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Unmanned aerial vehicle


Unmanned aerial vehicle

A group photo of aerial demonstrators at the United States Naval unmanned aerial vehicle air demonstration (2005)
Camclone T21 unmanned autonomous vehicle fitted with CSIRO guidance system used to inspect power lines (2009)

An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), commonly known as a drone and also referred to as an unpiloted aerial vehicle and a remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) by the

  • History of WWI-era UAVs – Remote Piloted Aerial Vehicles : The "Aerial Target" and "Aerial Torpedo" in the USA
  • Defense Update reports about UAV employment in Persistent Surveillance
  • Drones in Domestic Surveillance Operations: Fourth Amendment Implications and Legislative Responses Congressional Research Service, 6 September 2012.
  • Commercial Drones: A Dogfight at the FAA; The aviation agency prepares for a deluge of unmanned aircraft in U.S. skies, 9 February 2012
  • Integration of Civil Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) in the National Airspace System Roadmap
  • Unmanned Systems Technology, Directory of UAV technical components
  • UVS International Non Profit Organization representing manufacturers of unmanned vehicle systems (UVS), subsystems and critical components for UVS and associated equipment, as well as companies supplying services with or for UVS, research organizations and academia.

External links

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  • Singer, P. (2009b). Wired for war: The robotics revolution and conflict in the 21st century. New York: Penguin Group.
  • Wagner, William. "Lightning Bugs and other Reconnaissance Drones; The can-do story of Ryan's unmanned spy planes". 1982, Armed Forces Journal International, in cooperation with Aero Publishers, Inc.
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Facilities, units and programs

See also

The white paper also includes a more extensive discussion of why targeted strikes against Americans does not violate constitutional protections afforded to American citizens as well as a U.S. law that criminalizes the killing of U.S. nationals overseas. It also discusses why such targeted killings would not be a war crime or violate a U.S. executive order banning assassinations. “A lawful killing in self-defense is not an assassination,” the white paper reads. “In the Department’s view, a lethal operation conducted against a U.S. citizen whose conduct poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States would be a legitimate act of national self-defense that would not violate the assassination ban. Similarly, the use of lethal force, consistent with the laws of war, against an individual who is a legitimate military target would be lawful and would not violate the assassination ban.”[354]

As in Holder’s speech, the confidential memo lays out a three-part test that would make targeted killings of American lawful: in addition to the suspect being an imminent threat, capture of the target must be “infeasible, and the strike must be conducted according to “laws of war principles.” But the memo elaborates on some of these factors in ways that go beyond what the attorney general said publicly. For example, it states that U.S. officials may consider whether an attempted capture of a suspect would pose an “undue risk” to U.S. personnel involved in such an operation. If so, U.S. officials could determine that the capture operation of the targeted American would not be feasible, making it lawful for the U.S. government to order a killing instead, the memo concludes. The undated memo is entitled “Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a U.S. Citizen who is a Senior Operational Leader of Al Qaeda or An Associated Force.” It was provided to members of the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary committees in June 2013 by administration officials on the condition that it be kept confidential and not discussed publicly.[354] Although not an official legal memo, the white paper was represented by administration officials as a policy document that closely mirrors the arguments of classified memos on targeted killings by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, which provides authoritative legal advice to the president and all executive branch agencies. The administration has refused to turn over to Congress or release those memos publicly or to even publicly confirm their existence. A source with access to the white paper, which is not classified, provided a copy to NBC News.[354]

A confidential Justice Department memo concludes that the U.S. government can order the killing of American citizens if they are believed to be “senior operational leaders” of Al-Qaeda or “an associated force” – even if there is no intelligence indicating they are engaged in an active plot to attack the U.S.[354] The secrecy surrounding such strikes is quickly emerging as a central issue in the hearing of White House counterterrorism adviser John O. Brennan, a key architect of the UAV campaign, to be CIA director. Brennan was the first administration official to publicly acknowledge UAV-based strikes in a speech last year, calling them “consistent with the inherent right of self-defense.” In a separate talk at the Northwestern University Law School, Attorney General Eric Holder specifically endorsed the constitutionality of targeted killings of Americans, saying they could be justified if government officials determine that the target poses “an imminent threat of violent attack.”[354] But the confidential Justice Department “white paper” introduces a more expansive definition of self-defense or imminent attack than described by Brennan or Holder in their public speeches It refers, for example, to what it calls a “broader concept of imminence” than actual intelligence about any ongoing plot against the U.S. homeland. "The condition that an operational leader presents an ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future,” the memo states.[354] Instead, an “informed, high-level” official of the U.S. government may determine that the targeted American has been “recently” involved in “activities” posing a threat of a violent attack and “there is no evidence suggesting that he has renounced or abandoned such activities.” (The memo does not define “recently” or “activities.”)

Legality (military use)

[353] The use of drones can be understood as a manifestation and extension of the technological revolution in military affairs (RMA) discourse. The hegemonic masculinities in the American military influenced the development of technology as it became more prevalent following the


Some critics emphasize that the use of drones promotes not only a physical, but emotional disengagement from on the ground combat, for example, which is historically the foundation of military combat. This has a number of implications. Individuals taking on a critique of drone use challenge the supposed sense of morality and ethics that is taken on when justifying drone use. The evolution of new types of warfare creates a growing detachment from direct combat via the increased use of drones, and distances combatants from the consequences of their actions. Therefore, the use of drones is often associated with the idea that it is more ethical; the minimization of U.S. casualties due to this distancing, for example, is another reason drone use is increasingly looked at as an improved technique of war. Critics argue this detachment is failing to address the reality of innocent civilians being killed through this war strategy.

Civilian death

The “unmanned” aspect of UAVs is primarily what sets them apart from manned aircraft. This aspect also raises certain moral concerns. Some believe that the asymmetry of fighting humans with machines that are controlled from a safe distance lacks integrity and honor that was once valued during warfare. Others feel that if such technology is available, then there is a moral duty to employ it in order to save as many lives as possible.[351] Another potential moral issue with UAVs is that because they do not allow for pilot casualties, some fear that they will be used more frivolously, and that human lives affected by UAV-based strikes will not be regarded with as much consideration as with manned aerial attacks.

