Home      Discussion      Topics      Dictionary      Almanac
Signup       Login
Unmanned aerial vehicle

Unmanned aerial vehicle

Overview
An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), also known as a unmanned aircraft system (UAS), remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) or unmanned aircraft, is a machine which functions either by the remote control of a navigator
Navigator
A navigator is the person on board a ship or aircraft responsible for its navigation. The navigator's primary responsibility is to be aware of ship or aircraft position at all times. Responsibilities include planning the journey, advising the Captain or aircraft Commander of estimated timing to...

 or pilot
Aviator
An aviator is a person who flies an aircraft. The first recorded use of the term was in 1887, as a variation of 'aviation', from the Latin avis , coined in 1863 by G. de la Landelle in Aviation Ou Navigation Aérienne...

 (called a Combat Systems Officer on UCAVs) or autonomously, that is, as a self-directing entity. Their largest use is within military
Military
A military is an organization authorized by its greater society to use lethal force, usually including use of weapons, in defending its country by combating actual or perceived threats. The military may have additional functions of use to its greater society, such as advancing a political agenda e.g...

 applications.
Discussion
Ask a question about 'Unmanned aerial vehicle'
Start a new discussion about 'Unmanned aerial vehicle'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Unanswered Questions
Encyclopedia
An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), also known as a unmanned aircraft system (UAS), remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) or unmanned aircraft, is a machine which functions either by the remote control of a navigator
Navigator
A navigator is the person on board a ship or aircraft responsible for its navigation. The navigator's primary responsibility is to be aware of ship or aircraft position at all times. Responsibilities include planning the journey, advising the Captain or aircraft Commander of estimated timing to...

 or pilot
Aviator
An aviator is a person who flies an aircraft. The first recorded use of the term was in 1887, as a variation of 'aviation', from the Latin avis , coined in 1863 by G. de la Landelle in Aviation Ou Navigation Aérienne...

 (called a Combat Systems Officer on UCAVs) or autonomously, that is, as a self-directing entity. Their largest use is within military
Military
A military is an organization authorized by its greater society to use lethal force, usually including use of weapons, in defending its country by combating actual or perceived threats. The military may have additional functions of use to its greater society, such as advancing a political agenda e.g...

 applications. To distinguish UAVs from missiles, a UAV is defined as a "powered, aerial vehicle that does not carry a human operator, uses aerodynamic forces to provide vehicle lift, can fly autonomously or be piloted remotely, can be expendable or recoverable, and can carry a lethal or nonlethal payload". Therefore, cruise missile
Cruise missile
A cruise missile is a guided missile that carries an explosive payload and is propelled, usually by a jet engine, towards a land-based or sea-based target. Cruise missiles are designed to deliver a large warhead over long distances with high accuracy...

s are not considered UAVs, because, like many other guided missiles, the vehicle itself is a weapon that is not reused, even though it is also unmanned and in some cases remotely guided.

There are a wide variety of UAV shapes, sizes, configurations, and characteristics. Historically, UAVs were simple drones (remotely piloted aircraft
Aircraft
An aircraft is a vehicle that is able to fly by gaining support from the air, or, in general, the atmosphere of a planet. An aircraft counters the force of gravity by using either static lift or by using the dynamic lift of an airfoil, or in a few cases the downward thrust from jet engines.Although...

), but autonomous control is increasingly being employed in UAVs. UAVs come in two varieties: some are controlled from a remote location (which may even be many thousands of kilometers away, on another continent), and others fly autonomously based on pre-programmed flight plans using more complex dynamic automation systems.

Currently, military UAVs perform reconnaissance
Reconnaissance
Reconnaissance is the military term for exploring beyond the area occupied by friendly forces to gain information about enemy forces or features of the environment....

 as well as attack missions. While many successful drone attacks on militants have been reported, they have a reputation of being prone to collateral damage
Collateral damage
Collateral damage is damage to people or property that is unintended or incidental to the intended outcome. The phrase is prevalently used as an euphemism for civilian casualties of a military action.-Etymology:...

 and/or erroneous targeting, as with many other weapon types. UAVs are also used in a small but growing number of civil applications, such as firefighting or nonmilitary security work, such as surveillance of pipelines. UAVs are often preferred for missions that are too "dull, dirty, or dangerous" for manned aircraft.

History


The earliest attempt at a powered unmanned aerial vehicle was A. M. Low
Archibald Low
Archibald Montgomery Low was an English consulting engineer, research physicist and inventor, and author of more than 40 books....

's "Aerial Target
Aerial warfare
Aerial warfare is the use of military aircraft and other flying machines in warfare, including military airlift of cargo to further the national interests as was demonstrated in the Berlin Airlift...

" of 1916. Nikola Tesla
Nikola Tesla
Nikola Tesla was a Serbian-American inventor, mechanical engineer, and electrical engineer...

 described a fleet of unmanned aerial combat vehicles in 1915. A number of remote-controlled airplane advances followed, including the Hewitt-Sperry Automatic Airplane
Hewitt-Sperry Automatic Airplane
The Hewitt-Sperry Automatic Airplane was a project undertaken during World War I to develop an aerial torpedo, also called a flying bomb or pilotless aircraft, capable of carrying explosives to its target...

, during and after World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, including the first scale RPV (Remote Piloted Vehicle), developed by the film star and model airplane enthusiast Reginald Denny
Reginald Denny (actor)
Reginald Denny was an English stage, film, and television actor. He was once an amateur boxing champion of Great Britain.-Acting career:...

 in 1935. More were made in the technology rush during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

; these were used both to train antiaircraft gunners and to fly attack missions. Jet engine
Jet engine
A jet engine is a reaction engine that discharges a fast moving jet to generate thrust by jet propulsion and in accordance with Newton's laws of motion. This broad definition of jet engines includes turbojets, turbofans, rockets, ramjets, pulse jets...

s were applied after World War II, in such types as the Teledyne Ryan Firebee I
Ryan Firebee
The Ryan Firebee was a series of target drones or unmanned aerial vehicles developed by the Ryan Aeronautical Company beginning in 1951. It was one of the first jet-propelled drones, and one of the most widely-used target drones ever built....

 of 1951, while companies like Beechcraft
Beechcraft
Beechcraft is an American manufacturer of general aviation and military aircraft, ranging from light single engine aircraft to business jets and light military transports. Previously a division of Raytheon, it has been a brand of Hawker Beechcraft since 2006....

 also got in the game with their Model 1001 for the United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

 in 1955. Nevertheless, they were little more than remote-controlled airplanes until the Vietnam Era
Vietnam Era
Vietnam Era is a term used by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs to classify veterans of the Vietnam War. The Vietnam Era is a considered to have begun in 1964 and ended in 1975. The U.S. Congress, U.S...

.

The birth of U.S. UAVs (called RPVs at the time) began in 1959 when United States Air Force
United States Air Force
The United States Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the American uniformed services. Initially part of the United States Army, the USAF was formed as a separate branch of the military on September 18, 1947 under the National Security Act of...

 (USAF) officers, concerned about losing pilots
Aviator
An aviator is a person who flies an aircraft. The first recorded use of the term was in 1887, as a variation of 'aviation', from the Latin avis , coined in 1863 by G. de la Landelle in Aviation Ou Navigation Aérienne...

 over hostile territory, began planning for the use of unmanned flights. This plan became intensified when Francis Gary Powers and his "secret" U-2
Lockheed U-2
The Lockheed U-2, nicknamed "Dragon Lady", is a single-engine, very high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft operated by the United States Air Force and previously flown by the Central Intelligence Agency . It provides day and night, very high-altitude , all-weather intelligence gathering...

 were shot down over the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 in 1960. Within days, the highly classified
Classified information
Classified information is sensitive information to which access is restricted by law or regulation to particular groups of persons. A formal security clearance is required to handle classified documents or access classified data. The clearance process requires a satisfactory background investigation...

 UAV program was launched under the code name of "Red Wagon." The August 2 and August 4, 1964, clash in the Tonkin Gulf between naval units of the U.S. and North Vietnamese Navy initiated America's highly classified UAVs into their first combat missions of the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

. When the "Red Chinese" showed photographs of downed U.S. UAVs via Wide World Photos, the official U.S. response was, "no comment."

Only on February 26, 1973, during testimony before the United States House Committee on Appropriations
United States House Committee on Appropriations
The Committee on Appropriations is a committee of the United States House of Representatives. It is in charge of setting the specific expenditures of money by the government of the United States...

