Science and Technology News

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Ten Technologies: A Brief Look at Military Evolution — Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

Fans of military technology are also fans of police technology!

By Carla Voorhees,
Defense Media Activity

This is the seventh in a series of 10 technologies integral to the United States military since World War I.

The importance of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) cannot be overstated. Since 9/11, there has been an explosion of UAV technology; however, as early as 1999, RQ-1 Predators patrolled the airspace over Kosovo.

Today’s UAVs come in a range of sizes and shapes, from the huge unmanned drones patrolling the skies over Libya and Afghanistan to the 3-foot-long Raven that scans for Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). These UAVs stream video and still images constantly, providing the Air Force with nearly 1,500 hours of video and 1,500 still images every day.

As UAVs have become more and more prevalent on the battlefield, not only has the video and image capability improved, but they have gotten smaller, lighter, tougher, and more energy efficient. For example, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) continues to fund competitions such as UAVForge in search of smaller and more sophisticated drones. The Defense Technical Information Center focuses on the survivability of drones under their Survivability / Vulnerability Information Analysis Center (SURVIAC) and has worked to develop a total survivability solution including self-protection for UAVs. The Air Force Research Lab is creating the next-generation of energy efficient drones, reducing vehicle size and weight while increasing flight times.

UAVs will continue to be part of our nation’s forces for the foreseeable future as they produce the tactical advantage of constant reconnaissance with far less risk to life than traditional methods.

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