Regulation of UAVs in the United States
This article needs to be updated. Please help update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information.(May 2017)
For broader coverage of this topic, see Regulation of unmanned aerial vehicles.
The US Federal Aviation Administration has adopted the name unmanned aircraft (UA) to describe aircraft systems without a flight crew on board. More common names include UAV, drone, remotely piloted vehicle (RPV), remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), and remotely operated aircraft (ROA). These "limited-size" (as defined by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale) unmanned aircraft flown in the USA's National Airspace System, flown solely for recreation and sport purposes, such as models, are generally flown under the voluntary safety standards of the Academy of Model Aeronautics, the United States' national aeromodeling organization. To operate a UA for non-recreational purposes in the United States, according to the FAA users must obtain a Certificate of Authorization (COA) to operate in national airspace. In December 2015 the FAA announced that all UAVs weighing more than 250 grams flown for any purpose must be registered with the FAA.
In December 2019, the FAA proposed a rule requiring all unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to be equipped with a device to identify them citing “All UAS operating in the airspace of the United States, with very few exceptions, would be subject to the requirements of this rule". On December 28, 2020, the FAA announced the system, Remote Identification or Remote ID, would be required in 30 months.
Types of federal regulation
Multiple categories of rules have been proposed or enacted in the United States by the Federal Aviation Administration. The restrictions imposed on the operation of UAS differ for each category of rule.
As of December 2020[update], the FAA requires all commercial UAS operators to obtain a remote pilot license under Part 107 of the Federal Aviation Regulations. To qualify for a Part 107 UAS license, an applicant must be over 16 years of age, demonstrate proficiency in the English language, have the physical and mental capacity to operate a UAS safely, pass a written exam of aeronautical knowledge, and complete a Transportation Security Administrationbackground security screening.
Recreational UAS operators are not required to obtain a Part 107 license. However, unlicensed recreational UAS operation is only lawfully permitted if the UAS is operated for purely non-commercial purposes, and if the operator complies with restrictions on recreational UAS operation, including prohibitions on operating their UAS beyond the operator's visual line of sight. New FAA rules finalized in December 2020 permit operations of UAS over people or at night without applying for a special exemption, but only licensed Part 107 operators may take advantage of these new rules.
Commercial (Part 107) operators are required to register their UAS with the FAA, regardless of its weight. In addition, recreational operators are also required to register their UAS if its total weight (including any payload) meets or exceeds 0.55 pounds. UAS registration costs $5. Recreational UAS operators may obtain a single user registration number and register multiple UAS for a single $5 fee, while commercial operators must individually register and pay a $5 registration fee per each UAS. Recreational UAS weighing less than 0.55 pounds do not need to be registered.
UAS operators must clearly mark their registration number on the outside of their UAS in an easily readable manner. This requirement enables authorities to trace and locate the operator of a recovered UAS, if the UAS was involved in an accident or unlawful activity.
Main article: Remote ID
In December 2020, the FAA finalized a Remote ID rule, which will take effect in stages over the next 30 months. The rule requires UAS to broadcast information in real-time about operation of the UAS, including the location of the UAS and its operator, and a unique identification number that law enforcement officials may be able to cross-reference to identify the UAS operator. For those UAS which lack the ability to broadcast Remote ID information, the rule requires operators to retrofit the UAS with a "broadcast module" capable of broadcasting identifying information.
Exceptions to the Remote ID requirement include UAS weighing under 0.55 pounds, and UAS being operated within specially designated flying zones or "FAA-Recognized Identification Areas" where Remote ID will not be required. As of December 2020[update], no such "Identification Areas" exist; the FAA will begin taking applications for the creation of such areas starting in 2022.
2012 and Prior
Well before any FAA concerns ever existed for UAS aircraft, at the very start of the 21st century the Federal Communications Commission had already started "registration" of many of its radio services' licensees in the United States, by assigning each licensee a unique ten-digit numerical "FRN" (FCC Registration Number) registration code as shown on their paper licenses, as part of the then-new "CORES" (COmmission REgistration System) organization system for FCC licensee records - this was also done for all United States-licensed amateur radio operators, who have regulation 97.215 in the FCC Part 97 Amateur Radio Service rules that allows use of any Ham-legal frequency solely for recreational operation of model aircraft and surface models, with up to one watt of RF output. No requirement of any sort has yet been issued by the FCC for the "FRN" number's display on Ham-licensed, amateur radio frequency-operated radio control model aircraft, nor on any other variety of remotely-guided model craft operated on Ham bands, such as surface-operated models of any sort; with the FCC reserving any use or display of such "FRN" numbers for future needs, beyond their existing assignment to radio service licensees and display on their licenses.
On September 16, 2005, the FAA released memorandum AFS-400 UAS Policy 05-01 as a guideline to the usage of UAS in the U.S. National Airspace System (NAS). On February 6, 2007, the FAA released a policy document indicating that UAVs are recognized by the definition of aircraft. Soon after on February 13, a Policy Statement concerning the operation of drones was issued and clarified the distinction between a UAV and a model aircraft.
The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 set a deadline of September 30, 2015, for the agency to establish regulations to allow the use of commercial drones. While such regulations were pending, the agency claimed it was illegal to operate commercial unmanned aerial vehicles, but approved non-commercial flights under 400 feet if they followed Advisory Circular 91-57, Model Aircraft Operating Standards, published in 1981. However, the FAA's attempt to fine a commercial drone operator for a 2011 flight were thrown out on March 6, 2014 by NTSB judge Patrick Geraghty, who found that the FAA had not followed the proper rulemaking procedures and therefore had no UAV regulations. The FAA appealed the judgment of the NTSB administrative law judge.Texas EquuSearch, which performed volunteer search and rescue operations, was also challenging FAA rules in 2014.
2013 - 2015
As of August 2013, commercial unmanned aerial system (UAS) licenses were granted on a case-by-case basis, subject to approval by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Previously, COAs (certificate of authorization) required a public entity as a sponsor. For example, when BP needed to observe oil spills, they operated the Aeryon Scout UAVs under a COA granted to the University of Alaska Fairbanks. COAs have been granted for both land and shipborne operations. In 2014, the FAA approved at least ten applications from specific companies for commercial use of drones, including movie-makers and surveyors.
In December 2013, the FAA announced six operators it was authorizing to conduct research on drone technology, to inform its pending regulations and future developments. These were the University of Alaska (including locations in Hawaii and Oregon), the state of Nevada, Griffiss International Airport in New York State, the North Dakota Department of Commerce, Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi, and Virginia Tech.
In addition to FAA certification, the regulation of usage of UA systems by government authorities in the United States for law enforcement purposes is determined at a state level. As of September 2014, 20 U.S. states had enacted legislation addressing the use of UA systems and the handling of data collected by them. Nearly all enacted laws require a probable cause warrant to be issued before the use of a UA system for surveillance purposes is authorized.
In May 2014, a group of major news media companies filed an amicus brief in a case before the U.S.'s National Transportation Safety Board, asserting that the FAA's "overly broad" administrative limitations against private UAS operations cause an "impermissible chilling effect on the First Amendment newsgathering rights of journalists", the brief being filed three months before a scheduled rollout of FAA commercial operator regulations. On November 18, 2014, however, regarding the FAA v. Pirker case, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) upheld FAA's authority over enforcement of the operation of UAS or model aircraft by affirming that since "unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) meet the legal definition of 'aircraft'," the operation of which are thus subject to civil penalties.
