News You Really Need To See: “Private Surveillance Drones Take Flight Over Iraq”

“Private Surveillance Drones Take Flight Over Iraq”

Medium: War is Boring, April 28, 2015

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“It was a clear day in mid-March when a drone flew over the disputed city of Sinjar in northern Iraq, photographing Islamic State’s fighting positions.  When the drone landed after its 13-minute flight, a small crowd of Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers cheered and smiled.  They were puzzled by this odd airplane with white polystyrene wings so small it could fit inside the trunk of a car.  They had never seen anything like it before.  The flight plan had seven different points of interest to capture over nearly five miles of flight.  The GoPro camera attached to the LA-300 UAV was also able to photograph the details of buildings used as weapons caches. … This was not an armed drone operated by the U.S. government, but rather an unarmed surveillance drone owned by a private company.  The owners were working with Kurdish forces to help them collect intelligence — one of their weakest points in their war against Islamic State.  Jason Rexilius, an American entrepreneur, ran toward the landing zone to collect the drone lying just outside the Peshmerga headquarters — yards away from the front line.  He then took the memory card from its camera and started downloading the pictures to his Android tablet. … The Peshmerga could finally see over the city and compare the images with information gathered by reconnaissance teams on the ground. Before the drone arrived, the team faced immense difficulties accessing Islamic-State controlled parts of the city. … So with three colleagues, [Rexilius] started a company that collects open source intelligence and makes security assessments in conflict areas.  He then sells the information to governments and NGOs. … The reality is that the U.S. government has strict policies about intelligence sharing.  For one, Washington has to go through the host nation government.  In this case, it’s the Iraqi government. … Political fragmentation, a lack of trust and intelligence stovepipes often prevent competing Iraqi and Kurdish forces from sharing information with each other.”

Quickie analysis:  Spanish Civil War ideals meet cutting-edge 21st century technology.

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