, did the U.S. military officially confirm that they had been utilizing UAVs in Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia, South-East Asia, South East Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia. The region lies on the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic...

 (Vietnam). While over 5,000 U.S. airmen had been killed and over 1,000 more were either missing in action (MIA
Missing in action
Missing in action is a casualty Category assigned under the Status of Missing to armed services personnel who are reported missing during active service. They may have been killed, wounded, become a prisoner of war, or deserted. If deceased, neither their remains nor grave can be positively...

), or captured (prisoners of war/POW); the USAF 100th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing had flown approximately 3,435 UAV missions during the war, at a cost of about 554 UAVs lost to all causes. In the words of USAF General
General
A general officer is an officer of high military rank, usually in the army, and in some nations, the air force. The term is widely used by many nations of the world, and when a country uses a different term, there is an equivalent title given....

 George S. Brown, Commander, Air Force Systems Command
Air Force Systems Command
Air Force Systems Command is a former United States Air Force command. Its headquarters was located at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland...

 in 1972, "The only reason we need (UAVs) is that we don't want to needlessly expend the man in the cockpit." Later that same year, General John C. Meyer
John C. Meyer
General John Charles Meyer was an American World War II flying ace, and later the commander in chief of the Strategic Air Command and director of the Joint Strategic Target Planning Staff at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska...

, Commander in Chief, Strategic Air Command
Strategic Air Command
The Strategic Air Command was both a Major Command of the United States Air Force and a "specified command" of the United States Department of Defense. SAC was the operational establishment in charge of America's land-based strategic bomber aircraft and land-based intercontinental ballistic...

, stated, "we let the drone do the high-risk flying ... the loss rate is high, but we are willing to risk more of them ... they save lives!"

During the 1973 Yom Kippur War
Yom Kippur War
The Yom Kippur War, Ramadan War or October War , also known as the 1973 Arab-Israeli War and the Fourth Arab-Israeli War, was fought from October 6 to 25, 1973, between Israel and a coalition of Arab states led by Egypt and Syria...

, Syrian missile batteries in Lebanon caused heavy damage to Israeli fighter jets. As a result, Israel developed the first modern UAV. Israel pioneered the use of UAVs for real-time surveillance, electronic warfare and decoys.

The images and radar decoying provided by these UAVs helped Israel to completely neutralize the Syrian air defenses at the start of the 1982 Lebanon War
1982 Lebanon War
The 1982 Lebanon War , , called Operation Peace for Galilee by Israel, and later known in Israel as the Lebanon War and First Lebanon War, began on 6 June 1982, when the Israel Defense Forces invaded southern Lebanon...

, resulting in no pilots downed.

With the maturing and miniaturization of applicable technologies as seen in the 1980s and 1990s, interest in UAVs grew within the higher echelons of the U.S. military. In the 90s the U.S. Department of Defense began to buy UAVs from Israel. The Navy bought the Pioneer UAV, which is still in use. Many of these Israeli and newly developed U.S. UAVs were used in the 1991 Gulf War.
UAVs were seen to offer the possibility of cheaper, more capable fighting machines that could be used without risk to aircrews. Initial generations were primarily surveillance aircraft
Surveillance aircraft
A surveillance aircraft is an aircraft used for surveillance — collecting information over time. They are operated by military forces and other government agencies in roles such as intelligence gathering, battlefield surveillance, airspace surveillance, observation , border patrol and fishery...

, but some were armed (such as the General Atomics MQ-1 Predator, which utilized AGM-114 Hellfire
AGM-114 Hellfire
The AGM-114 Hellfire is an air-to-surface missile developed primarily for anti-armor use. It has multi-mission, multi-target precision-strike capability, and can be launched from multiple air, sea, and ground platforms. The Hellfire missile is the primary 100 lb-class air-to-ground precision...

 air-to-ground missiles). An armed UAV is known as an unmanned combat air vehicle
Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle
An unmanned combat air vehicle or combat drone is an unmanned aerial vehicle that is designed to deliver weapons without an onboard pilot. Currently operational UCAVs are under real-time human control, but future version may enable autonomous operation, for example with pre-programmed route and...

 (UCAV).

As a tool for search and rescue
Search and rescue
Search and rescue is the search for and provision of aid to people who are in distress or imminent danger.The general field of search and rescue includes many specialty sub-fields, mostly based upon terrain considerations...

, UAVs can help find humans lost in the wilderness, trapped in collapsed buildings, or adrift at sea.

FAA designation


In the United States, the United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

 and shortly after the Federal Aviation Administration
Federal Aviation Administration
The Federal Aviation Administration is the national aviation authority of the United States. An agency of the United States Department of Transportation, it has authority to regulate and oversee all aspects of civil aviation in the U.S...

 has adopted the name unmanned aircraft (UA) to describe aircraft systems without the flight crew on board. More common names include: UAV, drone, remotely piloted vehicle (RPV), remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), remotely operated aircraft (ROA), and for those "limited-size" (as defined by the FAI
Fédération Aéronautique Internationale
The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale is the world governing body for air sports and aeronautics and astronautics world records. Its head office is in Lausanne, Switzerland. This includes man-carrying aerospace vehicles from balloons to spacecraft, and unmanned aerial vehicles...

) unmanned aircraft flown in the USA's National Airspace System
National Airspace System
The National Airspace System of the United States is one of the most complex aviation systems in the world — consisting of thousands of people, procedures, facilities, and pieces of equipment — that enables safe and expeditious air travel in the United States and over large portions of the world's...

, flown solely for recreation and sport purposes such as models and radio control (R/Cs), which are generally flown under the voluntary safety standards of the Academy of Model Aeronautics
Academy of Model Aeronautics
The Academy of Model Aeronautics, based in Muncie, Indiana, USA, is a non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of model aviation as a recognized sport as well as a recreational activity. It is the largest organization of its kind with a current membership of more than 170,000...

, the United States' national aeromodeling organization.

The term unmanned aircraft system (UAS) emphasizes the importance of other elements beyond an aircraft itself. A typical UAS consists of the:
  • unmanned aircraft (UA)
  • control system, such as Ground Control Station
    Ground control station
    A ground control station is a land- or sea-based control center that provides the facilities for human control of unmanned vehicles in the air or in space. A GCS could be used to control unmanned aerial vehicles or rockets within or above the atmosphere....

     (GCS)
  • control link, a specialized datalink
  • other related support equipment.


For example, the RQ-7 Shadow
RQ-7 Shadow
The RQ-7 Shadow unmanned aerial vehicle is used by the United States Army and Marine Corps. Launched from a trailer-mounted pneumatic catapult, it is recovered with the aid of arresting gear similar to jets on an aircraft carrier...

 UAS consists of four UAs, two GCSes, one portable GCS, one Launcher, two Ground Data Terminals (GDTs), one portable GDT, and one Remote Video Terminal. Certain military units are also fielded with a maintenance support vehicle.

Because of this systemic approach UAS have been not included in the United States Munitions List Category VIII – Aircraft and Associated Equipment.
Vice versa, the “Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Systems” are clearly mentioned at paragraph 121-16 Missile Technology Control Regime Annex of the United States Munitions List.
More precisely, the Missile Technology Control Regime Annex levels rocket and unmanned aerial vehicle systems together.

The term UAS was since adopted by the United States Department of Defense
United States Department of Defense
The United States Department of Defense is the U.S...

 (DoD) and the British Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

The term used previously for unmanned aircraft system was unmanned-aircraft vehicle system (UAVS).

Classification



UAVs typically fall into one of six functional categories (although multi-role airframe platforms are becoming more prevalent):
  • Target and decoy – providing ground and aerial gunnery a target that simulates an enemy aircraft or missile
  • Reconnaissance – providing battlefield intelligence
  • Combat – providing attack capability for high-risk missions (see Unmanned combat air vehicle
    Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle
    An unmanned combat air vehicle or combat drone is an unmanned aerial vehicle that is designed to deliver weapons without an onboard pilot. Currently operational UCAVs are under real-time human control, but future version may enable autonomous operation, for example with pre-programmed route and...

    )
  • Logistics – UAVs specifically designed for cargo and logistics operation
  • Research and development – used to further develop UAV technologies to be integrated into field deployed UAV aircraft
  • Civil and Commercial UAVs – UAVs specifically designed for civil and commercial applications



They can also be categorised in terms of range/altitude and the following has been advanced as relevant at such industry events as ParcAberporth
ParcAberporth
ParcAberporth is a technology park created on what was Royal Air Force station Aberporth, near the village of that name in the county of Ceredigion, Wales. The station was one of two local sites that had been used as a site for a missile range that stretched out for some miles into the nearby...