Morality (military use)

"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".[349] 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.[350]

Lobbying in the US

Despite this broad-based public support, there are a number of vocal critics of the increasing use of UAVs to track and kill terrorists and militants. A major criticism of drone strikes is that they result in excessive collateral damage. David Kilcullen and Andrew Exum wrote in the New York Times that "according to Pakistani sources, they have also killed some 700 civilians. This is 50 civilians for every militant killed, a hit rate of 2 percent." Other studies have put the civilian casualty rate anywhere between 4 and 35 percent.[347] It is difficult to reconcile these figures because the drone strikes are often in areas that are inaccessible to independent observers and the data includes reports by local officials and local media, neither of whom are reliable sources. Critics also fear that by making killing seem clean and safe, so-called surgical UAV strikes will allow the United States to remain in a perpetual state of war. 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.[348] 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."[348]

In the same poll, however, by a wide six-to-one margin (75% vs.13%), voters approved of the U.S. military using UAVs to carry out attacks abroad “on people and other targets deemed a threat to the U.S.” Republicans, men, and whites approve more strongly than Democrats, women, and non-whites, but approval is robust in all demographic categories. Voters also approve of the CIA using UAVs to carry out attacks abroad by a strong three-to-one margin (65% vs. 21%), but this approval is significantly less than approval for the U.S. military carrying out such attacks.[346]

In February 2013, Fairleigh Dickinson University's PublicMind 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. Just 24% say that it's legal."[344] "The public clearly makes an assumption very different from that of the Obama administration or Mr. Brennan: the public thinks targeting American citizens abroad is out of bounds," Peter Woolley, founding director of PublicMind and professor of political science at FDU, said to CNN.[345]

Public opinion in the US (military use)

UAVs in popular culture

As of mid-2014, the U.S. air force is training more drone pilots than fighter and bomber pilots combined.[338] This large cohort is sometimes referred to as the chair-force.[339][340][341]

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.[337] 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.[337]

In the U.S., thousands of civilian UAV operators work for contractors, piloting and maintaining UAVs.[336] 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).[127] A 2011 study by the Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine indicated that nearly 50% of spy UAV operators suffer from high stress.[336] 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.[336]

UAV operations

In May 2013, The Vietnam Space Technology Institute successfully conducted 37 UAV flights in the central Lam Dong province. Research for the UAVs began in 2008 and was later funded by the state in 2011.[335]


In June 2012, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez claimed that Venezuela had begun producing its own UAV. General Julio Morales added that the UAV had a range of 100 kilometres (about 60 miles), a maximum altitude of 3,000 metres (about 10,000 feet), could fly for 90 minutes, measured three by four metres, and was a part of a system to survey and monitor pipelines, dams, and other rural infrastructure. General Morales was the president of the state-run Cavim arms manufacturer that developed the aircraft.[333][334]


Some locations, such as Charlottesville, Virginia, Iowa City, Iowa and St. Bonifacius, Minnesota have passed legislation that limits use of UAVs.[329][330][331] 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.[332]

Anti-UAV legislation

[328] claimed that this claim might not stick in court as a recent flight of the same model of UAV reached over 3000 feet.The Register A journalist for [327] Prosecutors said the UAV had flown at 2000 feet, but a defence attorney claimed it had a maximum height of 300 feet.[327] A prosecutor asked the men be released without bail, to which a judge agreed.[327] Wilkins Mendoza and Remy Castro were arrested and charged with a single count of Class D reckless endangerment, the charge resulting from the pilots' view that the UAV endangered the helicopter.[326], where they found two men and a second drone.Inwood After this, the helicopter followed the UAV to [326] An

George Washington bridge incident

Fans of the Los Angeles Kings were celebrating a victory over the New York Rangers outside the Staples Center on Friday 13 2014 when a UAV was seen flying over the crowd.[322][323][324] The crowd began throwing objects at the UAV, bringing it close enough to the ground for members of the crowd to grab it and it was seriously damaged with a skateboard.[322][323] A video of the incident was posted online, which was widely viewed.[324] Claims that the UAV belonged to the Los Angeles Police Department were reported in the media, but the LAPD denied this and said they were treating the craft as lost property.[322][323] One journalist remarked that the craft resembled a DJI Phantom rather than the two Draganflyer X6 craft bought by the LAPD a couple of weeks before the incident.[324] In a resulting action in September 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.[325]

Staples Center incident

In early May 2014, a damaged DJI Phantom II quadrotor was discovered on a 30th floor balcony of One Metropolitan Square in St. Louis, Missouri.[318][319][320][321]

St Louis building collision

On 22 March 2014, US Airways Flight 4650 nearly collided with a drone while landing at Tallahassee Regional Airport. The plane, a Bombardier CRJ200, was at an altitude of 2,300 feet (700 m) when it came dangerously close to the drone, described by one of the pilots "as a camouflaged F-4 fixed-wing aircraft that was quite small". Jim Williams, head of the UAV office at the Federal Aviation Administration, said: "The risk for a small [drone] to be ingested into a passenger airline engine is very real." The Federal Bureau of Investigation was investigating the incident, which was the first known instance of a large airliner nearly colliding with a drone in the U.S.[316][317]

Tallahassee airliner near-collision

[315][314] The suspects were found with "probably about one or two pounds of tobacco rolled up".[315][314] In November 2013, four people in

Georgia prison tobacco smuggling incident

In October 2013, the Drones and Aerial Robotics Conference was held at New York University.[312][313] The attendees included Missy Cummings, Daniel Suarez, Christopher Kippenberger, Vijay Kumar as well as many hobbyists and academics.[312] A protest by Granny Peace Brigade against military and police use of drones was held outside.[312]

New York drone conference

In September 2013, a UAV flying over Manhattan collided with a building and crashed on the pavement below near a businessman who reported the incident to the police.[309] The pilot seemed to lack experience controlling it as it collided with several buildings before the collision that made it crash.[309] In October 2013 it was reported that a man had been arrested days after the incident had been reported in the media and that he had been charged with reckless endangerment.[310] He was identified because he was seen in the video recorded by the drone.[310] In 2014 the Federal Aviation Authority fined this man, David Zablidowsky $2,200 for flying a UAV from a building on East 38th Street, Manhattan.[311] In a letter to Zablidowsky 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".[311][311] This is the first FAA attempt to penalise a non-commercial flight.[311]

Manhattan drone crash

In August 2013, a UAV filming events at the Virginia Bull Run in Dinwiddie County, Virginia crashed into the crowd, causing minor injuries.[307][308]

Virginia Bull Run crash

In March 2013, an Alitalia pilot on final approach to runway 31 right at John F. Kennedy International Airport reported seeing a small UAV near his aircraft.[303][304][305][306] Both the FAA and FBI were reported to be investigating.[303][304][305][306]

JFK International incident

Law enforcement and other government agencies are not the only entities that use UAVs. Private citizens and crop spraying, as they are often cheaper than a full-sized helicopter. Occupy Wall Street journalist Tim Pool uses what he calls an Occucopter for live feed coverage of Occupy movement events.[298] The "occucopter" is an inexpensive radio controlled quadcopter with cameras attached and controllable by Android devices or iOS. In February 2012, an animal rights group used a MikroKopter hexacopter to film hunters shooting pigeons in South Carolina. The hunters then shot the UAV down.[299] UAVs also have been shown to have many other civilian uses, such as agriculture, Hollywood, and in the construction industry.[300] Falkor Systems, a pioneer in the consumer use of UAV technology, has targeted extreme sports photography and video for drone use, focusing on skiing and base-jumping activities.[301] On 24 July 2014, a drone was used in search & rescue operations to successfully located an elderly gentleman with dementia who went missing for 3 days.[302]

Non-police uses

It is illegal to shoot down a drone with a firearm. However, under certain circumstances it is not illegal to fly a tethered balloon from private property. And if a drone was to hit the fine wires hanging from the balloon, said wires being used as enhanced aerials for a radio, the balloon's owner may be able to mount a civil court case against the drone's owner for damage caused by the drone to the balloon. Ditto if the drone was to hit a kite being flown from private property. Or if a flock of trained racing pigeons were to be hit by the drone, again the pigeon's owners may be able to sue to drone's operators for damage done to the pigeons.


