Drone roundup: Fighting oil fires at sea, tracking subs

The Interior Department is testing an autonomous underwater vehicle to help manage oil spills in the Arctic. With the renewed interest in offshore oil and gas exploration in the Arctic, the department's Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement plans to increase research into oil spill response and countermeasures using aerial and underwater platforms and vehicles and addressing cleanup with in-situ burning of the oil, according to the Interior's Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement 2020 budget justification. Working with underwater solutions provider Phoenix International Holdings Inc., the bureau is developing a drone system to remotely and autonomously ignite oil slicks in extremely harsh weather conditions.

A drone equipped with a magnetometer would help the military locate and track submarines, according to a call for white papers from the Strategic Capabilities Office.  SCO wants to test 75 lightweight Magnetic Anomaly Detector MAD UAVs (less than 36 pounds) that would be launched from a Navy P-8A Poseidon aircraft.  The drones would be able to fly to 25,000 feet and cruise at 60 knots, with sprints to 90 knots, in rain or sea spray. The drone's command and control software would need to be integrated into the P-8A mission systems suite.

A number of transit and transportation agencies have joined the newly formed Automated Bus Consortium, a collaboration designed make it easier to test automated bus projects across the United States. The Consortium will test and evaluate driverless bus technology, reducing the cost of local projects. It will also define the best pilot regions and routes, develop operating plans and automated bus specifications and investigate regulatory changes required for deployment of automated buses. Lessons learned and best practices from each pilot project will be shared among member agencies to promote better and faster learning and adoption of safety protocols and operational insights.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency has published regulations to ensure drone operations are safe, secure and protect the privacy of EU citizens. The new rules include technical as well as operational requirements for civilian drones and will be phased in over the next year.

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