Ground All Drones is a committee of Women Against Military Madness (WAMM) created to address the use of drones, particularly armed drones. Drones are developed worldwide, not only by the U.S. but by other nations as well. In the U.S.unarmed surveillance drones could be used to spy on citizens, a clear violation of our Fourth Amendment Rights. The current focus of this committee is on the use of weaponized drones.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Sack cartoon: Droning on, indiscriminately

 STEVE SACK  Star Tribune Saturday April 25, 2015

Germany is the Tell-Tale Heart of America’s Drone War

By Jeremy Scahill on April 17, 2015    from The Intercept (TI)

A TOP-SECRET U.S. intelligence document obtained by The Intercept confirms that the sprawling U.S. military base in Ramstein, Germany serves as the high-tech heart of America’s drone program. Ramstein is the site of a satellite relay station that enables drone operators in the American Southwest to communicate with their remote aircraft in Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan and other targeted countries. The top-secret slide deck, dated July 2012, provides the most detailed blueprint seen to date of the technical architecture used to conduct strikes with Predator and Reaper drones.

Amid fierce European criticism of America’s targeted killing program, U.S. and German government officials have long downplayed Ramstein’s role in lethal U.S. drone operations and have issued carefully phrased evasions when confronted with direct questions about the base. But the slides show that the facilities at Ramstein perform an essential function in lethal drone strikes conducted by the CIA and the U.S. military in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Africa.

The slides were provided by a source with knowledge of the U.S. government’s drone program who declined to be identified because of fears of retribution. According to the source, Ramstein’s importance to the U.S. drone war is difficult to overstate. “Ramstein carries the signal to tell the drone what to do and it returns the display of what the drone sees. Without Ramstein, drones could not function, at least not as they do now,” the source said.

The new evidence places German Chancellor Angela Merkel in an awkward position given Germany’s close diplomatic alliance with the United States. The German government has granted the U.S. the right to use the property, but only under the condition that the Americans do nothing there that violates German law.

The U.S. government maintains that its drone strikes against al Qaeda and its “associated forces” are legal, even outside of declared war zones. But German legal officials have suggested that such operations are only justifiable in actual war zones. Moreover, Germany has the right to prosecute “criminal offenses against international law … even when the offense was committed abroad and bears no relation to Germany,” according to Germany’s Code of Crimes against International Law, which passed in 2002.

This means that American personnel stationed at Ramstein could, in theory, be vulnerable to German prosecution if they provide drone pilots with data used in attacks.

While the German government has been reluctant to pursue such prosecutions, it may come under increasing pressure to do so. “It is simply murder,” says Björn Schiffbauer of the Institute for International Law at the University of Cologne. Legal experts interviewed by Der Spiegel claimed that U.S. personnel could be charged as war criminals by German prosecutors.
A top-secret slide confirms the central role Germany plays in the U.S. drone war.

RAMSTEIN IS ONE of the largest U.S. military bases outside the United States, hosting more than 16,000 military and civilian personnel. The relay center at Ramstein, which was completed in late 2013, sits in the middle of a massive forest and is adjacent to a baseball diamond used by students at the Ramstein American High School. The large compound, made of reinforced concrete and masonry walls and enclosed in a horseshoe of trees, has a sloped metal roof. Inside this building, air force squadrons can coordinate the signals necessary for a variety of drone surveillance and strike missions.

On two sides of the building are six massive golf ball-like fixtures known as satellite relay pads.
In a 2010 budget request for the Ramstein satellite station, the U.S. Air Force asserted that without the Germany-based facility, the drone program could face “significant degradation of operational capability” that could “have a serious impact on ongoing and future missions.” Predator and Reaper drones, as well as Global Hawk aircraft, would “use this site to conduct operations” in Africa and the Middle East, according to the request. It stated bluntly that without the use of Ramstein, drone “weapon strikes cannot be supported.”

“Because of multi-theater-wide operations, the respective SATCOM Relay Station must be located at Ramstein Air Base to provide most current information to the war-fighting commander at any time demanded,” according to the request. The relay station, according to that document, would also be used to support the operations of a secretive black ops Air Force program known as “Big Safari.”
The classified slide deck maps out an intricate spider web of facilities across the U.S. and the globe: from drone command centers on desert military bases in the U.S. to Ramstein to outposts in Afghanistan, Djibouti, Qatar and Bahrain and back to NSA facilities in Washington and Georgia.

What is clear is that most paths within America’s drone maze run through Ramstein.
Transatlantic cables connect U.S. drone pilots half a world away. (Illustration: Josh Begley)
Much more - Read the whole article please click HERE

Creech Air Force Base in Nevada is central to multiple prongs of the U.S. drone war. Personnel stationed at the facility are responsible for drone operations in Afghanistan — which has been on the receiving end of more drone strikes than any country in the world — and Pakistan, where the CIA has conducted a covert air war for the last decade. The agency’s campaign has killed thousands of people, including hundreds of civilians. Some drone missions are operated from other locations, such as Fort Gordon in Georgia and Cannon Air Force Base in Clovis, New Mexico.