2015 - Present
On January 12, 2015, CNN announced that their News Network has been cleared by the FAA, in the first program of its kind to test camera-equipped drones for news gathering and reporting purposes. CNN has partnered with the Georgia Tech Research Institute to collect data for the program. The FAA said it will analyze the information to develop rules about using drones for news gathering.
On February 15, 2015, the FAA announced that up to seven thousand businesses could get approval to fly drones two years from now under proposed rules by the FAA. On Sunday the White House also issued a presidential directive that mandates federal agencies for the first time to disclose publicly where they are flying drones and what they do with the data they acquire using aerial surveillance.
In December 2015 the FAA announced that all UAVs weighing more than 250 grams flown for any purpose must be registered with the FAA. The FAA's Interim Rule can be accessed here. This regulation went into effect on December 21, 2015 and requires that hobby type UAV's weighing 0.25–25 kg (0.55-55 lb) needed to be registered no later than February 19, 2016. The FAA's registration portal for drones can be accessed here.
Notable requirements of the FAA UAV registration process include:
- Effective December 21, 2015, if the UAV has never been operated in U.S. airspace (i.e. its first flight outside), eligible owners must register their UAV's prior to flight. If the UAV previously operated in U.S. airspace, it must be registered.
- In order to use the registration portal, you must be 13 years of age or older. If the owner is less than 13 years old, then a parent or other responsible person must do the FAA registration.
- Each registrant will receive a certificate of aircraft registration and a registration number and all UAV's must be marked with the assigned FAA issued registration code (a ten-character alphanumeric ID code) for the registrant.
- The FAA registration requires a $5 fee and is valid for 3 years, but can be renewed for an additional 3 years at the $5 rate.
The new FAA rule provides that a single registration applies to as many UAVs as an owner/operator owns or operates. Failure to register can result in civil penalties of up to $27,500 and criminal penalties which could include fines up to $250,000 and/or imprisonment for up to three years.
To show problems with the FAA process, in August, 2015 an attorney was able to get FAA approval for a commercial drone that was actually a battery powered paper airplane toy. Its controllable range is 120 feet (37 meters) and maximum flight time is 10 minutes. It is too underpowered to carry a camera.
In February 2016, the FAA established a committee to develop guidelines for regulating safe UAV flight over populated areas, to the end of allowing commercial drone operation, in response to requests from companies involved in commercial drone development such as Amazon and Google. In addition, during the summer of the same year, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Office of the Secretary of Transportation (OST), Department of Transportation (DOT) released Rule Part 107, finalizing the regulation regarding the use of commercial UAS.
On May 19, 2017, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, in ruling on Taylor v. Huerta  reversed the Dec. 2015 UAV registration rule, commenting that "the FAA may not promulgate any rule or regulation regarding a model aircraft." Specifically, the FAA's Registration Rule for model aircraft (a/k/a drones) violates Section 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, and the FAA's Registration Rule to the extent it applied to model aircraft was vacated. The FAA began the process of refunding the registration fees.
On December 12, 2017, President Donald Trump signed into law the immediately-effective National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018, reinstating the FAA's drone registration requirement. 
On May 9, 2018, the U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao announced the selection of local governments from 10 states to participate in the UAS Integration Pilot Program. The City of San Diego is one of the participant selected from California with a primary project goal focusing on commercial delivery and border protection.
On September 20, 2018, State Farm Insurance, in partnership with the Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership and FAA Integration Pilot Program, became the first in the United States to fly a UAV 'Beyond-Visual-Line-Of-Sight' (BVLOS) and over people under an FAA Part 107 Waiver. The flight was made at the Virginia Tech's Kentland Farms outside the Blacksburg VA campus with an SenseFly eBee vehicle, Pilot-In-Command was Christian Kang, a State Farm Weather Catastrophe Claims Services employee (Part 107 & 61 pilot).
By November 27, 2019, the United States' organization for homebuilt full-scale aircraft, the Experimental Aircraft Association, having reached a "memorandum of understanding" nine years earlier with the US' national aeromodeling organization, the Academy of Model Aeronautics, expressed concern over the unprecedented degree of FAA regulation of recreational model aircraft, stating that ""We see model aviation as an important pathway to manned flight," adding that "Our goal in this risk assessment process is to represent the safety concerns of our members while allowing the highest degree of freedom for legacy model aircraft, which have flown alongside us in the airspace for decades."
On December 28, 2020, the FAA announced the system, Remote Identification or Remote ID, would be effective 60 days from the expected publication date in the Federal Register in January 2021. Operators of UAS have thirty months to comply with the regulation and manufacturers have 18 months after the publication date to comply. A lawsuit against the remote ID rule was filed by RaceDayQuads.com, a website whose business consists of the retail of goods related to drone racing. The suit, known as RaceDayQuads v. FAA, was stated to be filed on March 17, 2021, and is claimed to be primarily crowdfunded via GoFundMe.
Under 49 U.S. Code § 40103, "The United States Government has exclusive sovereignty of airspace of the United States" and U.S. citizens have "a public right of transit through the navigable airspace." The FAA is invested with the authority to control traffic in navigable airspace and create operational and safety regulations on aircraft in navigable airspace. According to the FAA, "[a] navigable airspace free from inconsistent state and local restrictions is essential to the maintenance of a safe and sound air transportation system.": 2 With respect to navigable airspace and the aircraft operating in that airspace, federal regulations have preempted the field and the ability of state and local laws to regulate use of UAVs is limited.: 2–3
Examples of state and local laws that, according to the FAA, conflict with the FAA's federal legal authority and require consultation with the FAA before being enacted:: 3
- Operational UAS restrictions on flight altitude, flight paths; operational bans; any regulation of the navigable airspace. For example–a city ordinance banning anyone from operating UAS within the city limits, within the air space of the city, or within certain distances of landmarks.
- Mandating equipment or training for UAS related to aviation safety such as geo-fencing would likely be preempted. Courts have found that state regulation pertaining to mandatory training and equipment requirements related to aviation safety is not consistent with the federal regulatory framework. Med-Trans Corp. v. Benton, 581 F. Supp. 2d 721, 740 (E.D.N.C. 2008); Air Evac EMS, Inc. v. Robinson, 486 F. Supp. 2d 713, 722 (M.D. Tenn. 2007).
Examples of state and local laws that, according to the FAA, are generally permissible under the state's police powers:: 3
- Requirement for police to obtain a warrant prior to using a UAS for surveillance.
- Specifying that UAS may not be used for voyeurism.
- Prohibitions on using UAS for hunting or fishing, or to interfere with or harass an individual who is hunting or fishing.
- Prohibitions on attaching firearms or similar weapons to UAS.
In 2014, the California State Senate passed rules imposing strict regulations on how law enforcement and other government agencies can use drones. The legislation would require law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant before using an unmanned aircraft, or drone, except in emergencies. In 2015, Virginia passed legislation that a drone may only be used in law enforcement if a warrant has been issued; excluding emergencies. New Jersey's drone legislation passed in 2015 states that not only are you required to provide a warrant for drone use in law enforcement, but the information collected must be disposed within two weeks. Other states that have drone regulation are Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Montana, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin.