 Unmanned Systems forum:
  • Handheld 2000 ft (609.6 m) altitude, about 2 km range
  • Close 5000 ft (1,524 m) altitude, up to 10 km range

  • NATO type 10000 ft (3,048 m) altitude, up to 50 km range
  • Tactical 18000 ft (5,486.4 m) altitude, about 160 km range
  • MALE (medium altitude, long endurance) up to 30000 ft (9,144 m) and range over 200 km
  • HALE (high altitude, long endurance) over 30000 ft (9,144 m) and indefinite range
  • HYPERSONIC high-speed, supersonic (Mach 1–5) or hypersonic (Mach 5+) 50000 ft (15,240 m) or suborbital altitude, range over 200 km
  • ORBITAL low earth orbit (Mach 25+)
  • CIS Lunar Earth-Moon transfer
  • CACGS Computer Assisted Carrier Guidance System for UAVs


The United States military employs a tier system
U.S. Military UAV tier system
The modern concept of United States Department of Defense UAVs is to have the various aircraft systems work together in support of personnel on the ground. The integration scheme is described in terms of a "Tier" system, and is used by military planners to designate the various individual aircraft...

 for categorizing its UAVs.

Classifications by the United States military


The modern concept of U.S. military UAVs is to have the various aircraft systems work together in support of personnel on the ground. The integration scheme is described in terms of a "Tier" system, and is used by military planners to designate the various individual aircraft elements in an overall usage plan for integrated operations. The Tiers do not refer to specific models of aircraft, but rather roles for which various models and their manufacturers competed. The U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Marine Corps each has its own tier system, and the two systems are themselves not integrated.

US Air Force tiers


  • Tier N/A: Small/Micro UAV. Role filled by BATMAV (Wasp Block III).
  • Tier I: Low altitude, long endurance. Role filled by the Gnat 750
    GNAT-750
    -References:This article contains material that originally came from the web article by Greg Goebel, which exists in the Public Domain.-External links:* at the FAS* http://www.designation-systems.net/dusrm/app4/gnat.html...

    .
  • Tier II: Medium altitude, long endurance (MALE). Role currently filled by the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper
    MQ-9 Reaper
    The General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper is an unmanned aerial vehicle , capable of remote controlled or autonomous flight operations, developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems for use by the United States Air Force, the United States Navy, the CIA, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Royal...

    .
  • Tier II+: High altitude, long endurance conventional UAV (or HALE UAV). Altitude: 60,000 to 65000 feet (19,812 m), less than 300 knots (588 km/h) airspeed, 3000 nautical miles (5,556 km) radius, 24 hour time-on-station capability. Complementary to the Tier III- aircraft. Role currently filled by the RQ-4 Global Hawk
    RQ-4 Global Hawk
    The Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk is an unmanned aerial vehicle used by the United States Air Force and Navy as a surveillance aircraft....

    .
  • Tier III-: High altitude, long endurance low-observable UAV. Same parameters as, and complementary to, the Tier II+ aircraft. The RQ-3 DarkStar
    RQ-3 Dark Star
    -See also:- Footnotes :ReferencesSources* Specifications and second and third paragraphs: Display information on exhibit at Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington, US.- External links :* *...

     was originally intended to fulfill this role before it was "terminated." On December 4, 2009 the USAF confirmed the existence of the RQ-170 Sentinel.

US Marine Corps tiers

  • Tier N/A: Micro UAV. Wasp III fills this role, driven largely by the desire for commonality with the USAF BATMAV.
  • Tier I: Role currently filled by the Dragon Eye
    Dragon Eye
    The Dragon Eye Unmanned Aerial Vehicle is a small reconnaissance UAV developed by the Naval Research Laboratory and the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory for use by the U.S. Marine Corps....

     but all ongoing and future procurement for the Dragon Eye program is going now to the RQ-11B Raven B.
  • Tier II: Role currently filled by the ScanEagle
    ScanEagle
    ScanEagle is a small, low-cost, long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle built by Insitu, a subsidiary of Boeing. The ScanEagle was designed by Insitu and continues to be upgraded with improved technology and designed-in reliability improvements....

     and, to some extent, the RQ-2 Pioneer
    RQ-2 Pioneer
    -External links:*...

    .
  • Tier III: For two decades, the role of medium range tactical UAV was filled by the Pioneer UAV. In July 2007, the Marine Corps announced its intention to retire the aging Pioneer fleet and transition to the Shadow Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System by AAI Corporation
    AAI Corporation
    AAI Corporation is an aerospace and defense development and manufacturing firm in Hunt Valley, Maryland, USA. It is formerly a wholly owned subsidiary of United Industrial Corporation, AAI was acquired by Textron in 2007 and currently is an operating unit of Textron Systems Corporation...

    . The first Marine Shadow systems have already been delivered, and training for their respective Marine Corps units is underway.

US Army tiers

  • Tier I: Small UAV. Role filled by the RQ-11A/B Raven.
  • Tier II: Short Range Tactical UAV. Role filled by the RQ-7A/B Shadow 200
    RQ-7 Shadow
    The RQ-7 Shadow unmanned aerial vehicle is used by the United States Army and Marine Corps. Launched from a trailer-mounted pneumatic catapult, it is recovered with the aid of arresting gear similar to jets on an aircraft carrier...

    .
  • Tier III: Medium Range Tactical UAV. Role currently filled by the RQ-5A / MQ-5A/B Hunter
    RQ-5 Hunter
    The RQ-5 Hunter unmanned aerial vehicle was originally intended to serve as the United States Army's Short Range UAV system for division and corps commanders. It took off and landed on runways. It used a gimbaled EO/IR sensor to relay its video in real time via a second airborne Hunter over a...

     and IGNAT/IGNAT-ER, but transitioning to the Extended Range Multi-Purpose (ERMP) MQ-1C Gray Eagle.

Future Combat Systems (FCS) (US Army) classes

  • Class I: For small units. Role to be filled by all new UAV with some similarity to micro air vehicle
    Micro air vehicle
    A micro air vehicle , or micro aerial vehicle , is a class of unmanned aerial vehicles that has a size restriction and may be autonomous. Modern craft can be as small as 15 centimetres...

    .
  • Class II: For companies (cancelled).
  • Class III: For battalions (cancelled).
  • Class IV: For brigades. Role to be filled by the RQ-8A/B / MQ-8B Fire Scout.

Unmanned aircraft system


UAS, or unmanned aircraft system, is the official United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) term for an unmanned aerial vehicle. Initially coined by the FAA in 2004 to reflect the fact that these complex systems include ground stations and other elements besides the actual aircraft, the term was first officially used by the FAA in early 2005 and subsequently adopted by DoD that same year in their Unmanned Aircraft System Roadmap 2005–2030. Many people have mistakenly used the term Unmanned Aerial System, or Unmanned Air Vehicle System, as these designations were in provisional use at one time or another. The inclusion of the term aircraft
Aircraft
An aircraft is a vehicle that is able to fly by gaining support from the air, or, in general, the atmosphere of a planet. An aircraft counters the force of gravity by using either static lift or by using the dynamic lift of an airfoil, or in a few cases the downward thrust from jet engines.Although...

 emphasizes that regardless of the location of the pilot and flightcrew, the operations must comply with the same regulations and procedures as do those aircraft with the pilot and flightcrew onboard. The official acronym 'UAS' is also used by the International Civil Aviation Organization
International Civil Aviation Organization
The International Civil Aviation Organization , pronounced , , is a specialized agency of the United Nations. It codifies the principles and techniques of international air navigation and fosters the planning and development of international air transport to ensure safe and orderly growth...