FBI Director Robert Mueller testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on 19 June 2013 that the FBI owns and uses UAVs for the purposes of "surveillance".[297]

Associated today with the theatre of war, the widespread domestic use of drones for surveillance seems inevitable. Existing privacy law will not stand in its way. It may be tempting to conclude on this basis that drones will further erode our individual and collective privacy. Yet the opposite may happen. Drones may help restore our mental model of a privacy violation. They could be just the visceral jolt society needs to drag privacy law into the twenty-first century.
—M. Ryan Calo[296]

While Congress rapidly moves ahead to authorize further use of domestic UAVs, many remain skeptical regarding privacy concerns.[61] Some privacy scholars argue that the domestic use of UAVs for surveillance will ultimately benefit privacy by encouraging society to demand greater privacy rights.

[295] EPIC has stated that transparency and accountability must be built into the FAA's system of UAV/UAS/RPV regulation in order to provide basic protections to the public.[294] and Representative Austin Scott both introduced legislation that would require law enforcement to obtain a warrant before using a UAV to conduct surveillance of criminal activities.Rand Paul In June 2012, Senator [293] On 24 February 2012, the

In February 2013, Seattle mayor Michael McGinn ordered the Seattle Police Department to abandon plans to use UAVs after objections from residents.[290] Two DraganflyerX6 craft had been purchased with a federal grant and the police had been granted FAA approval though they had not started using them.[290] The vehicles were to be returned to the manufacturer.[290] Seattle Police Department had announced in October 2012 that they were drafting a policy and they were one of the first police forces in the United States to receive approval from the federal government to use UAVs.[291] Opponents of the programme included the Washington chapter of the ACLU.[290] The ACLU has also been concerned with privacy over drones that the Los Angeles Police Department had acquired.[292]

Individuals in the United States have few legal privacy protections from aerial surveillance conducted through UAVs. In Florida v. Riley,[60] the United States Supreme Court held that individuals do not have the right to privacy from police observation from public airspace. The weakness of legal protection from UAV surveillance have led to calls from civil liberties advocacy groups for the U.S. government to issue laws and regulations that establish both privacy protections and greater transparency regarding the use of UAVs to gather information about individuals.[289] As an example, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has warned of a "nightmare scenario" in the future where the police might be able, with computer technology, to combine mobile phone tracking with video data and build up a database of people's routine daily movements.[24]

A May 2012, report issued by the DHS Inspector General found that CBP "needs to improve planning of its unmanned aircraft systems program to address its level of operation, program funding, and resource requirements, along with stakeholder needs".[287] Also, despite the Bureau’s limited mission to safeguard the borders, the Bureau often flies missions for the FBI, the Department of Defense, NOAA, local law enforcement, and other agencies. In December 2011, the CBP made headlines when reporters discovered that the agency's UAVs were being used to assist local law enforcement in relation to cattle raiding in North Dakota without receiving prior approval from the FAA or any other agency.[288]

UAVs can be powerful surveillance tools by carrying camera systems capable of license plate scanning and thermal imaging as well as radio equipment and other sensors.[282] The Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a Freedom of Information Act request on 10 January 2012 against the Federal Aviation Administration.[283] As a result of the request, the FAA released a list of the names of all public and private entities that have applied for authorizations to fly UAVs domestically.[284] Some of these government licenses belong to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, a component of the Department of Homeland Security. UAVs have been used by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to patrol United States borders since 2005, and the agency currently owns 10 UAVs[285] with plans to use armed drones.[286]

Surveillance and policing

United States

In October 2014 it was reported that a UAV had flown within 25 metres of an ATR 72 passenger airliner on 30 May 2014.[279][280][281] The aircraft was approaching London Southend Airport and about to intercept the ILS glide slope when the copilot reported seeing a small craft flying about 100m to the right of the aircraft.[279][280][281] The copilot and Air Traffic Controller agreed it was probably a quadcopter - it was seen flying as close as 25m to the aircraft.[279][280][281] Southend ATC couldn't detect the craft on radar - subsequent examination of radar from other sites produced several brief but inconclusive radar signals.[281] Police were contacted, but the operator of the UAV could not be found.[279][280][281]

In April 2014, Robert Knowles of Barrow-in-Furness was prosecuted by the Civil Aviation Authority and pleaded guilty of flying a small UAV within 50 m of the Walney Bridge and the BAE Systems submarine testing facility.[278][278] Knowles claimed that he had been flying in a field a mile and a half from the BAE Systems base but had lost radio contact with the craft, which flew on for more than three minutes after that.[278] He was fined £800 and ordered to pay legal costs of £3,500.[278] The CAA claimed that the case raised safety issues related to flying unmanned aircraft.[278]

In March 2014, Sussex Police announced a pilot project using an Aeryon Skyranger for three months at Gatwick Airport.[276] The project was funded by the Association of Chief Police Officers to test the effectiveness of the technology in policing.[276] The equipment cost £35,000 with the training of four police officers costing £10,000.[276] In October 2014 it was reported that five English police forces (Merseyside, Staffordshire,[191] Essex, Wiltshire and the West Midlands) had obtained or operated unmanned aerial vehicles for observation.[277]

In 2012, the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals used a quadcopter UAV to deter badger baiters in Northern Ireland.[275] In March 2013, the British League Against Cruel Sports announced they had carried out trial flights with UAVs and planned to use a fixed-wing OpenRanger and an "Octocopter" to gather evidence to make private prosecutions against illegal hunting of foxes and other animals.[265] The UAVs were supplied by ShadowView. A spokesman for Privacy International said that "licencing and permission for drones is only on the basis of health and safety, without considering whether privacy rights are violated."[265] The CAA rules are that UAV aircraft less than 20 kilograms in weight must be in direct visual contact with the pilot, cannot fly within 150 meters of a congested area or within 50 meters of a person or vehicle, and cannot be used for commercial activity.[191][265]

In 2007, Merseyside Police was reported to be conducting tests with a UAV.[270][271] Merseyside Police caught a car thief with a UAV in 2010, but about a week later had to stop UAV operations as the UAV was not licenced. Regulations introduced at the start of 2010 required any aerial surveillance by unmanned aircraft - no matter the size of the drone - to be licenced.[272][273] A licence was granted by the Civil Aviation Authority but the UAV was lost soon after during a training exercise in Aigburth, Liverpool, when it crashed in the River Mersey.[274] and the police stated the UAV would not be replaced due to operational limitations and the cost of staff training.[274]

United Kingdom

In April 2014, the South African Civil Aviation Authority announced that it would clamp down on the illegal flying of UAVs in South African airspace.[269] They also stated that as they had not authorised any such flights, existing ones were being done illegally.[269] A growth in the use of UAVs had prompted the SACAA to integrate them into South African airspace, but until regulations were in place people operating them could be fined up to R50,000 and face up to 10 years prison.[269]

In June 2013, police officers apprehended a man who flew a multicopter outside the hospital that Nelson Mandela was in.[267] The pilot of the craft was questioned for several hours by police then released.[268] His equipment and footage were confiscated.[268] The pilot apologised for his actions and said he did not intend to invade Nelson Mandelas' privacy.[268]

In December 2012, the Kruger National Park started using a Seeker II UAV against rhino poachers. The UAV was loaned to the South African National Parks authority by its manufacturer, Denel Dynamics of South Africa.[265][266]