The first landmark court case on state and municipal drone regulation was Singer v. City of Newton, No. 17-10071-WGY (D. Mass. Sept. 21, 2017). Dr. Michael Singer, a physician, technology advocate, and FAA-certificated drone operator, sued the City of Newton, Massachusetts challenging four provisions in the city's recently enacted drone ordinance. These provisions required drone operators to register with the Newton city clerk; prohibited drone flights over the city without prior permission of all landowners below; and prohibited beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) operations. Singer, who represented himself in court, argued that these provisions were preempted by the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 and the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 (as recodified). U.S. District Judge William G. Young agreed, striking down the challenged parts of the ordinance due to conflict preemption. The City of Newton appealed the decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, but later withdrew its appeal. Singer v. Newton is widely regarded as the first court case to examine the intersection of federal and state powers over drone operations.
Some locations, such as Charlottesville, Virginia, Iowa City, Iowa and St. Bonifacius, Minnesota have passed legislation that limits use of UAVs. In New York state, the city of Syracuse considered declaring the city a "Warrantless Surveillance Drone Free Zone" but put the legislation on hold after city counsellors became aware of a memorandum of understanding between the Justice Department and the Federal Aviation Administration.
In 2016, the Connecticut House of Representatives considered legislation to impose restrictions on drone weaponization. The legislation came after a man named Austin Haughwout, then an engineering student at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU), posted a video on YouTube showing a drone carrying a semi-automatic handgun, which he had assembled, and which was seen to fire the gun several times.
In 2013, a UAV flying over Manhattan collided with several buildings and crashed onto the pavement. It was reported that a man had been arrested days after the incident and that he had been charged with reckless endangerment. He was identified because he was seen in the video recorded by the drone. The Federal Aviation Administration fined the man $2,200. The FAA said that his operation of the UAV was "flying in restricted airspace without getting permission from controllers and flying in a "careless or reckless manner" and "endangered the safety of the national airspace system". This was the first FAA attempt to penalise a non-commercial flight.
In 2015, a drone operated by a civilian flew into the White House property. As a result, the drone manufacturer, DJI, issued a statement saying that they will now require that all of their drones would contain built-in geofencing limits.
"Movie makers, real-estate agents, criminal-defense lawyers and farmers are among at least 68 groups with a newfound political interest in drones according to Center for Responsive Politics data compiled by Bloomberg". At least 28 universities and local government agencies as well as Amazon hope to use drones civilly someday. Limited commercial operations for drones weighing less than 55 pounds (25 kilograms) is a proposal due to be decided upon by the end of the year.
In June 2014, the Motion Picture Association of America stated its support of an FAA exemption for the use of small drones in limited low risk scenarios in film and television productions.
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UAV ground control station
For satellite ground stations, see Ground station.
UAV ground control station (GCS) is a land- or sea-based control centre that provides the facilities for human control of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs or "drones"). It may also refer to a system for controlling rockets within or above the atmosphere, but this is typically described as a Mission Control Centre.
GCS hardware refers to the complete set of ground-based hardware systems used to control the UAV. This typically includes the Human-Machine Interface, computer, telemetry, video capture card and aerials for the control, video and data links to the UAV.
Fixed Installation and Vehicle Mounted GCS
Larger military UAVs such as the General Atomics MQ-1 Predator feature what resembles a "virtual cockpit". The pilot or sensor operator sits in front of a number of screens showing the view from the UAV, a map screen and aircraft instrumentation. Control is through a conventional aircraft-style joystick and throttle, possibly with Hands on Throttle and Stick (HOTAS) functionality.
In addition, the GCS consists of satellite or long-range communication links that are mounted on the roof or on a separate vehicle, container or building.
Smaller UAVs can be operated with a traditional "twin-stick" style transmitter, as used for radio controlled model aircraft. Extending this setup with a laptop or tablet computer, data and video telemetry, and aerials, creates what is effectively a Ground Control Station.
A number of suppliers offer a combined system that consists of what looks like a modified transmitter combined with what is usually a touch screen. An internal computer running the GCS software sits behind the screen, along with the video and data links.
Larger GCS units are also available that typically fit inside flight cases. As with the smaller units, they feature an internal computer running the GCS software, along with video and data links. Large single or dual screens are also fitted that can be high-brightness or treated with an anti-glare coating to increase visibility in bright sunlight. They can either be placed on the ground, on a portable table, or feature integrated folding legs.
Some portable GCS units are in the HOTAS (Hands On Throttle And Stick) layout. This layout includes a 3-Axis Joystick to control yaw, pitch and roll of the UAV. A slide or t-bar fader can increase or decrease the airspeed of the UAV.
GCS software is typically run on a ground-based computer that is used for planning and flying a mission. It provides a map screen where the user can define waypoints for the flight, and see the progress of the mission. It also serves as a “virtual cockpit”, showing many of the same instruments as in manned aircraft.
CATUAV S.L. is a technology-based private company that offers aerial services using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). Its headquarters are located in the Moià airfield in the BCN Drone Center, 40 km north of Barcelona, Spain.
CATUAV is a company involved in developing UAV technologies for aerial image acquisition purposes in Europe. The first UAV prototype was built in 2003, as a new business line within Aeroplans Blaus S.L., a company dedicated to experimental and sport aviation equipment. During this period some surveillance UAV systems were developed as part of a strategic agreement with Proytecsa and Indra.
In 2007 the UAV business line had grown enough to create a new company, CATUAV, founded to provide all the services offered with these systems. In 2008 the company signed a strategic agreement with AURENSIS, a Telespazio/Finmeccanica company. Since then CATUAV has performed more than 100 commercial missions in the civil market.
Since 2003 CATUAV has developed different technologies in order to perform its services:
- Atmos series: Mini-UAV that weighs less than 2 kg and can carry a payload of up to 500g. Powered with an electric motor this is a platform that is used primarily for mapping projects. The current version is Atmos-6, which is an evolution of the five previous models (from Atmos-1 to Atmos-5)
- Furos: A medium-range UAV that thanks to its gasoline engine can fly for six hours and cover distances of over 400 km guided by autopilot. The cargo bay has ample space for payload in the central area of the fuselage and the nose has a modular system designed to accommodate thermal cameras. The high power of its engine and its special streamlined design allows to take off and land in very little space from unprepared terrain. It can reach a top speed of 145 km / h and climb to 3,000 m in less than ten minutes. Equipped with a new video link and long-range data link can be manually controlled to 20 km or undertake missions on their pre-programmed autopilot. It weighs less than 11 kg and can carry a payload of up to 5 kg (including fuel).
- Argos: Evolution of the Furos, this UAV weighs less than 12 kg and can carry a payload up to 6,25 kg (including fuel). Powered with a fuel engine it can fly for up to 14 hours, making it CATUAV's longest enduring platform. It has a big cargo bay that is easy to adapt to different payloads and a long endurance to get the maximum of each flight. ARGOS is an easy to deploy, easy to fly mid-range platform that has a conventional landing gear for taking off from very short runways or a special hook for catapult launching when there is no runway available. Wings are foldable in less than five minutes for easy transportation even in small vehicles.
