Category Archive Drones

ByEvelyn Russell

UAV: Aerial Vehicle or Weaponized Robot?

A remotely piloted aircraft, also referred to as a UAV is an unmanned aerial vehicle, usually with a human as the only occupant. UAVs have become part of a military strategy, being used for a wide variety of military and non-military applications. In the past, UAVs have been autonomous, with the ability to fly and locate themselves on their own, but this ability has been somewhat limited by the difficulty in operating UAVs without physical human interaction. Currently, UAVs can be remotely piloted using software or can be equipped with onboard controls that allow the pilot to remotely control the aircraft. Either way, UAVs can perform a very wide range of surveillance and reconnaissance missions using high-tech surveillance equipment and sensors designed to pinpoint enemy activity or provide a support for other operations, such as military operations, disaster relief operations, or civil defense initiatives.

The military uses UAVs for everything from troop movements, to monitoring activities inside the US, and to providing advanced communication and surveillance systems to military bases. civilian use of UAVs is also becoming more commonplace. As news of the Predator and Reaper UAVs spreads, more civilians are asking the question of what these technologically advanced machines can be used for. Will they be used to target terrorists before they strike? Will they be used to survey the country for natural resources or to monitor construction projects? Or, could they be used to protect US citizens from attack or to help rescue missionaries who are being attacked by terrorists?

The answer to all of these questions depends on how the United States defines “targeted killing” as compared to “no-argeted killing.” As the coordinator of the International drone warfare project, Dr. John Ellis, says, “While the United States has asserted for years that it does not use drones in targeted killing or any other offensive ways, the Department of Justice has stated that it may not consider any civilian harm as a part of its legal argument in defense of a drone strike. Thus, the balance between offensive and defensive operations remains murky at this point.” Although the Department of Defense would not comment on any potential future use of UAVs for offensive purposes, both the CIA and the US Army maintain that UAVs play an important role in both disciplines.

ByPhilip Murphy

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Technologies

One of the most exciting technologies of our time is the remote autonomous operation of a quadrotor autonomous aerial vehicle, or drone. Although we’ve seen a few very simple remotely piloted vehicles (such as a flying dog) that can perform basic tasks, such as going to a vet, this new generation of remote control aircraft is poised to change the way we do business. Recently, we’ve seen this technology in use at the United States military, and also in the military of China. As one military official told me, these drones will soon be the norm instead of the exception. In fact, it was recently announced that two Chinese HU-JTs (Hummingbird Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) with autonomous flight capabilities will be used by the armed forces in the future to provide greater flexibility to troops on the move.

Military insiders say the new unmanned aerial vehicle systems will use a data link to control the vehicle, much like an RC car. This data link will allow the controller to “sense” the distance to the target from the pilot, who will then be able to decide where the drone will fly during the flight. The UAV will navigate its way through various obstacles on the ground, such as trees, sandbags, hills, and other terrain features. And because the UAV is operating off of a remote data link with a mounted control, the vehicle will be in constant radio contact with its ground controller, allowing for constant updates as to the state of the vehicle and where it is within range of other UAVs.

While this technology certainly opens up new avenues for providing military operations with more versatility, it is important to recognize that there are limits to the applications of this new form of combat. First, the size and weight of these vehicles make it difficult for them to carry out a long-range aerial attack against an enemy on foot. Secondly, these vehicles are very vulnerable to fire from the front, since they rely on using propellers to control their flight. However, new modifications, such as that which has been recently announced by the United States military, may pave the way for a day when these vehicles are armed with machine guns to provide air support in combat.