 (ICAO) and other government aviation regulatory organizations.
The military role of unmanned aircraft systems is growing at unprecedented rates. In 2005, tactical- and theater-level unmanned aircraft alone had flown over 100,000 flight hours in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, in which they are organized under Task Force Liberty in Afghanistan and Task Force ODIN
Task Force ODIN
Task Force ODIN, whose name is an acronym for Observe, Detect, Identify, and Neutralize, is a United States Army aviation battalion created in August 2006 to conduct reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition operations to combat insurgent operators of improvised explosive devices in...

 in Iraq. Rapid advances in technology are enabling more and more capability to be placed on smaller airframes which is spurring a large increase in the number of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (SUAS) being deployed on the battlefield. The use of SUAS in combat is so new that no formal DoD wide reporting procedures have been established to track SUAS flight hours. As the capabilities grow for all types of UAS, nations continue to subsidize their research and development leading to further advances enabling them to perform a multitude of missions. UAS no longer only perform intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions, although this still remains their predominant type. Their roles have expanded to areas including electronic attack, strike missions, suppression and/or destruction of enemy air defense, network node or communications relay, combat search and rescue
Search and rescue
Search and rescue is the search for and provision of aid to people who are in distress or imminent danger.The general field of search and rescue includes many specialty sub-fields, mostly based upon terrain considerations...

, and derivations of these themes. These UAS range in cost from a few thousand dollars to tens of millions of dollars, with aircraft ranging from less than one pound to over 40,000 pounds.

When the Obama administration announced in December 2009 the deployment of 30,000 new troops in Afghanistan, there was already an increase of attacks by pilotless Predator drones against Taliban and Al Qaeda militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan's tribal areas
Federally Administered Tribal Areas
The Federally Administered Tribal Areas are a semi-autonomous tribal region in the northwest of Pakistan, lying between the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, and the neighboring country of Afghanistan. The FATA comprise seven Agencies and six FRs...

, of which one probably killed a key member of Al Qaeda. However, neither Osama bin Laden
Osama bin Laden
Osama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden was the founder of the militant Islamist organization Al-Qaeda, the jihadist organization responsible for the September 11 attacks on the United States and numerous other mass-casualty attacks against civilian and military targets...

 nor Ayman al-Zawahiri
Ayman al-Zawahiri
Ayman Mohammed Rabie al-Zawahiri is an Egyptian physician, Islamic theologian and current leader of al-Qaeda. He was previously the second and last "emir" of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, having succeeded Abbud al-Zumar in the latter role when Egyptian authorities sentenced al-Zumar to life...

 was the likely target, according to reports. According to a report of the New America Foundation
New America Foundation
The New America Foundation is a non-profit public policy institute and think tank with offices in Washington, D.C. and Sacramento, CA. It was founded in 1999 by Ted Halstead, Sherle Schwenninger, Michael Lind and Walter Russell Mead....

, armed drone strikes had dramatically increased under President Obama – even before his deployment decision. There were 43 such attacks between January and October 2009. The report draws on what it deems to be "credible" local and national media stories about the attacks. That compared with a total of 34 in all of 2008, President Bush’s last full year in office. Since 2006, drone-launched missiles allegedly had killed between 750 and 1,000 people in Pakistan, according to the report. Of these, about 20 people were said to be leaders of Al Qaeda, Taliban, and associated groups. Overall, 66% to 68% of the people killed were militants, and 31% to 33% were civilians. US officials disputed the percentage for civilians.
The U.S. Air Force has recently begun referring at least to larger UAS like Predator, Reaper, and Global Hawk as Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA), to highlight the fact that these systems are always controlled by a human operator at some location.

Uses


UAVs perform a wide variety of functions. The majority of these functions are some form of remote sensing
Remote sensing
Remote sensing is the acquisition of information about an object or phenomenon, without making physical contact with the object. In modern usage, the term generally refers to the use of aerial sensor technologies to detect and classify objects on Earth by means of propagated signals Remote sensing...

; this is central to the reconnaissance
Reconnaissance
Reconnaissance is the military term for exploring beyond the area occupied by friendly forces to gain information about enemy forces or features of the environment....

 role most UAVs fulfill. Less common UAV functions include interaction and transport
Transport
Transport or transportation is the movement of people, cattle, animals and goods from one location to another. Modes of transport include air, rail, road, water, cable, pipeline, and space. The field can be divided into infrastructure, vehicles, and operations...

.

Remote sensing


UAV remote sensing functions include electromagnetic spectrum
Electromagnetic spectrum
The electromagnetic spectrum is the range of all possible frequencies of electromagnetic radiation. The "electromagnetic spectrum" of an object is the characteristic distribution of electromagnetic radiation emitted or absorbed by that particular object....

 sensors, gamma ray sensors, biological sensors, and chemical sensors. A UAV's electromagnetic sensors typically include visual spectrum, infrared
Infrared
Infrared light is electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength longer than that of visible light, measured from the nominal edge of visible red light at 0.74 micrometres , and extending conventionally to 300 µm...

, or near infrared cameras as well as radar systems. Other electromagnetic wave detectors such as microwave and ultraviolet spectrum sensors may also be used, but are uncommon. Biological sensors are sensors capable of detecting the airborne presence of various microorganisms and other biological factors. Chemical sensors use laser spectroscopy to analyze the concentrations of each element
Chemical element
A chemical element is a pure chemical substance consisting of one type of atom distinguished by its atomic number, which is the number of protons in its nucleus. Familiar examples of elements include carbon, oxygen, aluminum, iron, copper, gold, mercury, and lead.As of November 2011, 118 elements...

 in the air.

Commercial aerial surveillance


Aerial surveillance of large areas is made possible with low cost UAV systems. Surveillance applications include: livestock monitoring, wildfire mapping, pipeline security, home security, road patrol and anti-piracy. The trend for use of UAV technology in commercial aerial surveillance is expanding rapidly.

Oil, gas and mineral exploration and production


UAVs can be used to perform geophysical surveys, in particular geomagnetic surveys where the processed measurements of the differential Earth's magnetic field strength are used to calculate the nature of the underlying magnetic rock structure. A knowledge of the underlying rock structure helps trained geophysicists to predict the location of mineral deposits. The production side of oil and gas exploration and production entails the monitoring of the integrity of oil and gas pipelines and related installations. For above-ground pipelines, this monitoring activity could be performed using digital cameras mounted on one, or more, UAVs. The InView Unmanned Aircraft System
InView Unmanned Aircraft System
The "InView Unmanned Aircraft System" is an Unmanned aerial vehicle that has been developed by Barnard Microsystems Limited in the United Kingdom specifically for use in scientific, commercial and state applications...

 is an example of a UAV developed for use in oil, gas and mineral exploration and production activities.

Transport


UAVs can transport goods using various means based on the configuration of the UAV itself. Most payloads are stored in an internal payload bay somewhere in the airframe. For many helicopter
Helicopter
A helicopter is a type of rotorcraft in which lift and thrust are supplied by one or more engine-driven rotors. This allows the helicopter to take off and land vertically, to hover, and to fly forwards, backwards, and laterally...

 configurations, external payloads can be tethered to the bottom of the airframe. With fixed wing
Fixed-wing aircraft
A fixed-wing aircraft is an aircraft capable of flight using wings that generate lift due to the vehicle's forward airspeed. Fixed-wing aircraft are distinct from rotary-wing aircraft in which wings rotate about a fixed mast and ornithopters in which lift is generated by flapping wings.A powered...

 UAVs, payloads can also be attached to the airframe, but aerodynamics
Aerodynamics
Aerodynamics is a branch of dynamics concerned with studying the motion of air, particularly when it interacts with a moving object. Aerodynamics is a subfield of fluid dynamics and gas dynamics, with much theory shared between them. Aerodynamics is often used synonymously with gas dynamics, with...

 of the aircraft with the payload must be assessed. For such situations, payloads are often enclosed in aerodynamic pods for transport.

Scientific research


Unmanned aircraft are uniquely capable of penetrating areas which may be too dangerous for piloted craft. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) began utilizing the Aerosonde
Insitu Aerosonde
The Aerosonde is a small unmanned aerial vehicle designed to collect weather data, including temperature, atmospheric pressure, humidity, and wind measurements, over oceans and remote areas. The Aerosonde was developed by Insitu, and is now manufactured by Aerosonde Ltd, which is a strategic...

 unmanned aircraft system in 2006 as a hurricane hunter. AAI Corporation subsidiary Aerosonde Pty Ltd
Aerosonde Ltd
Aerosonde Ltd is an Australian-based developer and manufacturer of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, including the Insitu Aerosonde series. The company has customers in Australia, Asia and North America who utilize its vehicles for reconnaissance and meteorological applications.The company gained...

. of Victoria (Australia)
Victoria (Australia)
Victoria is the second most populous state in Australia. Geographically the smallest mainland state, Victoria is bordered by New South Wales, South Australia, and Tasmania on Boundary Islet to the north, west and south respectively....