South Africa

The Tu-141 "Swift" reusable Soviet operational and tactical reconnaissance drone is intended for reconnaissance to a depth of several hundred kilometers from the front line at supersonic speeds.[260] The Tu-123 "Hawk" is a supersonic long-range reconnaissance drone (UAV) intended for conducting photographic and signals intelligence to a distance of 3200 km; it was produced since 1964.[261] The La-17P (UAV) is a reconnaissance UAV produced since 1963.[262] Since 1945, the Soviet Union also produced "doodlebug".[263] There are 43 known Soviet UAV models.[264]


On 12 July 2014, the Irish Times reported that the Irish Aviation Authority had issued permits to 22 operators to use UAVs in the Republic, as opposed to 14 the year before.[259] The IAA said each permit issued by the IAA containted the stated reason the operator was using the UAV but that it could not release details of those who were licenced because of data protection legislation.[259]

On 15 November 2012, the Irish Aviation Authority introduced a requirement that remotely piloted aircraft needed to be registered to comply with Statutory Instrument 634 or 2005 "Nationality and Registration of Aircraft" Order.[257][258]

The IAA policy is that unmanned aerial systems may not be flown without the operator receiving a specific permission from the IAA.[254] Where such a craft is to be used for commercial work, the operator must apply for an aerial work permission from the IAA.[254] Flying UAS outside the direct, unaided line of sight of the operator is not allowed for safety reasons.[254] It is not permitted to use vision-enhancing systems, such as first-person view.[254]

In May 2012, the Irish Aviation Authority published a document setting out safety requirements for any unmanned aerial system, regardless of mass.[254] An appendix contained an application form to apply to operate a UAS.[255] The only previous legislation had been the "Irish Aviation Authority (Rockets and Small Aircraft) Order, 2000".[254][256]

Legal status

Around 11am on 24 June 2014. a quadcopter crashed into an exercise yard of Wheatfield Prison, Clondalkin, Dublin 22.[251][252][253] The quadcopter collided with wires designed to prevent helicopters landing to aid escapes, causing it to crash.[251][252][253] A package containing drugs hung from the quadcopter by a rope and was seized by a group of prisoners before prison staff could get to it.[251][252][253] One prisoner swallowed the drugs and was placed into solitary confinement along with several others.[251][253] The quadcopter was badly damaged by the crash, though an unsuccessful attempt was made to fly it out of the prison.[251][252][253] The quadcopter was handed over to an Garda Síochána and both they and the prison service are holding their own investigations.[251][252][253]

Prison drug smuggling incident

In April 2014, Raymond Fogarty put a video of Cork City from a UAV that received publicity.[247][248][249] He was criticised for flying the UAV without a licence by Steve Slade of SkyTec Ireland and by Paudie Barry of Baseline Surveys Ireland.[250] Mr. Barry described Mr. Fogartys' as having acted “recklessly and irresponsibly”.[250] Mr Fogarty said he hadn't been contacted by the Irish Aviation Authority, but acknowledged that he had been naive in not looking up the laws and that he had contacted the IAA to get a licence.[250] The IAA declined to comment on the case but stated that licences were required to operate UAVs.[250]

A separate group, called Tomorrows Thoughts Today, who had attended the same event were detained on their return to the UK at London Southend Airport under the Terrorism Act.[245][246] They were released after a couple of hours questioning.[246]

In 2012, Loitering Theatre group flew Parrot AR.Drones near Áras an Uachtaráin, the Magazine Fort, a prison facility and offices of Google on Barrow Street and also Facebook.[244] Footage filmed by the group was shown at an exhibit run by the Dublin Science Gallery.[244] The Irish Aviation Authority stated that this was prohibited as Dublin city is classed as a restricted area.[245]

Republic of Ireland

In 2012, the World Wildlife Fund supplied two FPV Raptor 1.6 UAVs[241] to the Nepal National Parks. These UAVs were used to monitor rhinos tigers and elephants and deter poachers.[242] The UAVs were equipped with time lapse cameras and could fly for 18 miles at 650 feet.[243]


T-Hawk[238] and Global Hawk[239] drones were used to gather information about the damaged Fukushima Number 1 nuclear plant and disaster-stricken areas of the Tōhoku region after the March 2011 tsunami. Anti-whaling activists used an Osprey UAV (made by Kansas-based Hangar 18) in 2012 to monitor Japanese whaling ships in the Antarctic.[240]

Japanese farmers have been using Yamaha's R-50 and RMAX unmanned helicopters to dust their crops since 1987.[236][237]


On 11 May 2014 Francescos' Pizza of Mumbai made a test delivery from a branch in Lower Parel to the roof of a building in Worli.[228] Police in Mumbai began an investigation on the grounds that security clearances had not been sought.[229] Many police departments have procured drones for law and order and aerial surveillance even though the DGCA has no guidelines on operation of drones.[230][231][232][233][234][235]


The Deutsche Bahn (German national railways) said in 2013 that it would test small surveillance UAVs with thermal cameras to prosecute vandals who spray graffiti on its property at night. Graffiti incidents cost the Deutsche Bahn $10 million per year to clean up.[227]


In November 2014 two men and a woman were arrested near the Belleville Nuclear Power Plant with two UAVs.[226] French media reported that they didn't seem to have any connection with the unidentified flights.[226]

[225] Overflights of nuclear power plants are illegal in France, with a punishment of a year in prison and a fine of €75,000 if an aircraft comes within 5 km horizontally or 1 km vertically of a plant.[225] In October and November 2014 unidentified civilian UAVs were seen flying near 13 nuclear power plants, including

Nuclear power plant overflights

In October 2014 an Israeli tourist was arrested in front of Notre Dame de Paris and spent the night in jail.[224] The following morning he was fined 400 Euro for“operating an aircraft non-compliant with safety laws”.[224] He said he wasn't aware that it was illegal to fly drones in Paris and that he'd photographed Notre Dame, Hôtel-Dieu de Paris and a police station as he wanted to photograph Parisian monuments for private purposes.[224]


In August 2013, the Italian defence company Selex ES provided an unarmed surveillance drone to be deployed in the Democratic Republic of Congo to monitor movements of armed groups in the region and to protect the civilian population more effectively.[223]

A UAV in Goma as part of MONUSCO peacekeeping mission

Democratic Republic of Congo

In March 2014, a remote-controlled helicopter was reported by the crew of a Boeing 777 flying 30 miles from their craft at the same airport, though nothing connects the two incidents.[222]

In April 2014, video of a UAV flying close to an airliner as it landed at Vancouver International Airport attracted criticism from several quarters as well as an investigation.[222] The video showed footage of the airliner on final approach taken from a camera on board the UAV.[222] Transport Canada spokesman Rod Nelson said his department was investigating with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to identify the operator.[222] Model Aeronautics Association of Canada board of directors member Steve Hughes said that pilots like the one in question were damaging the hobby of flying model aircraft.[222]

Vancouver International Airport incidents


Didier Deschamps claimed that a UAV flew over the French teams training camp in Ribeirão Preto before their 2014 World Cup match with Honduras.[221] Deschamps wasn't as amused as some of his players were by the incident, though he was content to leave the investigation to FIFA.[221]


