Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Technologies

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.

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