, designs and manufactures the 35-pound system, which can fly into a hurricane and communicate near-real-time data directly to the National Hurricane Center
National Hurricane Center
The National Hurricane Center , located at Florida International University in Miami, Florida, is the division of the National Weather Service responsible for tracking and predicting weather systems within the tropics between the Prime Meridian and the 140th meridian west poleward to the 30th...

 in Florida
Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

. Beyond the standard barometric pressure and temperature data typically culled from manned hurricane hunters, the Aerosonde system provides measurements far closer to the water’s surface than previously captured. Further applications for unmanned aircraft can be explored once solutions have been developed for their accommodation within national airspace, an issue currently under discussion by the Federal Aviation Administration
Federal Aviation Administration
The Federal Aviation Administration is the national aviation authority of the United States. An agency of the United States Department of Transportation, it has authority to regulate and oversee all aspects of civil aviation in the U.S...

. UAVSI, the UK manufacturer also produce a variant of their Vigilant light UAS (20 kg) designed specifically for scientific research in severe climates such as the Antarctic.

Armed attacks



MQ-1 Predator UAVs armed with Hellfire missiles
AGM-114 Hellfire
The AGM-114 Hellfire is an air-to-surface missile developed primarily for anti-armor use. It has multi-mission, multi-target precision-strike capability, and can be launched from multiple air, sea, and ground platforms. The Hellfire missile is the primary 100 lb-class air-to-ground precision...

 are now used as platforms for hitting ground targets in sensitive areas. Armed Predators were first used in late 2001 from bases in Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

 and Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan , officially the Republic of Uzbekistan is a doubly landlocked country in Central Asia and one of the six independent Turkic states. It shares borders with Kazakhstan to the west and to the north, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to the east, and Afghanistan and Turkmenistan to the south....

, mostly for hitting high profile individuals (terrorist leaders etc.) inside Afghanistan. Since then, there have been several reported cases of such attacks taking place in Pakistan, this time from Afghan-based Predators. The advantage of using an unmanned vehicle, rather than a manned aircraft, in such cases is to avoid a diplomatic embarrassment should the aircraft be shot down and the pilots captured, since the bombings took place in countries deemed friendly and without the official permission of those countries.

A Predator based in a neighboring Arab country was used to kill suspected al-Qaeda
Al-Qaeda
Al-Qaeda is a global broad-based militant Islamist terrorist organization founded by Osama bin Laden sometime between August 1988 and late 1989. It operates as a network comprising both a multinational, stateless army and a radical Sunni Muslim movement calling for global Jihad...

 terrorists in Yemen
Yemen
The Republic of Yemen , commonly known as Yemen , is a country located in the Middle East, occupying the southwestern to southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, the Red Sea to the west, and Oman to the east....

 on November 3, 2002. This marked the first use of an armed Predator as an attack aircraft outside of a theater of war such as Afghanistan.

Questions have been raised about the accuracy of the targeting of UAVs. In March 2009, The Guardian
The Guardian
The Guardian, formerly known as The Manchester Guardian , is a British national daily newspaper in the Berliner format...

 reported allegations that Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

i UAVs armed with missiles killed 48 Palestinian civilians
Palestinian people
The Palestinian people, also referred to as Palestinians or Palestinian Arabs , are an Arabic-speaking people with origins in Palestine. Despite various wars and exoduses, roughly one third of the world's Palestinian population continues to reside in the area encompassing the West Bank, the Gaza...

 in the Gaza Strip
Gaza Strip
thumb|Gaza city skylineThe Gaza Strip lies on the Eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The Strip borders Egypt on the southwest and Israel on the south, east and north. It is about long, and between 6 and 12 kilometres wide, with a total area of...

, including two small children in a field and a group of women and girls in an otherwise empty street. In June, Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch is an international non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on human rights. Its headquarters are in New York City and it has offices in Berlin, Beirut, Brussels, Chicago, Geneva, Johannesburg, London, Los Angeles, Moscow, Paris, San Francisco, Tokyo,...

 investigated six UAV attacks which was reported to have resulted in civilian casualties, and alleged that Israeli forces either failed to take all feasible precautions to verify that the targets were combatants, or failed to distinguish between combatants and civilians. In July 2009, Brookings Institution
Brookings Institution
The Brookings Institution is a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, D.C., in the United States. One of Washington's oldest think tanks, Brookings conducts research and education in the social sciences, primarily in economics, metropolitan policy, governance, foreign policy, and...

 released a report stating that in the United States-led drone attacks in Pakistan
Drone attacks in Pakistan
The United States government, led by the Central Intelligence Agency's Special Activities Division, has made a series of attacks on targets in northwest Pakistan since 2004 using drones . These attacks are part of the US' War on Terrorism campaign, seeking to defeat Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants...

, ten civilians died for every militant killed. S. Azmat Hassan
S. Azmat Hassan
Ambassador S. Azmat Hassan , M.A., M.Sc., is a former Ambassador of Pakistan and currently a Senior Faculty Associate of the John C. Whitehead School of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University, specializing in Middle Eastern studies.-Education:Ambassador Hassan studied at St....

, a former ambassador of Pakistan, said in July 2009 that American UAV attacks were turning Pakistani opinion against the United States, and that 35 or 40 such attacks only killed 8 or 9 top al-Qaeda operatives.

CIA officials became concerned in 2008 that targets in Pakistan were being tipped off to pending U.S. drone strikes by Pakistani intelligence, when the U.S. requested Pakistani permission prior to launching targeted killing attacks. The Bush administration therefore decided in August 2008 to abandon the practice of obtaining Pakistani government permission before launching missiles from drones, and in the next six months the CIA carried out at least 38 Predator targeted killing strikes in northwest Pakistan, compared with 10 in 2006 and 2007 combined.

The Predator strikes killed at least nine senior al-Qaeda leaders, and dozens of lower-ranking operatives, depleting its operational tier in what U.S. officials described as the most serious disruption of al-Qaeda since 2001. It was reported that the Predator strikes took such a toll on al-Qaeda that militants began turning violently on one another out of confusion and distrust. A senior U.S. counter-terrorism official said: "They have started hunting down people who they think are responsible" for security breaches. "People are showing up dead, or disappearing."

By October 2009, the CIA said they had killed more than half of the 20 most wanted al-Qaeda terrorist suspects in targeted killings. By May 2010, counter-terrorism officials said that drone strikes in the Pakistani tribal areas had killed more than 500 militants since 2008, and no more than 30 (5%) nearby civilians—mainly family members who lived and traveled with the targets. Drones linger overhead after a strike, in some cases for hours, to enable the CIA to count the bodies and determine who is a civilian. A Pakistani intelligence officer gave a higher estimate of civilian casualties, saying 20% of total deaths were civilians or non-combatants.

One issue with civilian casualties is the relative lack of discretion of the 100 lb (45.4 kg) Hellfire
AGM-114 Hellfire
The AGM-114 Hellfire is an air-to-surface missile developed primarily for anti-armor use. It has multi-mission, multi-target precision-strike capability, and can be launched from multiple air, sea, and ground platforms. The Hellfire missile is the primary 100 lb-class air-to-ground precision...

, which was designed to eliminate tanks and attack bunkers. Smaller weapons such as the Raytheon
Raytheon
Raytheon Company is a major American defense contractor and industrial corporation with core manufacturing concentrations in weapons and military and commercial electronics. It was previously involved in corporate and special-mission aircraft until early 2007...