- Mineos: a versatile mini-UAV with a silent electrical propulsion system. Its small size allows to perform a great variety of missions, it is ideal for video surveillance, photogrammetry, filming and as a platform for scientific and remote sensing applications. It has GPS navigation system, automatic stabilizer system and emergency locator transmitter. The new MINEOS is foldable and easy to carry in any vehicle.
- Telemetrydata link: CATUAV has its own telemetry protocol that ensures the security and safety of all the communications. The UAVs can be controlled in a 15 km radius with a radio frequency link. This range can be extended using a satellite link.
- ground control station: In order to operate the UAV, CATUAV has developed a towable ground station with all the equipment required to deploy and operate the UAVs and read all the telemetry data. It also has a portable ground station for missions that do not have path access.
- Mission software: CATUAV is operating its own planning and control mission software, specially adapted to its UAV platforms and application requirements.
CATUAV also operates third party products that play a role in its activity, such as:
Some services the company offers include:
Orthophotos are aerial photographies that have been geometrically corrected such that the scale is uniform, having each pixel an associated geographic coordinate. Orthophotos have the same lack of distortion as maps, so they are an accurate representation of the Earth's surface that can be used to measure distances.
Using photogrammetric software the aerial images acquired with UAV systems can be rectified and merged in order to create orthorectified image mosaics of the desired extension. The orthophotos have a resolution between 5 cm to 2m/píxel. In one flight, areas up to 1000 hectares can be detected.
The generation of the orthophotos is made using software that automatically applies photogrammetric principles to rectify the images. As input, it needs georeferenced aerial images and the usage of a calibrated camera. This process leads to submeter precisions in the full orthophoto extension, which can still be increased adding manual control points.
The UAV systems can be equipped with multiple cameras, allowing us the acquisition of images in multiple spectral bands: visible, near infrared, thermal, hyperspectral. Those images can be postprocessed (for example to compute vegetation index) and orthophotos can be generated for each spectral band, resulting in a huge range of applications:
Digital elevation models for GIS applications
A Digital Elevation Model (DEM) is a continuous 3D representation of a terrain surface area that has been geometrically corrected, so it can be used to measure distances and heights. Two main kinds of DEM can be generated:
- Digital Terrain Model (DTM): 3D representation of the terrain base surface without vegetation and artificial objects.
- Digital Surface Model (DSM): 3D representation of all elements in the area.
CATUAV systems generate a DTM in every flight as a product of the rectification process. From this previous DTM, with more intensive software procedures, a dense Point Cloud 3D model can be generated, from which a high-resolution DSM can be derived.
Obtaining in the same flight an orthophoto plus a DEM, provides a high quality and low-cost product that can be used to support any topography and cartography work. With further processing, dense Point Cloud and DSM can also be obtained, which leads to applications in multiple fields:
Non metric, oblique aerial images
If the onboard camera pose has a certain angle from the vertical direction oblique images are obtained, which allows the obtaining of an aerial perspective of the scene. Thanks to the use of an onboard GPS and inertial system, each image acquired can be automatically georeferenced. The aerial perspective obtained with this kind of images makes it possible to see the scene from a bird's point of view and leads to numerous applications where they are useful:
- Civil works management
- Power lines maintenance
- Energy efficiency in buildings
- 360º panorama creation
The systems can be equipped with any desired sensors in order to obtain atmospheric data such as temperature, pressure, CO2 concentration, etc. This data can be used to perform atmospheric prospection and environmental studies.
- Lorca earthquake: In May 2011 CATUAV performed a series of flights over Lorca (Spanish town in Murcia) 38 hours after it was struck by a strong earthquake. The high resolution orthophoto created from the town allowed the emergency services to evaluate and quantify the damages in buildings. This is the first known application of a mini-UAV in a civil emergency in Europe.
- SAFEDEM project: CATUAV is participating in the SAFEDEM project of the ESA to develop a system capable of helping in the demining works in Bosnia.
CATUAV has been awarded the Galileo MastersEuropean GNSS Agency (GSA) special topic prize and regional prize in 2011 for its TCAS for mini UAV project.
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UAVs in the U.S. military
As of January 2014, the U.S. military operates a large number of unmanned aerial systems (UAVs or unmanned aerial vehicles): 7,362 RQ-11 Ravens; 990 AeroVironment Wasp IIIs; 1,137 AeroVironment RQ-20 Pumas; and 306 RQ-16 T-Hawk small UAS systems and 246 MQ-1 Predators and MQ-1C Gray Eagles; 126 MQ-9 Reapers; 491 RQ-7 Shadows; and 33 RQ-4 Global Hawk large systems.
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 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 and 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, drone strikes, suppression or destruction of enemy air defense, network node or communications relay, combat search and rescue, 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 (0.45 kg) to over 40,000 pounds (18,000 kg).
Classifications by the United States military
Main article: U.S. military UAS groups
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.
Use in the "War on Terror"
See also: Drone strikes in Pakistan and Drone strikes in Yemen
The Obama administration announced the deployment of 30,000 new troops in Afghanistan in December 2009, but there was already an increase of attacks by unmanned Predator UAVs against Taliban and al-Qaeda militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan's tribal areas, one of which probably killed a key member of al-Qaeda. However, neither Osama bin Laden nor Ayman al-Zawahiri was the likely target, according to reports. According to a report of the New America Foundation, armed UAV 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. This can be compared to a total of 34 in all of 2008, which was President Bush's last full year in office. Between 2006 and 2009, UAV-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 percent of the people killed were militants, and 31 to 33 percent were civilians. U.S. officials disputed the percentage for civilians. The U.S. Air Force has recently begun referring to larger UAS as Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA), such as Predator, Reaper, and Global Hawk, to highlight the fact that these systems are always controlled by a human operator at some location.
CIA-ordered drone strikes were ended by President Obama, who transferred control entirely to the military under a separate legal authority. President Trump reversed this decision in 2017.
UAVs and Morality
Dr. Peter Lee is a Portsmouth University Lecturer in military and leadership ethics specializing in the ethics and ethos of remotely piloted aircraft. In his paper, Rights, Wrongs and Drones: Remote Warfare, Ethics and the Challenge of Just War, he claims that no weapon system has prompted more debate, speculation and opposition since the nuclear controversies of the 1980s (pg 21). While the issues of individual rights, legality and morality, have advanced over a decade. In this advancement, the moral arguments surrounding war have shifted from state-centric to individually focused which may have significant consequences for the moral component of fighting power as understood by western powers.
In an article published by NPR titled "The Legal and Moral Issues of Drone Use", Amitai Etzioni, professor of International Affairs and Sociology at George Washington University, states that while drones have been successful in fighting Al-Qaida, and Taliban members, 24% of kills have been civilian casualties. Etzioni postulates that civilian casualties have given rise to increased violence around the Afghan-Pakistan border resulting in an uptick of suicide attacks. Yet, she considers drone strikes to be “cleaner instruments of war” than special ops, or bombings, justifying the use of them in a utilitarian sense. For example, when the leader of the Pakistani Taliban was killed by a drone strike, his father-in-law and wife were also killed. During the Obama administration, the state department's top lawyer, Harold Koh, stated that U.S. has the authority under international law to defend its citizens from terrorist organizations by using lethal force, and targeting leaders of Al-Qaida and the Taliban. The UN's Study on Armed Unmanned Aerial Vehicles supports Harold's statement through the ambiguity of the law surrounding “imminent armed attacks”, “Imminent” means “instant, overwhelming, and leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation” (pg 38). This preventive measure of self-defense against terrorism is justified on the basis of the difficulty of foreseeing an attack by seemingly unpredictable non-state actors like Al-Qaida or the Taliban. Terrorism poses an impending threat that justifies drone strikes even if it means the death of innocent civilians. However, as stated by Dr. Peter Lee, the shift towards individual focused moral arguments have hidden the violations of the rules of war by terrorist organizations under the mask of sovereign citizenship. As Etzioni states, “They want to violate the rules of war on the one hand and then be protected on the other. You can't have it both ways.”