The pilots at Creech and other ground control stations send their commands to the drones they operate via transatlantic fiber optic cables to Germany, where the Ramstein uplink bounces the signal to a satellite that connects to drones over Yemen, Somalia and other target countries. Ramstein is ideally situated as a satellite relay station to minimize the lag time between the commands of the pilots and their reception by the aircraft, called latency. Too much latency — which would be caused by additional satellite relays — would make swift maneuvers impossible. Video images from a drone could not be delivered to the U.S. in near real time. Without the speed and precise control an installation like Ramstein allows, pilots would practically be flying blind.

A diagram in the secret document shows how the process works. Ramstein’s satellite uplink station is used to route communications between the pilots and aircraft deployed in a variety of countries. Video from the drones is routed back through Ramstein and then relayed to a variety of U.S. intelligence and military facilities around the U.S. and the globe. Another diagram shows how pilots at Creech connect to Ramstein and then to the Predator Primary Satellite Link, which facilitates direct control of the drone wherever it is operating.

All of this — location, combined with the need to securely house the large quantities of equipment, buildings and personnel necessary to operate the satellite uplink — has made Ramstein one of the most viable sites available to the U.S. to serve this critical function in the drone war.

Much more - For the whole article please click HERE

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Graphic anti-drone video ad to run on television near US air force bases

Created by group of US military veterans who ask pilots to ‘refuse to fly’

Wednesday 1 April 2015

A group of US military veterans is hoping to put a stop to the use of drone strikes with a graphic TV ad campaign which will run near drone operating bases across the US this month.

The 15-second television spots – thought to be the first anti-drone ads to run on US television – will air during the daytime throughout April in the Sacramento region, near Beale air force base, and asks drone pilots to “please refuse to fly”.


“We feel that it really comes down to the people who are doing the actual killing to put a stop to this,” said Nick Mottern, the coordinator of activist site and a navy veteran himself.

The ads are being sponsored by roughly 200-300 veterans from a Democratic party veterans’ group in Sacramento, and the city’s local chapter of Veterans for Peace, a group of US military veterans seeking world peace.

One of the ads features images of wounded and dead children, and will appear on television only after 10pm. The other, edited version will run 5am-9pm daily.

The Sacramento spots are part of a larger plan to run the advertisements near drone operations centers around the US. Last month, the more graphic ad ran in Las Vegas near Creech Air Force Base for one week.
“We felt that the president and the Congress had been totally unwilling not only to stop the killing, but to provide any information to the public on the scope of these attacks since they began,” said Mottern.

US drone use is one of the most controversial aspects of its foreign policy. An analysis by the human rights group Reprieve, released in November 2014, found that US operators targeting 41 men had ended up killing an estimated 1,147 people.

The coalition of veterans is hoping that the advertisements will reach drone pilots, support personnel and their families. Mottern said that the group understands the difficulties and consequences of violating orders, but believes the only way to put an end to drone killings is by having soldiers involved.

Congressional Research Service — links to reports

Secrecy News

Domestic Drones & Privacy, and More from CRS

from the Federation of American Scientists (FAS)
Posted on April 2, 2015 in CRS, Drones by

The anticipated deployment of thousands of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) — or drones — in American skies raises unresolved privacy concerns that have barely begun to be addressed, according to a new report from the Congressional Research Service.

The CRS report provides “a primer on privacy issues related to various UAS operations, both public and private, including an overview of current UAS uses, the privacy interests implicated by these operations, and various potential approaches to UAS privacy regulation.” See Domestic Drones and Privacy: A Primer, March 30, 2015.

This week, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed suit against the Federal Aviation Administration arguing that the FAA was obliged to establish privacy rules for commercial drones and that it had failed to do so.

The privacy implications of drones have been discussed in several congressional hearings over the past two years, yielding these published hearing volumes:
U.S. Unmanned Aircraft Systems: Integration, Oversight, and Competitiveness, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, December 10, 2014
Eyes in the Sky: The Domestic Use of Unmanned Aerial Systems, House Judiciary Committee, May 17, 2013
The Future of Drones in America: Law Enforcement and Privacy Considerations, Senate Judiciary Committee, March 20, 2013

* * *

Other new or updated CRS reports that Congress has withheld from online public distribution include the following.
Cyberwarfare and Cyberterrorism: In Brief, March 27, 2015
The United Kingdom: Background and Relations with the United States, March 27, 2015
Yemen: Civil War and Regional Intervention, March 26, 2015
Peace Talks in Colombia, March 31, 2015
Membership of the 114th Congress: A Profile, March 31, 2015
Supervised Release (Parole): An Overview of Federal Law, March 5, 2015

FAA rules or Common Sense? Another point of view.

In our conversations with people about Killer Drones, the subject of drones for other uses seems to come up quite often. [ed.]

 KEEP CALM: The FAA and sUAVs/Drone Rules UPDATED

Filtering-out the Facts from Fiction & Paranoia (UPDATED 2/15/2015)
From the website
By Jeff Foster 03.14.15
 With the publishing of Jack Nicas and Andy Pasztor's speculative and interpretive article in the Wall Street Journal in the fall of 2014, it seems every news agency, media outlet and publication has totally lost their minds in a fit of hysteria liken to Chicken Little proportions; sparking "end of days" tweets and forum discussions throughout the social mediasphere that has brought on an industry-wide panic akin to Orson Wells' War of the Worlds live broadcast radio play. Let's just stop right there and breathe for a moment - turn off the TV, put down that paper and let's look at some facts... (UPDATED 3/14/2015 with FAA Activities at bottom of article)

If you're new to the sUAV (small Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) and sUAS (small Unmanned Aerial Systems) or "drones" industry and are only reading the headlines today or hearing the rumors and fears of those around you (or on TV) then you probably think that sUAV you bought or were thinking of buying for the holidays is just going to have to sit on the shelf until the FAA gets around to making up the new regulations for the industry.
You might think... but you'd be wrong.

First of all, the FAA can't make laws - only develop guidelines and regulations. The federal government has no authority whatsoever to regulate the operation of remote-controlled model aircraft.

Let's back up a little and look at how the FAA has been kicking the can down the road for several years now:
Since before 2008, there have been the same restrictions and rules in place that the FAA has been clinging too, that has made it nearly impossible for commercial, industrial, agricultural, search and rescue, forest service, firefighters and *law enforcement to get full, proper authorization to use sUAVs in their work. Even the Washington State Department of Transportation had to write up a 27-page report (PDF) on the application process for test vehicles and how it was the main barrier to entry in the industry. *Note that special applications are now available for sUAVs in public service, but they need to be requested and applied/approved by the FAA.

Chris Anderson (Founder/CEO of 3D Robotics) wrote this Regulatory FAQ on his blog DIY Drones back in March of 2008 showing that really, nothing has changed in 8 years!

In as early as 2010, the discussions of the FAA sUAS regulations NPRM (Notice of Proposed Rulemaking) were open for public commenting through mid 2011. These deadlines have been continually extended all the way up thorugh Sept, 2014 - most recently at the request of the AMA (Academy of Model Aeronautics). To be fair, most people didn't know much about the importance of having their voices heard on the subject and the AMA was trying to rally members to speak up and issue their comments.

According to Peter Sachs, Esq. of the Drone Law Journal blog, these have been the FAA's basic standing guidelines/rules, but not directly enforceable laws:
  • Don't fly above 400ft AGL
  • Don't fly within 3 miles of an airport/landing strip
  • Keep you craft within line of sight
  • Don't fly in NOAA zones and obey all TFRs/FRZs (Temporary Flight Restrictions/Flight Restricted Zones)
  • Fly safely (not near pedestrians, wildlife, buildings/property, etc. - common sense)
Again - using common sense and care when you're flying, all of these guidelines should be adhered to for the safety of everyone. Unfortunately, a lot of people either don't know about them or don't care and fly recklessly anyway - which has brought a lot of attention of this industry to the media, which is putting more pressure on the FAA to set standards for enforceable regulations of sUAVs.

Actually, it goes back even further, as you'll see in this Advisory Circular published in 1981: See circular and most of the original article HERE:


UPDATE 1/30/2015: 
"Aerial photographer Raphael Pirker has settled the civil penalty proceeding brought by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration in 2013 concerning his flight of a styrofoam Zephyr II model aircraft (or “drone”) at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville in October 2011.
The $1,100 settlement  “does not constitute an admission of any of the allegations in the case or an admission of any regulatory violation,” Pinker’s attorney Brendan Schulman said in a statement."

So where does that leave the rest of us?

Well, if you ask the FAA, you can basically do anything you want within the guidelines as long as you fly safely and don't fly for payment or commercial purposes.


That's right. According to the FAA website, you can still fly your model aircraft (weighing less than 55lbs) within all the operation limits of the guidelines stated in the Interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft as long as there's no commercial attachment.

So what does COMMERCIAL PURPOSE have to do with safety?

Good question! 

So - the FAA DOES claim to allow you to apply for special consideration by applying for a Section 333 exemption which requires you first filing for a COA (Certificates of Waiver or Authorization) in which you must first request to get an account for which to access the online application process and you get passed-on to yet another department/entity and it continues... probably best to get some legal assistance on this process and be prepared to wait in the queue.

But since the FAA has allowed exemptions for a handful of film & TV industry professionals, they've come with a lot of restrictions that a smaller company or independent couldn't possibly meet. Some restrictions demand a two-operator UAS, to last less than 30 minutes and remain under 200 feet on a closed set.

Interestingly though, all seven exemption applications for the film companies were awarded through the same law firm and lawyer.

But no word yet on the FAA's acceptance of the hundreds of other applications sent in through the process, such as construction, geological surveying/study and precision agriculture, which has been booming business in Japan for years now.