 Griffin
Griffin (missile)
The Griffin is a short-range air-to-surface missile developed by Raytheon for UAVs. It is tube-launched, with a 5.5 inches diameter, weighs 45 pounds, and has a semi-active laser seeker. It has a 13-lb warhead, smaller than the Hellfire typically used by armed UAVs, which has the effect of reducing...

 and Small Tactical Munition
Small Tactical Munition
The Small Tactical Munition is a weapon developed by Raytheon, designed to be used by UAVs.Raytheon successfully conducted flight tests in October 2010, and it may be used to arm the AAI RQ-7 Shadow.It weighs , with a warhead....

 are being developed as a less indiscriminate alternative, and development is underway on the still smaller, US Navy-developed Spike missile. The payload-limited Predator A can also be armed with six Griffin missiles, as opposed to only two of the much-heavier Hellfires. Although it may never be known how many civilians have died as a result of U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, there are estimates of hundreds or thousands of innocent bystanders who have perished in the attacks. Pakistani authorities released statistics earlier in the year indicating that between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2009, U.S. Predator and Reaper drone strikes have killed over 700 innocent civilians. The website PakistanBodyCount.Org (by Zeeshan-ul-hassan Usmani, a Fulbright Scholar at the Florida Institute of Technology) shows 1065 civilian deaths between June 2004 to January 30, 2010 and tallying 103 drone strikes carried out by the U.S. With the increase of drone strikes, according to the most recent story in The International News, January 2010 proved to be a deadly month in Pakistan with 123 innocent civilians killed. In addition, it has been reported that 160 children have died from drone attacks in Pakistan. Further, over 1000 civilians have been injured. This evidence counters the Obama administration's claim that 'nearly for the past year there hasn't been a single collateral death' with the drone war. According to the February 24, 2010 policy analysis "The Year of the Drone" released by the New America Foundation, the civilian fatality rate since 2004 is approximately 32%. The study reports that 114 reported drone strikes in northwest Pakistan from 2004 to present killed between 830 to 1210 individuals, around 550 to 850 of whom were militants.

Search and rescue



UAVs will likely play an increased role in search and rescue in the United States. This was demonstrated by the successful use of UAVs during the 2008 hurricanes that struck Louisiana and Texas.

For example, Predators, operating between 18,000–29,000 feet above sea level, performed search and rescue and damage assessment. Payloads carried were an optical sensor (which is a daytime and infra red camera) and a synthetic aperture radar
Synthetic aperture radar
Synthetic-aperture radar is a form of radar whose defining characteristic is its use of relative motion between an antenna and its target region to provide distinctive long-term coherent-signal variations that are exploited to obtain finer spatial resolution than is possible with conventional...

. The Predator's SAR is a sophisticated all-weather sensor capable of providing photographic-like images through clouds, rain or fog, and in daytime or nighttime conditions; all in real-time. A concept of coherent change detection in SAR images allows for exceptional search and rescue ability: photos taken before and after the storm hits are compared and a computer highlights areas of damage.

Design and development considerations


UAV design and production is a global activity, with manufacturers all across the world. The United States and Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

 were initial pioneers in this technology, and U.S. manufacturers have a market share of over 60% in 2006, with U.S. market share due to increase by 5–10% through 2016. Northrop Grumman
Northrop Grumman
Northrop Grumman Corporation is an American global aerospace and defense technology company formed by the 1994 purchase of Grumman by Northrop. The company was the fourth-largest defense contractor in the world as of 2010, and the largest builder of naval vessels. Northrop Grumman employs over...

 and General Atomics
General Atomics
General Atomics is a nuclear physics and defense contractor headquartered in San Diego, California. General Atomics’ research into fission and fusion matured into competencies in related technologies, allowing the company to expand into other fields of research...

 are the dominant manufacturers in this industry, on the strength of the Global Hawk and Predator/Mariner systems. Israeli and European manufacturers form a second tier due to lower indigenous investments, and the governments of those nations have initiatives to acquire U.S. systems due to higher levels of capability. European market share represented just 4% of global revenue in 2006.

Development costs for American military UAVs, as with most military programs, have tended to overrun their initial estimates. This is mostly due to changes in requirements during development and a failure to leverage UAV development programs over multiple armed services. This has caused United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

 UAV programs to increase in cost from 0% to 5% while United States Air Force
United States Air Force
The United States Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the American uniformed services. Initially part of the United States Army, the USAF was formed as a separate branch of the military on September 18, 1947 under the National Security Act of...

 UAV programs have increased from 60% to 284%.

Degree of autonomy



Early UAVs used during the Vietnam War after launch captured video that was recorded to film or tape on the aircraft. These aircraft often were launched and flew either in a straight line or in preset circles collecting video until they ran out of fuel and landed. After landing, the film was recovered for analysis. Because of the simple nature of these aircraft, they were often called drones. As new radio control systems became available, UAVs were often remote controlled and the term "remotely piloted vehicle" came into vogue. Today's UAVs often combine remote control and computerized automation. More sophisticated versions may have built-in control and/or guidance systems to perform low-level human pilot duties such as speed and flight-path stabilization, and simple scripted navigation functions such as waypoint following. In news and other discussions, often the term "drone" is still mistakenly used to refer to these more sophisticated aircraft.

From this perspective, most early UAVs are not autonomous at all. In fact, the field of air-vehicle autonomy is a recently emerging field, whose economics is largely driven by the military to develop battle-ready technology. Compared to the manufacturing of UAV flight hardware, the market for autonomy technology is fairly immature and undeveloped. Because of this, autonomy has been and may continue to be the bottleneck for future UAV developments, and the overall value and rate of expansion of the future UAV market could be largely driven by advances to be made in the field of autonomy.

Autonomy technology that is important to UAV development falls under the following categories:
  • Sensor fusion
    Sensor fusion
    Sensor fusion is the combining of sensory data or data derived from sensory data from disparate sources such that the resulting information is in some sense better than would be possible when these sources were used individually...

    : Combining information from different sensors for use on board the vehicle
  • Communications: Handling communication and coordination between multiple agents in the presence of incomplete and imperfect information
  • Path planning: Determining an optimal path for vehicle to go while meeting certain objectives and mission constraints, such as obstacles or fuel requirements
  • Trajectory Generation (sometimes called Motion planning
    Motion planning
    Motion planning is a term used in robotics for the process of detailing a task into discrete motions....

    ): Determining an optimal control maneuver to take to follow a given path or to go from one location to another
  • Trajectory Regulation: The specific control strategies required to constrain a vehicle within some tolerance to a trajectory
  • Task Allocation and Scheduling: Determining the optimal distribution of tasks amongst a group of agents, with time and equipment constraints
  • Cooperative Tactics: Formulating an optimal sequence and spatial distribution of activities between agents in order to maximize chance of success in any given mission scenario


Autonomy is commonly defined as the ability to make decisions without human intervention. To that end, the goal of autonomy is to teach machines to be "smart" and act more like humans. The keen observer may associate this with the development in the field of artificial intelligence
Artificial intelligence
Artificial intelligence is the intelligence of machines and the branch of computer science that aims to create it. AI textbooks define the field as "the study and design of intelligent agents" where an intelligent agent is a system that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximize its...

 made popular in the 1980s and 1990s such as expert system
Expert system
In artificial intelligence, an expert system is a computer system that emulates the decision-making ability of a human expert. Expert systems are designed to solve complex problems by reasoning about knowledge, like an expert, and not by following the procedure of a developer as is the case in...

s, neural network
Neural network
The term neural network was traditionally used to refer to a network or circuit of biological neurons. The modern usage of the term often refers to artificial neural networks, which are composed of artificial neurons or nodes...

s, machine learning
Machine learning
Machine learning, a branch of artificial intelligence, is a scientific discipline concerned with the design and development of algorithms that allow computers to evolve behaviors based on empirical data, such as from sensor data or databases...

, natural language processing
Natural language processing
Natural language processing is a field of computer science and linguistics concerned with the interactions between computers and human languages; it began as a branch of artificial intelligence....

, and vision. However, the mode of technological development in the field of autonomy has mostly followed a bottom-up approach, such as hierarchical control system
Hierarchical control system
A Hierarchical control system is a form of Control System in which a set of devices and governing software is arranged in a hierarchical tree. When the links in the tree are implemented by a computer network, then that hierarchical control system is also a form of Networked control system.-...

s, and recent advances have been largely driven by the practitioners in the field of control science, not computer science . Similarly, autonomy has been and probably will continue to be considered an extension of the controls field.

To some extent, the ultimate goal in the development of autonomy technology is to replace the human pilot. It remains to be seen whether future developments of autonomy technology, the perception of the technology, and most importantly, the political climate surrounding the use of such technology, will limit the development and utility of autonomy for UAV applications. Also as a result of this, synthetic vision
Synthetic vision
A Synthetic Vision System is a computer-mediated reality system for aerial vehicles, that uses 3D to provide pilots with clear and intuitive means of understanding their flying environment....

 for piloting has not caught on in the UAV arena as it did with manned aircraft. NASA utilized synthetic vision for test pilots on the HiMAT program in the early 1980s (see photo), but the advent of more autonomous UAV autopilots, greatly reduced the need for this technology.