The first Committee of the UN General Assembly saw its very first side event on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, on Friday, 23 October 2015. According to the UN, an increasing number of countries and non-state actors have shown interest in the use of both commercial and military use of drones. One of the panel experts, Mr. Zwijnenburg concluded the meeting by stating that clarity surrounding drone strikes is necessary to provide the international community for the legal interpretation of international humanitarian laws and frameworks related to targeted killings and civilian killings because of it.
Armed attacks by U.S. UAVs
MQ-1 Predator UAVs armed with Hellfire missiles have been used by the U.S. as platforms for hitting ground targets. Armed Predators were first used in late 2001 from bases in Pakistan and Uzbekistan, mostly aimed at assassinating high-profile individuals (terrorist leaders, etc.) inside Afghanistan. Since then, there have been many reported cases of such attacks taking place in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. 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 take 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 terrorists in Yemen on 3 November 2002. This marked the first use of an armed Predator as an attack aircraft outside of a theater of war such as Afghanistan.
The U.S. has claimed that 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 claimed 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 claimed to have killed more than half of the 20 most wanted al-Qaeda terrorist suspects in targeted killings using UAVs. By May 2010, counter-terrorism officials said that UAV 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. UAVs linger overhead after a strike, in some cases for hours, to enable the CIA to count the bodies and attempt to determine which, if any, are civilians. A Pakistani intelligence officer gave a higher estimate of civilian casualties, saying 20% of total deaths were civilians or non-combatants.
In February 2013, U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham stated that 4,756 people have been killed by U.S. UAVs.
CIA officials became concerned in 2008, that targets in Pakistan were being tipped off to pending U.S. UAV strikes by Pakistani intelligence, when the U.S. requested Pakistani permission prior to launching UAV-based attacks. The Bush administration therefore decided in August 2008 to abandon the practice of obtaining Pakistani government permission before launching missiles from UAVs, and in the next six months the CIA carried out at least 38 Predator strikes in northwest Pakistan, compared with 10 in 2006 and 2007 combined.
One issue with using armed drones to attack human targets is the size of the bombs being used and the relative lack of discrimination of the 100 lb (45 kg) Hellfire, which was designed to eliminate tanks and attack bunkers. Smaller weapons such as Raytheon'sGriffin and Pyros 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.
Public opinion in the US (military use)
Main article: Public opinion about US drone attacks
In 2013, a Fairleigh Dickinson University poll found that 48% of American voters believe it is "illegal for the U.S. government to target its own citizens living abroad with drone attacks." In the same poll, however, a majority of voters approved of the U.S. military and the CIA using UAVs to carry out attacks abroad “on people and other targets deemed a threat to the U.S.”.
There are a number of critics of the use of UAVs to track and kill terrorists and militants. A major criticism of drone strikes is that they result in excessive collateral damage. However, others maintain that drones "allow for a much closer review and much more selective targeting process than do other instruments of warfare" and are subject to Congressional oversight. Like any military technology, armed UAVs will kill people, combatants and innocents alike, thus "the main turning point concerns the question of whether we should go to war at all."
In 2012, the USAF trained more UAV pilots than ordinary jet fighter pilots for the first time. Unlike other UAVs, the Predator was armed with Hellfire missiles so that it can terminate the target that it locates. This was done after Predators sighted Osama Bin Laden multiple times but could not do anything about it other than send back images. In addition, the Predator is capable of orchestrating attacks by pointing lasers at the targets. This is important, as it puts a robot in a position to set off an attack. Their overall success is apparent because from June 2005 to June 2006 alone, Predators carried out 2,073 missions and participated in 242 separate raids.
In contrast to the Predator, which is remotely piloted via satellites, the Global Hawk operates virtually autonomously. The user merely hits the button for ‘take off’ and for ‘land’, while the UAV gets directions via GPS and reports back with a live feed. Global Hawks have the capability to fly from San Francisco and map out the entire state of Maine before having to return. In addition, some UAVs have become so small that they can be launched from one's hand and maneuvered through the street. These UAVs, known as Ravens, are especially useful in urban areas, such as Iraq, in order to discover insurgents and potential ambushes the next block up. UAVs are especially useful because they can fly for days at a time. Insurgents in the open for more than a few minutes at a time fear UAVs locating them.
In the U.S., thousands of civilian UAV operators work for contractors, piloting and maintaining UAVs. Up to four UAVs and about 400 to 500 pilot and ground support personnel are required for a single 24-hour-coverage combat air patrol (CAP). A 2011 study by the Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine indicated that nearly 50% of spy UAV operators suffer from high stress. The president of a civilian UAV operators' union, the Association of Unmanned Operation (AUO), cited long working hours and decreasing wages as U.S. involvement in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was reduced and as a result of the U.S. government's budget sequestration.
Given the increasing military use of cyber attacks against Microsoft software, the United States Armed Forces have moved towards Linux ground control software.
Scale of use
An August 2013, Brookings Institution study reported that in the U.S. Air Force there were approximately 1,300 remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) pilots, 8.5 percent of total Air Force pilots, up from 3.3 percent in 2008. The study indicated that the U.S. military's combat air patrol (CAP) daily missions requirement is growing at a faster pace than RPA pilots can be trained, with an attrition rate during RPA flight screening being three times that of traditional pilots and a 13% lower promotion rate to Major than other officers.
As of January 2014, the U.S. military operates a large number of unmanned aerial systems: 7,362 RQ-11 Ravens; 990 AeroVironment Wasp IIIs; 1,137 AeroVironment RQ-20 Pumas; and 306 RQ-16 T-Hawk small UAS systems and 246 Predators and MQ-1C Gray Eagles; 126 MQ-9 Reapers; 491 RQ-7 Shadows; and 33 RQ-4 Global Hawk large systems.
As of mid-2014, the U.S. Air Force is training more drone pilots than fighter and bomber pilots combined.
Research and development
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 UAVs. 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.
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 UAV programs to increase in cost from 0% to 5%, while United States Air Force UAV programs have increased from 60% to 284%.
The USAF said in 2012 that it will focus on development of UAVs capable of collaborative networking with manned aircraft in "buddy attacks" or flying as standalone systems.
The U.S. Defense Department's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) planned in 2014 to award grants and contracts up to $5.5 million each, for its Fast Lightweight Autonomy Program (FLAP) program, which specifies UAVs capable of traveling 60 feet per second (18 m/s) to include autonomy algorithms for quickly and autonomously navigating indoor obstacles and learning from past travels.
