,” Duquette said by phone, adding that the FAA feels the current process “protects safety.”

Tinsley has since “self-grounded” his craft, and he’s not the only professional journalist who has done so for fear of legal ramifications.

“We are really all waiting on the FAA to act,” Waite said. “And until that happens, everything is going to be kind of muddled.”

Eric Seals, a photo and video journalist for the Detroit Free Press, said he wants to talk to his newspaper’s lawyer before using his Phantom craft for any more published work.

Seals said in a phone interview that he was “very happy” with aerial footage he took last fall, including video for a story on Michigan’s annual wolf hunt. Such footage would normally require renting a helicopter and cost thousands of dollars but can now be collected in an afternoon using a camera ship that can be purchased online for only a few hundred dollars.

“I’m disappointed that I had to self-ground it,” Seals said of his craft. “Being able to take readers on a journey to show a different perspective is something I cherish, and to not be able to do that because of a ruling makes you throw your hands up in the air.”

Seals’s sentiment was shared by Matthew Jonas, a photojournalist for the Longmont (Colo.) Times-Call, who said he is “treading lightly” because of legal concerns.

Jonas has used his DJI Phantom 1.1.1 to take aerial stills and videos of flood damage, and like many others is eagerly awaiting the FAA’s small UAS guidelines. (The FAA will also be announcing regulations for larger drones that fly at higher altitudes and could potentially mingle with airplanes.)

But Jonas said he’s concerned about the possibility of regulatory overreach.

“You hope that the regulations are common-sense,” he said by phone, before asking: “If they restrict this too much, does that collide with the freedom of the press?”

He isn’t alone in worrying.

“There is a First Amendment right to photograph,” said Waite, adding that “drones in the hands of individuals do have some First Amendment protections.”


Chris Calabrese, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, delivered that message to a Senate committee in a Jan. 15 hearing on drones.

“Drone photography, like any other photography, should be treated as a protected expression under the First Amendment,” he said. “In no case should law single out newsgathering drones for special restrictions over and above those applicable to non-newsgathering operations.”

The small drone regulations will focus primarily on safety, as the FAA lacks the authority to enact privacy statutes, FAA administrator Michael Huerta said at the Senate hearing. State and federal privacy statutes are already on the books, though.

The FAA works closely with the Academy for Model Aeronautics, the hobbyist lobby, and on Jan. 12 inked a partnership that will help produce guidelines governing the use of small drones.

While the FAA isn’t aggressively pursuing journalists who are using drones in their work, Waite said that the agency has no choice but to act when drone journalism is out in the open – which it generally is.

“Journalists have a distinct disadvantage here in that if they do it, they make it public,” Waite said, adding that he knows of many people who are literally “flying under the radar.”

Drone journalists say they are paying the price for the reckless conduct of others.

In contrast to the cautious approach he said he’s taken, Seals said he’s seen hobbyists fly drones low and over crowds. In a much-cited example, the FAAfined Raphael Pirker $10,000 for operating a drone in a “careless and reckless manner” on the campus of the University of Virginia. Pirker is believed to be the only person who’s been assessed a monetary penalty. He’s being represented by New York-based attorney Brendan Schulman (@dronelaws on Twitter), whodenies that FAA regulations ban drone use at all.

Others say that journalists are struggling with the stigma of high-profile uses of drones — from large Predator drones used by the U.S. government to launch targeted strikes in remote regions of Pakistan to smaller crafts used by paparazzi to film celebs from the air.

“We cannot ignore the threat that [drones] pose to our personal privacy,” said Sen. Jay Rockefeller IV, D-W.V., at the Senate drone hearing. And Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., recounted her surprise at seeing a pink “drone” appear outside her living-room (some have questioned her characterization).

But journalists reject the idea that there’s any connection between such voyeurism and what they do.

Jonas said a drone is “just another tool, like a lens, that I can use to tell stories. The negative connotation of ‘drone’ is not appropriate for what we do.”


DHL Uses Drone To Deliver Medicine In Germany

By Chris Morran December 9, 2013

The DHL Paketkopter made its first official landing outside the Deutsche Post office in Bonn, Germany, today. It carried some medicine from a pharmacist 1 km across the Rhine river.

The DHL Paketkopter made its first official landing outside the Deutsche Post office in Bonn, Germany, today. It carried some medicine from a pharmacist 1 km across the Rhine river.

We might as well start digging our underground rebel hideouts now and prepare for the inevitable Robot Wars of 2023, as DHL has made the first successful package delivery via flying drone.

Days after Amazon’s Jeff Bezos unveiled plans to someday unleash an army of self-guiding drones upon the skies, the folks at Deutsche Post DHL did a short proof-of-concept test on their own flying menace messenger.

The company’s Paketkopter flew a distance of about 1 kilometer (.62 miles) and hovered about 50 meters (164 feet) above the ground as it flew over the Rhine river from a pharmacist to the DHL office while carrying an unnamed medicine.

“We are at the beginning of the research project,” a DHL manager said of the test. “It is an exciting bit of technology.”