Interoperable UAV technologies became essential as systems proved their mettle in military operations, taking on tasks too challenging or dangerous for troops. NATO addressed the need for commonality through STANAG (Standardization Agreement) 4586. According to a NATO press release, the agreement began the ratification process in 1992. Its goal was to allow allied nations to easily share information obtained from unmanned aircraft through common ground control station technology. STANAG 4586 – aircraft that adhere to this protocol are equipped to translate information into standardized message formats; likewise, information received from other compliant aircraft can be transferred into vehicle-specific messaging formats for seamless interoperability. Amendments have since been made to the original agreement, based on expert feedback from the field and an industry panel known as the Custodian Support Team. Edition Two of STANAG 4586 is currently under review. There are many systems available today that are developed in accordance with STANAG 4586, including products by industry leaders such as AAI Corporation, CDL Systems, and Raytheon, all three of which are members of the Custodian Support Team for this protocol.

Endurance


Because UAVs are not burdened with the physiological limitations of human pilots, they can be designed for maximized on-station times. The maximum flight duration of unmanned, aerial vehicles varies widely. Internal-combustion-engine aircraft endurance depends strongly on the percentage of fuel burned as a fraction of total weight (the Breguet
Louis Charles Breguet
Louis Charles Breguet was a French aircraft designer and builder, one of the early aviation pioneers.- Biography :...

 endurance equation), and so is largely independent of aircraft size. Solar-electric UAVs hold potential for unlimited flight, a concept originally championed by the AstroFlight Sunrise
AstroFlight Sunrise
The AstroFlight Sunrise was an unmanned experimental electric aircraft technology demonstrator and the first aircraft to fly on solar power....

 in 1974 and the much later Aerovironment Helios Prototype
Helios Prototype
The NASA Pathfinder, NASA Pathfinder Plus, NASA Centurion and NASA Helios Prototype were an evolutionary series of solar- and fuel-cell-system-powered unmanned aerial vehicles. AeroVironment, Inc. developed the vehicles under NASA's Environmental Research Aircraft and Sensor Technology program...

, which was destroyed in a 2003 crash.

Electric UAVs kept aloft indefinitely by laser power-beaming technology represent another proposed solution to the endurance challenge. This approach is advocated by Jordin Kare
Jordin Kare
Jordin Kare is a physicist and aerospace engineer known for his research on laser propulsion. In particular, he was responsible for Mockingbird, a conceptual design for an extremely small reusable launch vehicle, and was involved in the Clementine lunar mapping mission.Kare is also known as...

 and Thomas Nugent.

One of the major problems with UAVs is the lack of inflight refueling capability. Currently the US Air Force is promoting research that should end in an inflight UAV refueling capability. The first UAV-UAV refueling flights are expected sometime during the first half of 2012.

One of the uses for a high endurance UAV would be to "stare" at the battlefield for a long period of time to produce a record of events that could then be played backwards to track where improvised explosive devices (IED
Improvised explosive device
An improvised explosive device , also known as a roadside bomb, is a homemade bomb constructed and deployed in ways other than in conventional military action...

s) came from. Air Force Chief of Staff John P. Jumper
John P. Jumper
John P. Jumper is a retired United States Air Force general, who served as Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force from September 6, 2001 to September 2, 2005. He retired from the Air Force on November 1, 2005. Jumper was succeeded as Chief of Staff by General T. Michael...

 started a program to create these persistent UAVs, but this was stopped once he was replaced.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is to sign a contract on building an UAV which should have an enormous endurance capability of about 5 years. The project is entitled "Vulture" and a September 15, 2010 news release indicated DARPA’s Vulture Program Enters Phase II. The developers are certain neither on the design of the UAV nor on what fuel it should run to be able to stay in air without any maintenance for such a long period of time.
Notable high endurance flights
UAV Flight time Date Notes
QinetiQ Zephyr
QinetiQ Zephyr
Zephyr is a lightweight solar-powered UAV which was originally designed and built by the QQ1 "Edge of Space" team who were sponsored by the United Kingdom defence firm, Qinetiq. It is of carbon-fibre construction, and uses sunlight to charge a lithium sulphur battery during the day, which powers...

 Solar Electric
336 hours 22 minutes 9–23 July 2010
QinetiQ Zephyr
QinetiQ Zephyr
Zephyr is a lightweight solar-powered UAV which was originally designed and built by the QQ1 "Edge of Space" team who were sponsored by the United Kingdom defence firm, Qinetiq. It is of carbon-fibre construction, and uses sunlight to charge a lithium sulphur battery during the day, which powers...

 Solar Electric
82 hours 37 minutes 28–31 July 2008
Boeing Condor
Boeing Condor
-External links:*, Boeing*, Hiller Aviation Museum*...

 
58 hours 11 minutes 1989 The aircraft is currently in the Hiller Aviation Museum
Hiller Aviation Museum
The Hiller Aviation Museum, located in San Carlos, California, USA at the San Carlos Airport, is an aircraft history museum. The museum was founded by Stanley Hiller, Jr., in June 1998. and is endowed by members of the Hiller Family . It specializes in Northern California aircraft history and...

, CA.
QinetiQ Zephyr
QinetiQ Zephyr
Zephyr is a lightweight solar-powered UAV which was originally designed and built by the QQ1 "Edge of Space" team who were sponsored by the United Kingdom defence firm, Qinetiq. It is of carbon-fibre construction, and uses sunlight to charge a lithium sulphur battery during the day, which powers...

 Solar Electric
54 hours September 2007
IAI Heron
IAI Heron
The IAI Heron is a Medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle developed by the Malat division of Israel Aerospace Industries. It is capable of Medium Altitude Long Endurance operations of up to 52 hours' duration at up to 35,000 feet...

 
52 hours ?
AC Propulsion Solar Electric 48 hours 11 minutes June 3, 2005
MQ-1 Predator  40 hours 5 minutes ?
GNAT-750
GNAT-750
-References:This article contains material that originally came from the web article by Greg Goebel, which exists in the Public Domain.-External links:* at the FAS* http://www.designation-systems.net/dusrm/app4/gnat.html...

 
40 hours 1992
TAM-5
The Spirit of Butts Farm
The Spirit of Butts Farm became the first model aircraft to cross the Atlantic Ocean on August 11, 2003. The aircraft was launched from Cape Spear near St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, and landed at Mannin Beach near Clifden, Ireland 38.5 hours later...

 
38 hours 52 minutes August 11, 2003 Smallest UAV to cross the Atlantic
Aerosonde
Insitu Aerosonde
The Aerosonde is a small unmanned aerial vehicle designed to collect weather data, including temperature, atmospheric pressure, humidity, and wind measurements, over oceans and remote areas. The Aerosonde was developed by Insitu, and is now manufactured by Aerosonde Ltd, which is a strategic...

 
38 hours 48 minutes May 3, 2006
Vanguard Defense Industries  2 hours 55 minutes 11 February 2011 VTOL platform carrying a 18 lb payload.
TAI Anka  24 hours 30 December 2010

Existing UAV systems


UAVs have been developed and deployed by many countries around the world. For a list of models by country, see : List of unmanned aerial vehicles. The use of unmanned aerial systems, however, is not limited to state powers: non-state actors can also build, buy and operate these combat vehicles. Hezbollah used a drone during the 2006 Lebanon War, and in 2001 Al-Qaeda
Al-Qaeda
Al-Qaeda is a global broad-based militant Islamist terrorist organization founded by Osama bin Laden sometime between August 1988 and late 1989. It operates as a network comprising both a multinational, stateless army and a radical Sunni Muslim movement calling for global Jihad...

 reportedly explored using drones to attack a conference of international leaders.

The export of UAVs or technology capable of carrying a 500 kg payload at least 300 km is restricted in many countries by the Missile Technology Control Regime
Missile Technology Control Regime
The Missile Technology Control Regime is an informal and voluntary partnership between 34 countries to prevent the proliferation of missile and unmanned aerial vehicle technology capable of carrying a 500 kg payload at least 300 km....

.
At the center of the American military's continued UAV research is the MQ-X, which builds upon the capabilities of the Reaper and Predator drones. As currently conceived, the MQ-X would be a stealthier and faster fighter-plane sized UAV capable of any number of missions: high-performance surveillance; attack options, including retractable cannons and bomb or missile payloads; and cargo capacity.

China has exhibited some UAV designs, but its ability to operate them is limited by the lack of high endurance domestic engines, satellite infrastructure and operational experience.