List of U.S. military UAVs
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- ^Trump Restores CIA Power To Launch Drone Strikes
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|Look up UAV in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
A UAV is an unmanned aerial vehicle, commonly known as a drone.
UAV may also refer to:
- UAV Cypher or Sikorsky Cypher, a type of unmanned aerial vehicle developed by Sikorsky Aircraft
- UAV Outback Challenge or UAV Challenge - Outback Rescue, an annual competition for the development of unmanned aerial vehicles
- UAV Sci-Tech UAV, Chinese UCAVs developed by Beijing UAV Sci-Tech Co., Ltd
- Unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV), also known as a combat drone or simply a drone
- Vrabac Mini UAV, a mini drone intended for day/night reconnaissance and surveillance at shorter distances, as well as for target finding and designating
Topics referred to by the same term
|Role||Unmanned aerial vehicle for civilian use|
|Manufacturer||Primoco UAV SE, Czech Republic|
|First flight||31 July 2015|
|Number built||40 as of 2016|
Primoco UAV is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for civilian use, designed and manufactured in the Czech Republic. Its first flight took place in July 2015 and the UAV Model One 100 started full production in January 2016.
Its primary usage is in civilian air operations, supporting applications ranging from border protection and security to pipeline monitoring and remote infrastructure management. The aircraft has a fixed wing construction, providing extended range and reliability in adverse weather conditions.
Operation and Control
The UAVis operated from a Ground Control Station with a pilot and a flight operator. It can be manually controlled or run in fully automatic mode, where pre-programmed waypoints allow automatic takeoff, flight and landing. The aircraft also has additional safety modes which allow it to return to base or land in a safe area if communications are lost or faults occur.
The UAV has an S mode transponder which allow its flight path to be integrated into normal civilian airspace without special authorization. The equipment and aircraft can be transported in a light van..
Communications and Monitoring
Secure communications via radio or satellite Inmarsat connections are built in for continuous transmission of video and sensor readings to a ground station. Onboard sensors include Infra-Red cameras, Optical cameras, Radar/Lidar and others to the operator’s requirements.
- Crew: 0
- Wingspan: 4.9 m
- Length: 3.7 m
- Maximum take-off weight: 100/150 kg
- Single piston engine 20/50 hp
- Composite construction
- Cruise speed: 100 – 150 km/h
- Maximum Distance: 1,500 km
- Endurance: 10 hours
- Payload: 1 – 50 kg
- Take-off/Landing length: 300 m
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Unmanned combat aerial vehicle
Unmanned aerial vehicle that is usually armed
Not to be confused with Loitering munition.
An unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV), also known as a combat drone, colloquially shortened as drone or battlefield UAV, is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that is used for intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance and carries aircraft ordnance such as missiles, ATGMs, and/or bombs in hardpoints for drone strikes. These drones are usually under real-time human control, with varying levels of autonomy. Unlike unmanned surveillance and reconnaissance aerial vehicles, UCAVs are used for both drone strikes and battlefield intelligence.
Aircraft of this type have no onboard human pilot. As the operator runs the vehicle from a remote terminal, equipment necessary for a human pilot is not needed, resulting in a lower weight and a smaller size than a manned aircraft. Many countries have operational domestic UCAVs and many more have imported armed drones or have development programs underway.
This section needs to be updated. The reason given is: Please add information related to Chinese, Iranian, Saudi, Turkish and other countries. Please also add information related to the recent years such as "Saudi led operation in Yemen", "Libyan Civil War" and "2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war". Please help update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information.(August 2021)
Main article: History of unmanned combat aerial vehicles
One of the earliest explorations of the concept of the combat drone was by Lee De Forest, an early inventor of radio devices, and U. A. Sanabria, a TV engineer. They presented their idea in an article in a 1940 publication of Popular Mechanics. The modern military drone as known today was the brainchild of John Stuart Foster Jr., a nuclear physicist and former head of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (then called the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory). In 1971, Foster was a model aeroplane hobbyist and had the idea this hobby could be applied to building weapons. He drew up plans and by 1973 DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) built two prototypes called "Prairie" and "Calera". They were powered by a modified lawn-mower engine and could stay aloft for two hours while carrying a 28-pound (13 kg) load.
In the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Israel used unarmed U.S. Ryan Firebee target drones to spur Egypt into firing its entire arsenal of anti-aircraft missiles. This mission was accomplished with no injuries to Israeli pilots, who soon exploited the depleted Egyptian defences. In the late 1970s and 80s, Israel developed the Scout and the Pioneer, which represented a shift toward the lighter, glider-type model of UAV in use today. Israel pioneered the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (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 defences in Operation Mole Cricket 19 at the start of the 1982 Lebanon War, resulting in no pilots downed.
In the late 1980s, Iran deployed a drone armed with six RPG-7 rounds in the Iran–Iraq War.
Impressed by Israel's success, the US quickly acquired a number of UAVs, and its Hunter and Pioneer systems are direct derivatives of Israeli models. The first 'UAV war' was the first Gulf War: according to a May 1991 Department of the Navy report: "At least one UAV was airborne at all times during Desert Storm." After the Gulf War successfully demonstrated its utility, global militaries invested widely in the domestic development of combat UAVs. The first "kill" by an American UAV was on October 7, 2001, in Kandahar.
In recent years, the U.S. has increased its use of drone strikes against targets in foreign countries and elsewhere as part of the War on Terror. In January 2014, it was estimated that 2,400 people have died from U.S. drone strikes in five years. In June 2015 the total death toll of U.S. drone strikes was estimated to exceed 6,000.
Dedicated UCAV models
Reconnaissance UAVs with strike variant
Future models and technology demonstrators
Note: Some of these are not aircraft prototypes but technology demonstrators (TD) that are not expected to enter service.
Elbit Hermes 450
Main article: Elbit Hermes 450
The Israeli Air Force, which operates a squadron of Hermes 450s out of Palmachim Airbase south of Tel Aviv, has adapted the Hermes 450 for use as an assault UAV, reportedly equipping it with two Hellfire missiles or, according to various sources, two Rafael-made missiles. According to Israeli, Palestinian, Lebanese and independent reports, the Israeli assault UAV has seen extensive service in the Gaza Strip and was used intensively in the Second Lebanon War. Israel has not denied this capability, but to date, its policy has been not to officially confirm it either.
Main article: BAE Taranis
Taranis is a British demonstrator program for unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) technology. It is part of the UK's Strategic Unmanned Air Vehicle (Experimental) programme (SUAV[E]). BAE describes Taranis's role in this context as following: "This £124m four year programme is part of the UK Government's Strategic Unmanned Air Vehicle Experiment (SUAVE) and will result in a UCAV demonstrator with fully integrated autonomous systems and low observable features."
The Taranis demonstrator will have an MTOW (Maximum Takeoff Weight) of about 8000 kilograms and be of comparable size to the BAE Hawk – making it one of the world's largest UAVs. It will be stealthy, fast, and able to deploy a range of munitions over a number of targets, as well as being capable of defending itself against manned and other unmanned enemy aircraft. The first steel was cut in September 2007 and ground testing started in early 2009. The first flight of the Taranis took place in August 2013 in Woomera, Australia. The demonstrator will have two internal weapons bays. With the inclusion of "full autonomy" the intention is thus for this platform to be able to "think for itself" for a large part of the mission.