The DHL drone can carry up to 6.6 pounds. Unlike the Amazon thingamajig, which will use GPS to determine how to reach a destination, the Paketkopter (which I predict will soon become the name for a Krautrock revival act from Minnesota) relied on remote control operators for this flight. However, DHL says that a GPS-piloted version of the drone is possible.



Deutsche Post completes first drone flight

Published: 09 Dec 2013 14:48 GMT+01:00


Deutsche Post dubbed its yellow drone the Paketkopter and said it carried medicine from a pharmacist in Bonn across the Rhine to its own head office.

“We are at the beginning of the research project,” said DHL manager Ole Nordhoff. “It is an exciting bit of technology.”

This being Germany, there are also regulations to consider – Monday’s test flight required a special permit, while the legalities of using drones remain unclear.

The drone flew at a height of 50 metres for one kilometre and took two minutes to complete the journey.

It was flown by two men using a remote control but the technology also exists to direct the drones to their destination with GPS.

Online retailer Amazon announced last week it was working on a project to deliver packages with drones and hoped to have a service up and running within five years.

Deutsche Post then announced on Thursday it had a similar project, but Monday’s test was the first successful flight of a drone carrying a package.

Its project is focusing on delivering medicines.


Applanix Conducts Successful Test Flight of Professional Mapping UAS

by Press • 30 January 2014

Applanix Corporation and American Aerospace Advisors have completed a successful series of test flights of AAAI’s RS-16 platform equipped with Applanix’ DMS-UAV aerial photogrammetry payload. This is the first successful mission for a long-endurance UAS (unmanned aerial system) capable of producing professional-grade, directly georeferenced mapping imagery for civilian applications such as pipeline monitoring, power line and emergency response mapping.

Tests were conducted over restricted airspace in the state of New Jersey. A joint team from Applanix and AAAI planned and flew a sequence of missions to evaluate the capabilities of the UAS. These include, critically, the ability to provide highly accurate, directly georeferenced and orthorectified aerial imagery without the need for ground control points or aerial triangulation calculations. The system, consisting of the airframe, its avionics, mobile ground control station and the digital mapping payload, performed according to expectations and successfully produced high-quality imagery.

“Performing safe and successful missions with long endurance unmanned aircraft in civilian airspace are a challenge that goes far beyond selecting the right aircraft and payload,” said David Yoel, CEO of American Aerospace Advisors. “Working with Applanix, we have produced an integrated system that is designed from the ground up with civilian mapping operations in mind. We believe this system has the capability to transform the aerial mapping industry.”

The RS-16 DMS is a complete, operational system capable of conducting large area operations within the National Airspace System in the United States, and in other jurisdictions as local regulations allow. Within the USA, AAAI is engaged with several of the recently announced UAS research and test sites, which operate under the auspices of the FAA to develop the certification and operational requirements necessary to safely integrate UAS into the national airspace.

The GNSS-Inertial systems at the core of Applanix’ DMS-UAV aerial mapping payload uses commercial inertial technologies that are offered globally.

“The market for airborne imaging systems is in a state of rapid change,” said Joe Hutton, director of Inertial Technology and Airborne Products at Applanix. “Developments in imaging technology, in processing capability, and in the nature of inertial sensors, make a directly georeferenced UAS a reality today, where it would have been inconceivable even a few years ago. Our ability to take our established market-leading manned solutions, and integrate the technology successfully into an unmanned platform, speaks volumes for the engineering expertise of Applanix and AAAI.”


MasterCard Exec: It’s Time for EMV

Retail Breaches Signal Need to Migrate from Mag-Stripe

By Jeffrey Roman, January 30, 2014. Follow Jeffrey @gen_sec


In one of the first public statements by a major payment card company in the wake of the Target Corp. and Neiman Marcus breaches, an executive for MasterCard says it is now time for the U.S. to migrate from magnetic stripe card technology to the more secure Europay, MasterCard and Visa chip technology standard.

“This migration is about an upgrade that will drive both innovation and security for all parties, most importantly for consumers and cardholders,” says Chris McWilton, president of North American markets at MasterCard, in an opinion piece written for CNBC News.

“For too many years, different parties have relegated the EMV migration decision to a cost vs. benefits spreadsheet analysis,” McWilton says. “However, spreadsheets don’t consider the cost of losing the public trust, which is immeasurable.”

Chip cards using the EMV standard contain an embedded microprocessor that stores and processes encrypted information, making it difficult to copy or counterfeit.

McWilton acknowledges progress has been made on the EMV front, including a number of large U.S. retailers publicly indicating they’re installing new terminals at their stores to accept chip cards by October 2015. And many U.S. card-issuing banks have started providing cardholders with chip-enabled cards while planning for massive rollouts over the next two years.

But he also acknowledges the public finger-pointing and posturing seen in the wake of the breaches, as parties discuss who is responsible for fraud losses in the wake of these incidents – the merchant, the card-issuing bank or the card companies themselves.

“All involved – networks, merchants, issuers, acquirers and others – should focus their time, efforts and resources on continuing this migration and further enhancing the security of the U.S. payments system,” McWilton says. “The lesson of the recent [breaches] is clear – we should not delay the migration to this global standard any longer.”