Historical events involving UAVs

  • During the Persian Gulf War, Iraqi Army forces surrendered to the UAVs of the USS Wisconsin
    USS Wisconsin (BB-64)
    USS Wisconsin , "Wisky" or "WisKy", is an , the second ship of the United States Navy to be named in honor of the U.S. state of Wisconsin...

    .

  • In October 2002, a few days before the U.S. Senate
    United States Senate
    The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

     vote on the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution, about 75 senators were told in closed session that Saddam Hussein
    Saddam Hussein
    Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti was the fifth President of Iraq, serving in this capacity from 16 July 1979 until 9 April 2003...

     had the means of delivering biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction by UAV drones that could be launched from ships off the Atlantic coast to attack U.S. eastern seaboard cities
    East Coast of the United States
    The East Coast of the United States, also known as the Eastern Seaboard, refers to the easternmost coastal states in the United States, which touch the Atlantic Ocean and stretch up to Canada. The term includes the U.S...

    . Colin Powell
    Colin Powell
    Colin Luther Powell is an American statesman and a retired four-star general in the United States Army. He was the 65th United States Secretary of State, serving under President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005. He was the first African American to serve in that position. During his military...

     suggested in his presentation to the United Nations that they had been transported out of Iraq and could be launched against the U.S. It was later revealed that Iraq's UAV fleet consisted of only a few outdated Czech training drones. At the time, there was a vigorous dispute within the intelligence community as to whether CIA's conclusions about Iraqi UAVs were accurate. The U.S. Air Force agency most familiar with UAVs denied outright that Iraq possessed any offensive UAV capability.
  • In December 2002, the first ever dogfight
    Dogfight
    A dogfight, or dog fight, is a form of aerial combat between fighter aircraft; in particular, combat of maneuver at short range, where each side is aware of the other's presence. Dogfighting first appeared during World War I, shortly after the invention of the airplane...

     involving a UAV occurred when an Iraqi MiG-25 and a U.S. RQ-1 Predator fired missiles at each other. The MiG's missile destroyed the Predator.

UAVs in popular culture

  • UAVs have been used in many episodes of the science-fiction television series Stargate SG-1
    Stargate SG-1
    Stargate SG-1 is a Canadian-American adventure and military science fiction television series and part of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's Stargate franchise. The show, created by Brad Wright and Jonathan Glassner, is based on the 1994 feature film Stargate by Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich...

    , and a sentient
    Sentience
    Sentience is the ability to feel, perceive or be conscious, or to have subjective experiences. Eighteenth century philosophers used the concept to distinguish the ability to think from the ability to feel . In modern western philosophy, sentience is the ability to have sensations or experiences...

     unmanned combat air vehicle
    Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle
    An unmanned combat air vehicle or combat drone is an unmanned aerial vehicle that is designed to deliver weapons without an onboard pilot. Currently operational UCAVs are under real-time human control, but future version may enable autonomous operation, for example with pre-programmed route and...

     (UCAV) was a central figure in the action film Stealth
    Stealth (film)
    Stealth is a 2005 American science fiction action film starring Jessica Biel, Josh Lucas, Jamie Foxx, and Sam Shepard. The film was directed by Rob Cohen, director of The Fast and the Furious and xXx....

    . UAVs are also used in computer and video games such as F.E.A.R., inFamous
    InFamous
    Infamous, stylized as inFAMOUS or inFamous, is an open world video game for the PlayStation 3 video game console. It was developed by Sucker Punch Productions and published by Sony Computer Entertainment...

    , Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon
    Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon
    Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon is a tactical shooter video game developed by Red Storm Entertainment, a Ubisoft subsidiary, and published by Ubisoft in 2001 for the PC. It was ported to the Mac, PlayStation 2 and Xbox in 2002 and to the GameCube in 2003...

    , and the popular Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Battlefield 2
    Battlefield 2
    Battlefield 2 is a computer game by the Swedish developer Digital Illusions CE . During development, Trauma Studios contributed to the development of the game after it was acquired by DICE...

     and Battlefield: Bad Company
    Battlefield: Bad Company 2
    Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is a first-person shooter video game developed by the Swedish firm EA Digital Illusions CE and published by Electronic Arts for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, iOS and Mac OS X systems. It is a direct sequel to Battlefield: Bad Company and is part of the...

     franchises. A more futuristic and fictional example of a combat UAV is a Man-hack featured in Half-Life2 game series. A manhack is a UAV roughly the size of a bowling ball and uses onboard artificial intelligence combined with sharprotating blades to sustain flight and inflict severe lacerations to its targets. It is designed to be mass produced and deployed either by individual soldiers or in very large numbers to saturate a hostile area.

See also


  • Aerobot
    Aerobot
    An aerobot is an aerial robot, usually used in the context of an unmanned space probe or unmanned aerial vehicle.While work has been done since the 1960s on robot "rovers" to explore the Moon and other worlds in the Solar system, such machines have limitations...

  • Energy harvesting
    Energy harvesting
    Energy harvesting is the process by which energy is derived from external sources , captured, and stored for small, wireless autonomous devices, like those used in wearable electronics and wireless sensor networks.Energy harvesters...

  • List of unmanned aerial vehicles
  • Metaplane
  • Micro air vehicle
    Micro air vehicle
    A micro air vehicle , or micro aerial vehicle , is a class of unmanned aerial vehicles that has a size restriction and may be autonomous. Modern craft can be as small as 15 centimetres...

  • Miniature UAV
  • Missile Technology Control Regime
    Missile Technology Control Regime
    The Missile Technology Control Regime is an informal and voluntary partnership between 34 countries to prevent the proliferation of missile and unmanned aerial vehicle technology capable of carrying a 500 kg payload at least 300 km....

  • Nano Hummingbird
  • Radio-controlled aircraft
    Radio-controlled aircraft
    A radio-controlled aircraft is controlled remotely by a hand-held transmitter and a receiver within the craft...

  • Targeted killing
    Targeted killing
    Targeted killing is the deliberate, specific targeting and killing, by a government or its agents, of a supposed terrorist or of a supposed "unlawful combatant" who is not in that government's custody...



Historic

Facilities, units and programs
  • 82d Aerial Targets Squadron
    82d Aerial Targets Squadron
    The 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron ' is a United States Air Force unit. It is assigned to the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group and stationed at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida.-Overview:...

  • International Aerial Robotics Competition
    International Aerial Robotics Competition
    The International Aerial Robotics Competition began in 1991 on the campus of the Georgia Institute of Technology and is the longest running university-based robotics competition in the world...

  • ParcAberporth
    ParcAberporth
    ParcAberporth is a technology park created on what was Royal Air Force station Aberporth, near the village of that name in the county of Ceredigion, Wales. The station was one of two local sites that had been used as a site for a missile range that stretched out for some miles into the nearby...

    , Royal Air Force facility
  • UAV Battlelab
    UAV Battlelab
    The UAV Battlelab is a U.S. Air Force flight test and development facility specifically dedicated to developing unmanned aerial vehicles. One of six original Air Force battlelabs established in 1997, this battlelab falls directly under the Air Warfare Center and recently moved to Creech Air Force...

    , U.S. Air Force facility


Other types of unmanned vehicles
  • Unmanned Aircraft System
  • Unmanned combat air vehicle
    Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle
    An unmanned combat air vehicle or combat drone is an unmanned aerial vehicle that is designed to deliver weapons without an onboard pilot. Currently operational UCAVs are under real-time human control, but future version may enable autonomous operation, for example with pre-programmed route and...

  • Unmanned ground vehicle
    Unmanned ground vehicle
    An unmanned ground vehicle is a military robot used to augment the soldiers capability. This type of robot is generally capable of operating outdoors and over a wide variety of terrain, functioning in place of humans....

  • Unmanned space vehicle


Intelligence
  • Intelligence collection management
    Intelligence collection management
    Intelligence Collection Management is the process of managing and organizing the collection of intelligence information from various sources. The collection department of an intelligence organization may attempt basic validation of that which it collects, but is not intended to analyze its...

  • Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance
    ISTAR
    ISTAR stands for Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Reconnaissance. In its macroscopic sense, ISTAR is a practice that links several battlefield functions together to assist a combat force in employing its sensors and managing the information they gather.Information is collected on...

  • Measurement and signature intelligence
    Measurement and Signature Intelligence
    Measurement and signature intelligence is a branch of intelligence gathering activities.MASINT, may have aspects of intelligence analysis management, since certain aspects of MASINT, such as the analysis of electromagnetic radiation received by signals intelligence are more of an analysis...


External links