Main article: Battlefield UAVs of the United States
Main article: Joint Unmanned Combat Air Systems
Joint Unmanned Combat Air Systems, or J-UCAS, was the name for the joint U.S. Navy/U.S. Air Force unmanned combat air vehicle procurement project. J-UCAS was managed by DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. In the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review, the J-UCAS program was terminated. The program would have used stealth technologies and allowed UCAVs to be armed with precision-guided weapons such as Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) or precision miniature munitions, such as the Small-Diameter Bomb, which are used to suppress enemy air defenses. Controllers could have used real-time data sources, including satellites, to plan for and respond to changes on and around the battlefield.
The program was later revitalized into UCAS-D, a United States Navy program designed to develop a carrier-based unmanned aircraft.
UCAS-D and Northrop Grumman X-47B are the U.S. Navy-only successors to the J-UCAS, which was cancelled in 2006. Boeing is also working on the X-45N in this sector.
In a New Year 2011 editorial titled "China's Naval Ambitions", The New York Times reported that "[t]he Pentagon must accelerate efforts to make American naval forces in Asia less vulnerable to Chinese missile threats by giving them the means to project their deterrent power from further offshore. Cutting back purchases of the Navy's DDG-1000 destroyer (with its deficient missile defense system) was a first step. A bigger one would be to reduce the Navy's reliance on short-range manned strike aircraft like the F-18 and the F-35, in favor of the carrier-launched N-UCAS ...."
On 6 January 2011, the DOD announced that this would be one area of additional investment in the 2012 budget request.
Main article: USAF Hunter-Killer
The United States Air Force has shifted its UCAV program from medium-range tacticalstrike aircraft to long-range strategic bombers. The technology of the Long Range Strike program is based on the Lockheed Martin Polecat demonstrator.
- EADS Surveyor: The EADS "Surveyor" is still in preliminary investigation phase. It will be a fixed-wing, jet-powered UAV and is being positioned as a replacement for the CL-289. EADS is currently working on a demonstrator, the "Carapas", modified from an Italian Mirach 100 drone. The production Surveyor would be a stealthy machine with a top speed of 850 km/h (530 mph), an endurance of up to three hours, and capable of carrying a sophisticated sensor payload, including SIGINT gear. It would also be able to carry external loads, such as air-dropped sensors or light munitions.
During the Battle of Mosul it was reported that commercially available quadcopters and drones were being used by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as surveillance and weapons delivery platforms using improvised cradles to drop grenades and other explosives. The ISIS drone facility became a target of Royal Air Force strike aircraft.
Other groups in Syria are also thought to have used UAVs in attacks. A swarm of drones armed with bombs attacked Russian bases in western Syria in early January 2018.
Ethics and laws
See also: Targeted killing
UAVs face multiple ethical issues.
In March 2009, The Guardian reported allegations that Israeli UAVs armed with missiles killed 48 Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip, including two small children in a field and a group of women and girls in an otherwise empty street. In June, Human Rights Watch investigated six UAV attacks that were 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.
Main articles: Disposition Matrix and Civilian casualties from U.S. drone strikes
Collateral damage of civilians still takes place with drone combat, although some (like John O. Brennan) have argued that it greatly reduces the likelihood. Although drones enable advance tactical surveillance and up-to-the-minute data, flaws can become apparent. The U.S. drone program in Pakistan has killed several dozen civilians accidentally. An example is the operation in 2010 Feb near Khod, in Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan. Over ten civilians in a three-vehicle convoy travelling from Daykundi Province were accidentally killed after a drone crew misidentified the civilians as hostile threats. A force of Bell OH-58 Kiowa helicopters, who were attempting to protect ground troops fighting several kilometers away, fired AGM-114 Hellfire missiles at the vehicles.
In 2009, the Brookings Institution reported that in the US-led drone attacks in Pakistan, ten civilians died for every militant killed. A former ambassador of Pakistan said that American UAV attacks were turning Pakistani opinion against the United States. The website PakistanBodyCount.Org reported 1,065 civilian deaths between 2004 and 2010. According to a 2010 analysis by the New America Foundation 114 UAV-based missile strikes in northwest Pakistan from 2004 killed between 830 and 1,210 individuals, around 550 to 850 of whom were militants. In October 2013, the Pakistani government revealed that since 2008 317 drone strikes had killed 2,160 Islamic militants and 67 civilians – far less than previous government and independent organization calculations.
In July 2013, former Pentagon lawyer Jeh Johnson said, on a panel at the Aspen Institute's Security Forum, that he felt an emotional reaction upon reading Nasser al-Awlaki's account of how his 16-year-old grandson was killed by a U.S. drone.
In December 2013, a U.S. drone strike in Radda, capital of Yemen's Bayda province, killed members of a wedding party. The following February, Human Rights Watch published a 28-page report reviewing the strike and its legality, among other things. Titled "A Wedding That Became A Funeral", the report concludes that some (but not necessarily all) of the casualties were civilians, not the intended regional Al-Qaeda targets. The organization demanded US and Yemeni investigations into the attack. In its research, HRW "found no evidence that the individuals taking part in the wedding procession posed an imminent threat to life. In the absence of an armed conflict, killing them would be a violation of international human rights law."
As a new weapon, drones are having unforeseen political effects. Some scholars have argued that the extensive use of drones will undermine the popular legitimacy of local governments, which are blamed for permitting the strikes. The case study for this analysis is Yemen, where drone strikes seem to be increasing resentment against the Yemeni government as well as against the U.S.
On August 6, 2020, the United States Senators introduced a bill that would ban the sale of large armed drones to countries like Saudi Arabia and UAE as lawmakers are concerned that American-made weapons have been used in war in Yemen that has left thousands of civilians dead.
Controllers can also experience psychological stress from the combat they are involved in. A few may even experience posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). There are some reports of drone pilots struggling with post traumatic stress disorder after they have killed civilians, especially children. Unlike bomber pilots, moreover, drone operators linger long after the explosives strike and see its effects on human bodies in stark detail. The intense training that US drone operators undergo "works to dehumanise the ‘enemy’ people below whilst glorifying and celebrating the killing process."
Professor Shannon E. French, the director of the Center for Ethics and Excellence at Case Western Reserve University and a former professor at the U.S. Naval Academy, wonders if the PTSD may be rooted in a suspicion that something else was at stake. According to Professor French, the author of the 2003 book The Code of the Warrior:
If [I'm] in the field risking and taking a life, there's a sense that I'm putting skin in the game … I'm taking a risk so it feels more honorable. Someone who kills at a distance—it can make them doubt. Am I truly honorable?
The Missile Technology Control Regime applies to UCAVs.
On 28 October 2009, United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Philip Alston, presented a report to the Third Committee (social, humanitarian and cultural) of the General Assembly arguing that the use of unmanned combat air vehicles for targeted killings should be regarded as a breach of international law unless the United States can demonstrate appropriate precautions and accountability mechanisms are in place.
In June 2015 forty-five former US military personnel issued a joint appeal to pilots of aerial drones operating in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan and elsewhere urging them to refuse to fly and indicated that their missions "profoundly violate domestic and international laws." They noted that these drone attacks also undermine principles of human rights.