On Dec. 19, 2013, Visa commented briefly on the Target breach on the Fox Business news website.

“Visa is aware that Target has disclosed unauthorized access to payment card data affecting all major card brands,” an e-mail message to the news site said. “When such incidents occur, Visa works with the breached entity to provide card issuers with the compromised accounts so they can take steps to protect consumers through fraud monitoring and, if needed, reissuing cards. Because of advanced fraud-monitoring capabilities, the incidence of fraud involving compromised accounts is actually rare, and Visa fraud rates remain near historic lows.”


Breach Details

The breach at Target Corp. compromised as many as 40 million payment card accounts, along with the personal information of about 70 million customers.

On Dec. 23, Target confirmed malware was to blame for an infection of its point-of-sale system that likely exposed the card details between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15.

The retailer reported on Jan. 30 that the breach was the result of hackers stealing electronic credentials from a vendor [see: Target Breach: Credentials Stolen].

Neiman Marcus, in a statement on Jan. 22, confirmed that between July 16 and Oct. 30 last year, more than 1 million credit and debit cards may have been breached. A network malware attack designed “to collect or scrape payment card data” had been identified by forensics investigators, CEO Karen Katz said in the statement.


Rasmussen Reports


What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls

Bottom of Form

Saturday, February 01, 2014

It’s game time and blame time this week, with the Super Bowl tomorrow and President Obama vowing last Tuesday night in his State of the Union address to go around Congress if necessary.

Sixty-two percent (62%) of Americans plan to watch Super Bowl XLVIII this Sunday featuring the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks. 

Sixty-six percent (66%) of those who plan to watch believe the Broncos are the team most likely to win. Twenty-three percent (23%) think Seattle will emerge victorious.

But 34% find the commercials during the Super Bowl more interesting than the game itself.  

Down the road from the Northern New Jersey stadium where the Super Bowl will be played, another rivalry continues in Washington, D.C. The president delivered his State of the Union address to Congress and the nation, although just 28% of voters think the annual speeches are important for setting the nation’s agenda for the next year.  Sixty-two percent (62%) view them instead as mostly just for show, up nine points from 53% a year ago when the president delivered the first State of the Union speech following his reelection.

Obama made it clear in his latest State of the Union remarks that he is prepared to take independent executive action if he can’t get Congress to work with him on some major issues. But 69% think it is better for the president to work with Congress on things he considers important rather than go it alone.

Most voters agree with the president’s call for an increase in the minimum wage but oppose the extension for up to 47 weeks of federal unemployment benefits. Just 27%, however, agree with Obama’s statement that “after five years of grit and determined effort, the United States is better positioned for the 21st century than any other nation on Earth.”

For the second week in a row, in fact, only 30% think the United States is heading in the right direction.

While the president in his speech proposed several federal initiatives for what he sees as a growing national income inequality problem, 59% of voters think less government involvement in the economy will do more to close the income gap than more government action.

One reason why voters are suspicious of greater government involvement in the economy is that 63% believe most government contracts are awarded to the company with the most political connections rather than one that can provide the best service for the best price.

The economy and job creation are now most important to voters on the list of 15 major issues regularly tracked by Rasmussen Reports.

Thirty-seven percent (37%) give the president good or excellent marks for his handling of economic issues. Forty-five percent (45%) still rate the president’s economic performance as poor.

The State of the Union speech had no impact on Obama’s daily job approval ratings which remain at levels seen for most of his presidency. 

Nearly one-out-of-three voters (32%) now say their health insurance coverage has changed because of the president’s new health care law, and most continue to view the law unfavorably.

Just 21% believe the federal government currently has the consent of the governed. 

Democrats hold a five-point lead over Republicans on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot.

Thirty-six U.S. Senate seats are at stake this November, and Rasmussen Reports took a first look at two of the most hotly contested races this week. Incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu runs slightly behind Republican challenger Bill Cassidy – 44% to 40% – in Louisiana. Democratic Senator Kay Hagan trails her two leading Republican challengers, Thom Tillis and Dr. Greg Brannon, in North Carolina.

At week’s end, consumer and investor confidence were down nationally from a month ago. 

Optimism among homeowners jumped toward the end of 2013 but is also on the decline in the new year. 

In other surveys last week:

Forty-three percent (43%) of Americans under 40 use their cell phone at least once an hour, compared to 18% of middle-aged adults and just eight percent (8%) of those 65 and older.

Fifty-eight percent (58%) of all Americans think their fellow countrymen need to cut back on how much they use cell phones, but only 12% think that applies to them.

Sixty-two percent (62%) think winter has been worse in their area this year than it has been in recent years. One-in-four (25%) are currently planning or have already taken a vacation this winter.

— Even with the frigid temperatures and big snowstorms in many areas of the United States this year, 46% of Americans believe the media make the weather sound worse than it really is.

— Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast over eight years ago, but just 29% of Louisiana voters think their state has fully recovered.


From → Uncategorized

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: