Drone of the Day: Orion

William M. Arkin · 07/17/15 08:55AM

A flight of 80 hours and almost three minutes. More than three days. That’s the world record the Orion drone set last December, more than doubling the previous record set by a Global Hawk in 2001. It’s got a ridiculously long wing, 135 feet long, more than the height of a 12 story building. That and two turbo-diesel engines make Orion soar, sleek cousin to Phantom Eye and another pretender to the throne of... being another drone.

Drone of the Day: ScanEagle

William M. Arkin · 07/13/15 10:30AM

Rent a drone. Things became so bad in Afghanistan and Iraq—last time that is, before the surge and before the sausage factory could churn out enough official drones—that the military started renting them. Pixel-by-the-hour, they called it: Contractors would own them and operate them.

Drone of the Day: Pioneer

William M. Arkin · 07/09/15 11:10AM

Gone, but it shouldn’t be forgotten. Pioneer has the distinction of being the only U.S. military drone that has flown in every major conflict from 1991’s Desert Storm to the 2003 Operation Return for Another Try. Officially retired in 2010 after its “successful” use by the Marines in al Anbar province in western Iraq, Pioneer has flown. And flown. And flown.

Drone of the Day: Predator

William M. Arkin · 07/08/15 10:25AM

Predator wasn’t the first drone, but it’s become the only drone: the one we know by name, the one that kills, the high-flying border-ignoring angel of death.

Drone of the Day: X-56A

William M. Arkin · 07/07/15 02:45PM

If there is a future in unmanned commercial aviation, it is currently being explored by NASA in the form of the Lockheed Martin X-56A. Its adaptive structures and modular wing and tail surfaces are meant to be the cutting edge for designing future surveillance drones and transport aircraft. A little less than two years ago, the Air Force Research Laboratory flew the X-56A for the first time at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center (now named Armstrong Flight Research Center) in California. After the Air Force-sponsored tests, the X-56A was transferred to NASA where it flew its inaugural flight on July 26 last year. It’s currently being flown in “NASA’s Advanced Air Transport Technology (AATT) project’s Higher Aspect Ratio Wing subproject, Performance Adaptive Aeroelastic Wing element.” A very fancy name for a project that supports low-emission, high efficiency aircraft with less aerodynamic drag.

Drones Author Discusses Imprecision, Legal Blindess, and the CIA

William M. Arkin · 04/30/15 11:45AM

Andrew Cockburn is one third of a famous Irish journalist trio of brothers (along with Patrick and the late Alexander), and an intrepid reporter in his own right. He’s covered Iraq, both before and after the 2003 invasion, the Colombian cocaine cartels, the Red Princes that rule China, the rise of modern slavery, blood diamonds in Africa, and the covert U.S.-Israeli defense and intelligence connection. He co-produced the 1997 DreamWorks feature movie The Peacemaker, and American Casino, the 2009 feature documentary on the Wall Street crash; and, for the Gawkerverse, he’s the father of actress Olivia Wilde.

Will The Death of Two Hostages Finally Force Us to Face Drone Killing?

William M. Arkin · 04/23/15 11:50PM

I am watching the reaction to the unintended drone killing of civilian hostages American Warren Weinstein and Italian Giovanni Lo Porto and sensing a sea change. The kind that rocks Washington in inscrutable ways, the kind that puts an end to the he said/she said back and forth, the kind that unites both sides—all sides—in asking the tough questions that go beyond what went wrong and focus on what we are doing.

U.S. Inadvertently Kills Adam Gadahn, Saves $1,000,000

William M. Arkin · 04/23/15 01:50PM

The two American al-Qaeda members killed in counterterrorism operations acknowledged by the White House this morning, Adam Gadahn and Ahmed Farouq, were the fifth and sixth Americans killed in drone strikes. Both were killed in January, according to information released so far, in two separate operations. The White House says that it “declassified” the operations and deaths because Obama felt the American people deserved to know about them, but one source familiar with the way the story played out tells me that reporters had been nosing around about American Warren Weinstein and Italian Giovanni Lo Porto, two hostages who were also killed by our drones.

Is Germany Really The Heart Of America's Drone War?

William M. Arkin · 04/20/15 03:15PM

When it comes to the drone war or NSA or the “U.S. war machine,” Germany is no more important to our interests than Belgium or Qatar or Guam. It isn’t even a front-line nation anymore, and our spying on the government there isn’t unique or in any way special. There are all sorts of spooky things happening on German soil—spooky, at least, to the public at large—but what’s going on there is not some devious Americanische Fritzkrieg.