Some leaders worry about the effect drone warfare will have on soldiers' psychology. Keith Shurtleff, an army chaplain at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, worries "that as war becomes safer and easier, as soldiers are removed from the horrors of war and see the enemy not as humans but as blips on a screen, there is very real danger of losing the deterrent that such horrors provide". Similar worries surfaced when "smart" bombs began to be used extensively in the First Gulf War.
Stanford's ‘Living Under Drones’ researchers, meanwhile, have shown that civilians in Pakistan and Afghanistan are reluctant to help those hit by the first strikes because rescuers themselves have often been killed by follow-on drone strikes. Injured relatives in the rubble of the first strike have been known to tell their relatives not to help rescue them because of the frequency of these so-called ‘double-tap’ strikes. People also avoid gathering in groups in visible places. Many children are permanently kept indoors and often no longer attend school.
Writer Mark Bowden has disputed this viewpoint saying in his The Atlantic article, "But flying a drone, [the pilot] sees the carnage close-up, in real time—the blood and severed body parts, the arrival of emergency responders, the anguish of friends and family. Often he’s been watching the people he kills for a long time before pulling the trigger. Drone pilots become familiar with their victims. They see them in the ordinary rhythms of their lives—with their wives and friends, with their children. War by remote control turns out to be intimate and disturbing. Pilots are sometimes shaken."
This assessment is corroborated by a sensor operator's account:
The smoke clears, and there’s pieces of the two guys around the crater. And there’s this guy over here, and he’s missing his right leg above his knee. He’s holding it, and he’s rolling around, and the blood is squirting out of his leg … It took him a long time to die. I just watched him.
— Airman First ClassBrandon Bryant (whistleblower) in GQ
Back in the United States, a combination of "lower-class" status in the military, overwork, and psychological trauma may be taking a mental toll on drone pilots. These psychological, cultural and career issues appear to have led to a shortfall in USAF drone operators, which is seen as a "dead end job".
The "unmanned" aspect of armed UAVs has raised moral concerns about their use in combat and law enforcement contexts. Attacking humans with remote-controlled machines is even more abstract than the use of other "stand-off" weaponry, such as missiles, artillery and aerial bombardment, possibly depersonalizing the decision to attack. By contrast, UAVs and other stand-off systems reduce casualties among the attackers.
The picture is further complicated if the UAV can initiate an attack autonomously, without direct human involvement. Such UAVs could possibly react more quickly and without bias, but would lack human sensibility. Heather Roff[clarification needed] replies that lethal autonomous robots (LARs) may not be appropriate for complex conflicts and targeted populations would likely react angrily against them.Will McCants argues that the public would be more outraged by machine failures than human error, making LARs politically implausible. According to Mark Gubrud, claims that drones can be hacked are overblown and misleading and moreover, drones are more likely to be hacked if they're autonomous, because otherwise the human operator would take control: "Giving weapon systems autonomous capabilities is a good way to lose control of them, either due to a programming error, unanticipated circumstances, malfunction, or hack and then not be able to regain control short of blowing them up, hopefully before they've blown up too many other things and people." Others have argued that the technological possibility of autonomy should not obscure the continuing moral responsibilities humans have at every stage. There is an ongoing debate as to whether the attribution of moral responsibility can be apportioned appropriately under existing international humanitarian law, which is based on four principles: military necessity, distinction between military and civilian objects, prohibition of unnecessary suffering, and proportionality.
Main article: Public opinion about U.S. drone attacks
In 2013 a Fairleigh Dickinson University poll asked registered voters whether they "approve or disapprove of the U.S. Military using drones to carry out attacks abroad on people and other targets deemed a threat to the U.S.?" The results showed that three in every four (75%) of voters approved of the U.S. Military using drones to carry out attacks, while (13%) disapproved. A poll conducted by the Huffington Post in 2013 also showed a majority supporting targeted killings using drones, albeit by a smaller margin. A 2015 poll showed Republicans and men are more likely to support U.S. drone strikes, while Democrats and Independents, women, young people, and minorities are less supportive.
Outside America there is widespread opposition to US drone killings. A July 2014 report found a majority or plurality of respondents in 39 of 44 countries surveyed opposed U.S. drone strikes in countries such as Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. The U.S., Kenya, and Israel were the only countries where at least half the public supported drone strikes. Venezuela was found to be the most anti-drone country, where 92% of respondents disagreed with U.S. drone strikes, followed closely by Jordan, where 90% disagreed; Israel was shown as the most pro-drone, with 65% in favor of U.S. drone strikes and 27% opposed.
In March 2013, DARPA began efforts to develop a fleet of small naval vessels capable of launching and retrieving combat drones without the need for large and expensive aircraft carriers. In the UK the UXV Combatant, which would have been a ship dedicated to UCAVs, was proposed for the Royal Navy.
In November 2014, US DoD made an open request for ideas on how to build an airborne aircraft carrier that can launch and retrieve drones using existing military aircraft such as the B-1B, B-52 or C-130.
In February 2021, president of the Turkish Presidency of Defense Industries (SSB) Ismail Demir made public a new type of UAV being developed by Baykar that is planned to be stationed to Turkey's first amphibious assault ship, TCG Anadolu. The new aircraft being developed is a naval version of the Bayraktar TB2 equipped with a local engine developed by TEI. According to the initial plans the ship was expected to be equipped with F-35B fighter jets but following the removal of Turkey from the procurement program, the vessel entered into a modification process to be able to accommodate UAVs. Mr. Demir stated that between 30 and 50 folding-winged Bayraktar TB3 UAVs will be able to land and take off using the deck of Anadolu.
Countries with known operational armed drones:
- Azerbaijan – Bayraktar TB2
- China – GJ-11, CAIG Wing Loong I, CAIG Wing Loong II, CH-3, CH-4, CH-5
- Egypt – CAIG Wing Loong,CH-4 Rainbow
- France – MQ-9 Reaper
- India - IAI Eitan
- Indonesia - CH-4 Rainbow
- Iraq - CH-4 Rainbow
- Iran – Saegheh, Kaman-12, Kaman 22, IAIO Fotros, Shahed 129, Meraj, HESA Ababil, Mohajer-6
- Israel – Elbit Hermes 450 (armed variant), IAI Eitan
- Italy – MQ-1 Predator, MQ-9 Reaper
- Libya - Bayraktar TB2 (used by Government of National Accord)
- Morocco – MQ-9 Reaper
- Myanmar - CH-3A Rainbow,CH-4 Rainbow
- Netherlands – MQ-9 Reaper
- Nigeria – CAIG Wing Loong
- Pakistan – NESCOM Burraq, CAIG Wing Loong II,CH-4 Rainbow
- Poland - WB Electronics Warmate
- Qatar - Bayraktar TB2
- Saudi Arabia – CAIG Wing Loong,Vestel Karayel
- Serbia – CAIG Wing Loong, CH-92A
- Turkey – TAI Anka, Bayraktar TB2,Vestel Karayel,TAI Aksungur,Bayraktar Akıncı
- United Arab Emirates – CAIG Wing Loong
- Ukraine - Bayraktar TB2
- United Kingdom – MQ-9 Reaper
- United States – MQ-1 Predator, MQ-1C Gray Eagle, MQ-9 Reaper
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