In 2013, The Flemish Research Institute for Nature and Forest and the Flanders Marine Institute planned to use a UAV with a camera and a detection system that automatically recognizes different types of vegetation, trees and individual plants in order to make regular assessments of the biodiversity of the Flemish terrain. Their previous system of using 25 civil servants to map the country was unsatisfactory and time-consuming.[220]


In November 2014 the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions decided not to proceed with a charge of reckless operation against Warren Abrahams, whose drone hit Raija Ogden at the event in April. Ms Ogden sustained head injuries from the drone, which had been hovering above competitors filming the event. However CASA said its lawyers would take a number of weeks to determine whether to fine him.[219] Warren Abrahams commented on his social media page: "Just got the call from CASA (Civil Aviation Safety Authority) no charges against us for incident in April" and "Just letting everyone know as investigation has taken this long. Sorry to all those who thought they could charge me ha ha you idiots!!!"[219] Simon Teakle, president of the triathlon club, called the comments harsh and insensitive to Raija Ogden, something Warren Abrahams denied.[219]

The operator may not have the licence required to operate a multicopter.[218]

Timing equipment caused interference with the operation of the UAV while it was close to people on the ground.[218] CASA regulations require that UAVs be at least 30m from people and shouldn't be operated in a way that creates a hazard.[218]

In July 2014, CASA referred the operators of the UAV to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, which may lead to a prosecution if the latter decides there is enough evidence for a court case.[218]

Warren Abrahams claimed that video footage of the event supported his claims.[217] In a radio interview he suggested that his drone had been hacked by someone who had taken control of it, but when contacted by Guardian Australia, he seemed to withdraw the statement.[217]

In April 2014, triathlete Raija Ogden was injured in an incident in Geraldton, Western Australia.[217] She claimed that she was injured when the drone collided with her during the race.[217] Warren Abrahams, the owner of the UAV denied that it had collided with her and that she had been injured when she was frightened by the falling UAV and tripped.[217] Raija Ogden disputed these claims saying that "I have lacerations on my head from the drone and the ambulance crew took a piece of propeller from my head".[217] Civil Aviation Safety Authority spokesman Peter Gibson said that evidence warranted an investigation.[217]

Endure Batavia drone incident

The craft turned out to belong to Edward Prescott, who had lost control of it while testing it and thought it was lost in the harbour.[216] He said that he never intended it to fly into the bridge and later discovered that his craft had been in the news.[216] He said that he contacted the aviation authorities and Sydney police as soon as he heard of the news.[216] The New South Wales police stated that the matter had been investigated and deemed not suspicious and that the police team managing the International Fleet Review had been notified, but that police transport command had handled the matter.[216] The police returned the craft to Mr Prescott.[216] The Civil Aviation Safety Authority has completed a review of the incident but as of late November 2013 has not decided what action, if any, to take.[216] Mr Prescott was in Sydney as part of the support crew for the Australian tour of Rihanna.[216]

On 2 October 2013, a UAV collided with Sydney Harbour Bridge.[215] The craft, which carried a camera, was found about 10pm near a southern pylon of the bridge on a rail line.[215][216] Although it was found the day before the International Navy Fleet Review, police believed there was no connection with the event.[215] The Civil Aviation Safety Authority started an investigation and anti-terrorism officers were alerted, though police said they didn't believe it was suspicious and was for recreational use.[215] A CASA spokesman said that they had been contacted by the New South Wales Police Force.[215] He added that those operating remotely piloted aircraft should keep them at least 30m away from structures, buildings and people, to check with the local council where they could be used and that the airspace around the bridge was restricted for all aircraft, including small ones.[215]

Sydney Harbour Bridge collision


Although UAVs are today most commonly associated with military actions, UAVs are increasingly used by civilian government agencies, businesses, and private individuals. In the United States, for example, government agencies use UAVs such as the RQ-9 Reaper to patrol the nation's borders, scout property, and locate fugitives.[213] One of the first authorized for domestic usage was the ShadowHawk UAV in service in Montgomery County, Texas, and is being used by their SWAT and emergency management offices.[214]

Domestic aerial surveillance and other incidents

  • In 1981, the Israeli IAI Scout drone, is operated in combat missions by the South African Defence Force against Angola during Operation Protea.[197]
  • In 1982, UAVs operated by the Israeli Air Force are instrumental during Operation Mole Cricket 19, where both IAI Scout and Tadiran Mastiff are used to identity SAM sites, while Samson decoy UAVs are used to activate and confuse Syrian radar.[197][198]
  • During the Persian Gulf War, Iraqi Army forces surrendered to the UAVs of the USS Wisconsin.[199][200]
  • In October 2002, a few days before the U.S. Senate vote on the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution, about 75 senators were told in closed session that Saddam Hussein had the means of delivering biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction by UAVs that could be launched from ships off the Atlantic coast to attack U.S. eastern seaboard cities. Colin Powell suggested in his presentation to the United Nations that they had been transported out of Iraq and could be launched against the U.S.[201] It was later revealed that Iraq's UAV fleet consisted of only a few outdated Czech training drones.[202] 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, the agency most familiar with UAVs, denied outright that Iraq possessed any offensive UAV capability.[203]
  • The first US targeted UAV killing outside the conventional battlefield took place on 3 November 2002, in the Marib district of Yemen. Six alleged terrorists were killed in their SUV by a UAV-fired missile.[204] The command centre was in Tampa, Florida, USA.
  • In December 2002, the first ever dogfight 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.[205]
  • The U.S. deployed UAVs in Yemen to search for and kill Anwar al-Awlaki,[206] an American and Yemen imam, firing at and failing to kill him at least once[207] before he was killed in a UAV-launched missile attack in Yemen on 30 September 2011. The targeted killing of an American citizen was unprecedented. However, nearly nine years earlier in 2002, U.S. citizen Kemal Darwish was one of six men killed by the first UAV strike outside a war zone, in Yemen.[208]
  • In December 2011, Iran captured a United States' RQ-170 unmanned aerial vehicle that flew over Iran and rejected President Barack Obama's request to return it to the US.[209][210] Iranian officials claim to have recovered data from the U.S. surveillance aircraft. However, it is not clear how Iran brought it down.[211] There have also been claims that Iran spoofed the GPS signal used by the UAV[24] and hijacked it into landing on an Iranian runway.
  • In December 2013, The U.S. Navy has successfully launched an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) from a submerged submarine, the first step to “providing mission intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities to the U.S. Navy’s submarine force.”[212]

Historical events involving UAVs

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.[196]

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. 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.[195]

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.[26]

Existing UAV systems

The USAF said in 2012, that it will focus development of UAVs to be collaboratively networked with manned aircraft in "buddy attacks," while continuing to be able to fly as standalone systems.[194]

Buddy attacks

Given the increasing military use of cyber attacks against Microsoft software, the United States Armed Forces have moved towards Linux ground control software.[192][193]

Hardening of the control stations

The U.K.'s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has stated that it will require non-military drones larger than 20 kg to be able to automatically sense other aircraft and steer to avoid them, a technology still missing in civilian UAVs as of 2012.[191]

Detect and avoid

Notable high endurance flights
UAV Flight time Date Notes
QinetiQ Zephyr Solar Electric 336 hours 22 minutes 9–23 July 2010 [170]
QinetiQ Zephyr Solar Electric 82 hours 37 minutes 28–31 July 2008 [171]
Boeing Condor 58 hours 11 minutes 1989 The aircraft is currently in the Hiller Aviation Museum, CA. [172]
Penguin B UAV Factory 54 hours 27 minutes 5–7 July 2012 [173]
RQ-4 Global Hawk 33.1 hours 22 March 2008 Set an endurance record for a full-scale, operational unmanned aircraft.[174]
Fotros 30 hours 17 November 2013 Flight endurance depends on number of ASM and flight path.[175]
QinetiQ Zephyr Solar Electric 54 hours September 2007 [176][177]
IAI Heron 52 hours ? [178][179]
Israel Aerospace Industries Eitan 70+ hours ? [180]
AC Propulsion Solar Electric 48 hours 11 minutes 3 June 2005 [181]
MQ-1 Predator 40 hours 5 minutes ? [182]
GNAT-750 40 hours 1992 [183][184]
TAM-5 38 hours 52 minutes 11 August 2003 Smallest UAV to cross the Atlantic [185][186]
Aerosonde 38 hours 48 minutes 3 May 2006 [187]
Shahed 129 24 hours 2012 [188]
TAI Anka 24 hours 30 December 2010 [189]
Bayraktar Tactical UAS 24 Hours 34 Minutes 6 August 2014 Flight demonstrated at Kesan Airport of Turkey.[190]

In 2007, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) revealed a program to develop technology for a UAV with an endurance capability of over 5 years. The program, entitled VULTURE (Very-high altitude, Ultra-endurance, Loitering Theater Unmanned Reconnaissance Element[168]), entered Phase II on 14 September 2010, with a contract signed with Boeing for development of the SolarEagle flight demonstrator.[169]

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 (IEDs) came from. Air Force Chief of Staff John P. Jumper started a program to create these persistent UAVs, but this was stopped once he was replaced.[167]

One of the major problems with UAVs is the lack of inflight refueling capability. In 2012, the US Air Force was promoting research that should end in an inflight UAV refueling capability.[165] A UAV-UAV simulated refuelling flight using two Global Hawks was achieved in 2012.[166]

Electric UAVs kept aloft indefinitely by laser power-beaming[164] technology represent another proposed solution to the endurance challenge. This approach is advocated by Jordin Kare and Thomas Nugent.

Solar-electric UAVs hold potential for unlimited flight, a concept originally championed by the AstroFlight Sunrise in 1974[160][161][162][163] and the much later Aerovironment Helios Prototype, which was destroyed in a 2003 crash.

Because of the small size, weight, very low vibration and high power to weight ratio, Wankel rotary engines are increasingly being used in UAV aircraft.[157] The engine is approximately one third of the size and weight of a piston engine of equivalent power output, which offers significant advantages for UAV aircraft.[158] Additionally: the engine rotors cannot seize, since rotor casings expand more than rotors; the engine is not susceptible to shock-cooling during descent; it does not require an enriched mixture for cooling at high power and having no reciprocating parts, there is less vulnerability to damage when the engines revolves higher than the designed maximum running operation. The attributes of the Wankel engine transpire into less fuel usage in UAVs giving greater range or a higher payload.[159]

UEL UAV-741 Wankel engine for UAV operations

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 endurance equation) and so is largely independent of aircraft size.


Military analysts, policy makers, and academics debate the benefits and risks of lethal autonomous robots (LARs), which would be able to select targets and fire without approval of a human. Some contend that LAR drones would be more precise, less likely to kill civilians, and less prone to being hacked.[155] Heather Roff replies that LARs may not be appropriate for complex conflicts, and targeted populations would likely react angrily against them.[155] Will McCants argues that the public would be more outraged by machine failures than human error, making LARs politically implausible.[155] 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."[156]

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. Aircraft that adhere to the STANAG 4586 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.

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 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.

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 developments in the field of artificial intelligence made popular in the 1980s and 1990s, such as expert systems, neural networks, machine learning, natural language processing, and vision. However, the mode of technological development in the field of autonomy has mostly followed a bottom-up approach, such as hierarchical control systems,[154] 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.

  • Sensor fusion: Combining information from different sensors for use on board the vehicle including the automatic interpretation of ground imagery [152][153]
  • 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 follow while meeting certain objectives and mission constraints, such as obstacles or fuel requirements
  • Trajectory Generation (sometimes called Motion planning): Determining an optimal control maneuver to take in order 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 within time and equipment constraints
  • Cooperative Tactics: Formulating an optimal sequence and spatial distribution of activities between agents in order to maximize the chance of success in any given mission scenario

Autonomy technology that is important to UAV development falls under the following categories:

Most early UAVs were not autonomous at all. The field of air-vehicle autonomy is a recently emerging field, largely driven by the military to develop battle-ready technology.[151] Compared to the manufacturing of UAV flight hardware, the market for autonomy technology is fairly immature and undeveloped.

Early UAVs used during the Vietnam War captured video that was recorded to film or tape on the aircraft. These aircraft often 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, repetitive nature of these operations, the aircraft 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 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, the term "drone" is still often mistakenly used to refer to these more sophisticated aircraft.

HiMAT remote cockpit synthetic vision display (Photo: NASA 1984)
UAV monitoring and control at CBP

Degree of autonomy

The FAA roadmap is, in essence, maturation of the acceptance of UAVs from this “experimental” aircraft certification to requiring the same standard airworthiness type certification of manufacturing design as is now required of conventional manned aircraft.[147]

As of 2014, obtaining an experimental airworthiness certificate for a particular UAS is the only way civil operators of unmanned aircraft are accessing the National Airspace System of the United States.[149] FAA Order 8130.34, Airworthiness Certification of Unmanned Aircraft Systems, establishes procedures for issuing this certification, and as such establishes guidance standards for certification aspects of development and operation, which may be addressed by adoption of such standards as ARP4754A, and DO-178C.[150]

[147] the [148] In 2011,

One of the main barriers to rapid full-scale growth of commercial unmanned aircraft is the concern for safety. As a myriad of certification agencies scramble to keep up with the unique demands of this fast-growing industry, one thing is clear – where applicable, pertinent certification standards for manned aircraft are starting to apply. For the complex electronics that provide communication and control of these systems, this means a swift move towards compliance with DO-178C and DO-254 for software and hardware development.[147] In most cases, the unmanned aircraft can only be operated as part of a system, hence the term “unmanned aircraft system” or UAS. The UAS consists of an unmanned aircraft (UA), a remote pilot station and the command, control and communications links that join them; as such, safety considerations address all of these elements.[148]

Certification aspects

On October 12, 2014, the Linux Foundation and leading technology companies launched the open source Dronecode Project. The Dronecode Project goal is to help meet the needs of the growing UAV community with a neutral governance structure and coordination of funding for resources and tools which the community needs.[146]

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%.[145]

Some universities offer UAS research and training programs or academic degrees.[54]

In December 2013, the Federal Aviation Administration announced its selections six states that will host test sites emphasizing respective research goals: Alaska (sites with a wide variety of climates), Nevada (formulating standards for air traffic control and UAV operators), New York (integrating UAVs into congested airspace), North Dakota (human impact; use in temperate climates), Texas (safety requirements and airworthiness testing), and Virginia (assessing operational and technical risk).[144]

UAV design and production is a global activity with manufacturers all across the world. The United States and Israel were initial pioneers in this technology, and U.S. manufacturers had a market share of over 60% in 2006, with U.S. market share due to increase by 5–10% through 2016.[142] Northrop Grumman and General Atomics are the dominant manufacturers in this industry on the strength of the Global Hawk and Predator/Mariner systems.[142] According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Israeli companies were behind 41% of all UAVs exported in 2001-2011.[143] The European market share represented 4% of global revenue in 2006.[142]

Design and development considerations

The European Union sees benefits and challenges for civilian drones, and in 2014 proposes a set of regulations to control the effects of drones on peoples' safety, security and privacy. Drone market share could be up to 10% of aviation in 10 years, and the EU suggests streamlining R&D efforts.[141]

Google revealed in August 2014 it had been testing unmanned aerial vehicles in Australia for two years. The Google X program known as "project wing" aims to produce drones that can deliver not only products sold via e-commerce, but larger delivery items[140]

In 2014, a company called Sensepost demonstrated at a security conference in Singapore a quadricopter UAV with software which could steal data from smartphones in the vicinity - such as identities, passwords and banking data. The software attacked smartphones with WIFI switched on by impersonating a previously used network [139]

Solar-powered atmospheric satellites ("atmosats") designed for operating at altitudes exceeding 20 km (12 miles, or 60,000 feet) for as long as five years can perform duties more economically and with more versatility than low earth orbit satellites.[138] Likely applications include weather monitoring, disaster recovery, earth imaging, and communications.[138]

In 2014, Fendi started making plans to use drones to show its catwalk fashions.[137]

In February 2014, the prime minister and cabinet affairs minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced that the UAE planned to launch a fleet of UAVs for civilian purposes.[135] Plans were for the UAVs to use fingerprint and eye-recognition systems to deliver official documents such as passports, ID cards and licenses, and supply emergency services at accidents. A battery-powered prototype four rotor UAV about half a metre across was displayed in Dubai.[136]

In December 2013, in a research project of Deutsche Post AG subsidiary DHL, a sub-kilogram quantity of medicine was delivered via a prototype Microdrones “parcelcopter,” raising speculation that disaster relief may be the first place the company will use the technology.[133][134]

In the private sector, initial attempts at commercial use of UAVs, such as the Tacocopter company for the food delivery, were blocked by FAA regulation.[130] founder Jeff Bezos' December 2013 announcement that Amazon is planning rapid delivery of lightweight commercial products using UAVs was met with skepticism, with perceived obstacles including federal and state regulatory approval, public safety, reliability, individual privacy, operator training and certification, security (hacking), payload thievery, and logistical challenges.[131] In July 2014 it was revealed Amazon was working on its 8th and 9th drone prototypes, some that could fly 50 miles per hour and carry 5-pound packages, and had applied to the FAA to test them.[132]

In the military sector, Predators and Reapers are tailor-made for counter­terrorism operations and in war zones in which the enemy lacks sufficient firepower to shoot them down, but are not designed to withstand antiaircraft defenses or air-to-air combat; in September 2013 the chief of the Air Combat Command stated that current UAVs were "useless in a contested environment” unless manned aircraft were put there to protect them.[127] A 2012 Congressional Research Service (CRS) report indicated that in the future, UAVs may be able to perform a variety of tasks beyond their present roles in intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and strikes; the CRS report listed resupply, combat search and rescue, aerial refueling, and air to air combat ("a more difficult future task") as possible future undertakings.[128] The U.S. Department of Defense's Unmanned Systems Integrated Roadmap FY2013-2038 foresees UAVs having a more important place in combat, recognizing that the near future will involve making sure the technology works at all, before exploiting their potential in the following decade.[129] Beyond solving technical issues, issues to be resolved include human-UAV interaction, managing expected increases in amounts of information generated by UAV fleets, transitioning from direct human control to UAVs' automatic adaptation to changing conditions, and developing UAV-specific munitions.[129]

In December 2013, the DHL parcel service subsidiary of Deutsche Post AG tested a "microdrones md4-1000" for delivery of medicine.

Future potential

In September 2014 drones weighing about .5 kg were used for 3D mapping of the above-ground ruins of the Greek city of Aphrodisias.[126]

Jeffrey Quilter, an archaeologist with Harvard University said, "You can go up three metres and photograph a room, 300 metres and photograph a site, or you can go up 3,000 metres and photograph the entire valley."[125]

Drones have replaced expensive and clumsy small planes, kites and helium balloons. Drones costing as little as £650 have proven useful. In 2013 drones flew over at least six Peruvian archaeological sites, including the colonial Andean town Machu Llacta 4,000 metres (13,000 ft) above sea level. The drones continue to have altitude problems in the Andes, leading to plans to make a drone blimp, employing open source software.[125]

In Peru archaeologists use drones to speed up survey work and protect sites from squatters, builders and miners. Small drones helped researchers produce three-dimensional models of Peruvian sites instead of the usual flat maps – and in days and weeks instead of months and years.[125]


Another application of UAVs is the prevention and early detection of forest fires. The possibility of constant flight, both day and night, makes the methods used until now (helicopters, watchtowers, etc.) become obsolete. Cameras and sensors that provide real-time emergency services, including information about the location of the outbreak of fire as well as many factors (wind speed, temperature, humidity, etc.) that are helpful for fire crews to conduct fire suppression.

See: Forestry unmanned aerial vehicles

Forest fire detection

Japan is studying how to deal with the UAVs the PRC is starting to use to enforce their claims on unmanned islands.[124]

Maritime patrol

In 2014, Will Potter proposed using drones to monitor conditions on factory farms. The idea is to circumvent ag-gag prohibitions by keeping the drones on public property but equipping them with cameras sensitive enough to monitor activities on the farms.[123] Potter raised nearly $23,000 in 2 days for this project on Kickstarter.[123]

In April 2013, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals announced its intention to use drones to monitor hunters, as well as possibly industrial farms, fishing areas, and "other venues where animals routinely suffer and die". Some gun owners responded by suggesting they'd shoot down these drones.[122]

In March 2013, the Times published a controversial story that UAV conservation nonprofit ShadowView, founded by former members of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, had been working for several months with anti-hunting charity The League Against Cruel Sports to expose illegal fox hunting in the UK.[120] Hunt supporters have argued that using UAVs to film hunting is an invasion of privacy.[121]

In Pennsylvania, Showing Animals Respect and Kindness (SHARK) used drones to monitor people shooting at pigeons for sport.[118] One of their Octocopter drones was shot down by hunters.[119]

Animal rights

[117] The drones will be monitoring rhino populations in Etosha National Park and will use RFID sensors.[116] In December 2013, the Falcon UAV was selected by the Namibian Govt and WWF to help combat rhino poaching.[115] in Namibia to document the annual seal cull.Sea Shepherd Conservation Society In August 2012, UAVs were used by members of the [114][113] In June 2012,


UAVs have been tested as airborne lifeguards, locating distressed swimmers using thermal cameras and dropping life preservers to plural swimmers.[112]

UAVs will likely play an increased role in search and rescue in the United States. This was demonstrated by the use of UAVs during the 2008 hurricanes that struck Louisiana and Texas. Micro UAVs, such as the Aeryon Scout, have been used to perform Search and Rescue activities on a smaller scale, such as the search for missing persons.[109] 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 infrared camera in particular, and a synthetic aperture radar (SAR). 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.[110][111]

Search and rescue

Since 1997, the U.S. military has used more than 80 F-4 Phantoms converted into robotic planes for use as aerial targets for combat training of human pilots.[108] The F-4s were supplemented in September 2013 with F-16s as more realistically maneuverable targets.[108]

Aerial target practice in training of human pilots

An attack by the US in December 2013, in a wedding procession in Yemen, killed 12 men and wounded at least 15 other people, including the bride. US and Yemeni officials said the dead were members of the armed group Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), but witnesses and relatives told Human Rights Watch the casualties were civilians. Witnesses and relatives told Human Rights Watch that no members of AQAP were in the procession and provided names and other information about those killed and wounded. They said the dead included the groom’s adult son and the bride received superficial face wounds. The local governor and military commander called the casualties a “mistake” and gave money and assault rifles to the families of those killed and wounded – a traditional gesture of apology in Yemen. A few days after the incident, Yemeni MPs voted for a ban against the use of drones in Yemen, though it is unclear what effect this will have on drone usage.[106][107]

In October 2013, the Pakistani government revealed that since 2008, civilian casualties made up only 3 percent of deaths from drone strikes. Since 2008, there have been 317 drone strikes that killed 2,160 Islamic militants and 67 civilians. This is far less than previous government and independent organization calculations of collateral damage from these attacks.[105]

After more than 30 UAV-based strikes hit civilian homes in Afghanistan in 2012, President Hamid Karzai demanded that such attacks end, but the practice continues in areas of Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia that are not in war zones. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter has criticized such use of UAVs: "We don't know how many hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed in these attacks...This would have been unthinkable in previous times."[104]

According to the 24 February 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 UAV-based missile strikes in northwest Pakistan from 2004 to present killed between 830 and 1,210 individuals, around 550 to 850 of whom were militants.[103]

With the increase of UAV strikes, January 2010 proved to be a deadly month in Pakistan with 123 innocent civilians killed, according to a story in The International News. In addition, it has been reported that 160 children have died from UAV-launched attacks in Pakistan.[100] Further, over 1,000 civilians have been injured.[101] This evidence runs counter to the Obama administration's claim that "nearly for the past year there hasn't been a single collateral death" due to UAV-based attacks.[102]

Although it may never be known how many civilians have died as a result of U.S. UAV strikes in Pakistan, there are estimates of hundreds or thousands of innocent bystanders who have perished in such attacks.[98] Pakistani authorities released statistics indicating that between 1 January 2009 and 31 December 2009, U.S. Zeeshan-ul-hassan Usmani, a Fulbright Scholar at the Florida Institute of Technology) shows 1,065 civilian deaths between June 2004 and 30 January 2010 and tallies 103 UAV strikes carried out by the United States.[99]

Questions have been raised about the accuracy of UAV-based missile strikes. 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.[91] 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.[92][93][94] In July 2009, Brookings Institution released a report stating that in the United States-led drone attacks in Pakistan, ten civilians died for every militant killed.[95][96] S. Azmat Hassan, 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.[97]

Civilian casualties

[90] The United States armed forces currently have no defense against low level drone attack, but the

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.[87] Smaller weapons such as the Raytheon Griffin and Small Tactical Munition are being developed as a less indiscriminate alternative,[88] and development is underway on the still smaller US Navy-developed Spike missile.[89] The payload-limited Predator A can also be armed with six Griffin missiles, as opposed to only two of the much-heavier Hellfires.

In 2012, the USAF trained more UAV pilots than ordinary jet fighter pilots for the first time.[86]

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.[81] 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.[81]

In February 2013, U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham stated that 4,756 people have been killed by U.S. UAVs.[85]

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.[82] 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.[83][84] 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.[84] A Pakistani intelligence officer gave a higher estimate of civilian casualties, saying 20% of total deaths were civilians or non-combatants.[84]

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.[81] 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.[81] 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."[81]

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.[80]

MQ-1 Predator UAVs armed with Hellfire missiles are increasingly 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.[75] 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.[76][77][78][79]

Armed attacks

There have also been experiments with using UAVs as a construction and artwork tool[73] at locations such as the ETH Zurich.[74]

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

Unmanned aircraft are especially useful in penetrating areas that may be too dangerous for manned aircraft. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) began utilizing the Aerosonde unmanned aircraft system in 2006 as a hurricane hunter. AAI Corporation subsidiary Aerosonde Pty Ltd. of Victoria, Australia, 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 in Florida. 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. NASA later began using the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk for extended hurricane measurements.

Scientific research

UAVs transport medicines and vaccines, and retrieve medical samples, into and out of remote or otherwise inaccessible regions.[55] "Ambulance drones" rapidly deliver defibrillators in the crucial few minutes after cardiac arrests, and include livestream communication capability allowing paramedics to remotely observe and instruct on-scene individuals in how to use the defibrillators.[72]

Drones can help in disaster relief by gathering information from across an affected area to build a picture of the situation and give recommendations to direct resources.[71]

Disaster relief and medical assistance

UAVs can be used to perform geophysical surveys, in particular geomagnetic surveys[69] where the processed measurements of the Earth's differential 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.[70] The InView UAV is an example of a UAV developed for use in oil, gas, and mineral exploration and production activities.

Oil, gas and mineral exploration and production

On 28 January 2014, a North Dakota cattle rancher was sentenced to three years in prison, with all but six months suspended, for terrorizing police officers who were trying to arrest him at his property in 2011. The case garnered national attention because it was the first time a law-enforcement agency had used an unmanned aerial vehicle to assist in carrying out an arrest. The Predator drone was from the Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Patrol.[68]

First drone-assisted arrest of an American

UAVs are increasingly used for domestic police work in Canada and the United States:[60][61] a dozen US police forces had applied for UAV permits by March 2013.[24] Texas politician and commentator Jim Hightower has warned about potential privacy abuses from aerial surveillance.[65][66] In February 2013, Seattle Mayor Michael McGinn responded to protests by scrapping the Seattle Police Department’s plan to deploy UAVs.[67]

Domestic policing

Drones are starting to be used in sports photography and cinematography. For example, they were used in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi for filming skiing and snowboarding events. Some advantages of using unmanned aerial vehicles in sports are that they allow video to get closer to the athletes, they are more flexible than cable-suspended camera systems.[64]


On 2 June 2014, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it had received a petition from the Motion Picture Association of America seeking approval for the use of drones in video and filmmaking. Seven companies behind the petition argued that low-cost drones could be used for shots that would otherwise require a helicopter or a manned aircraft, which would reduce costs. Drones are already used by movie makers and media in other parts of the world. The FAA is required by Congress to come up with rules for commercial use of drones by 2015.[63]

FAA regulations generally permit hobbyist drone use when they are flown below 400 feet, and within the UAV operator’s line of sight. For commercial drone camerawork inside the United States, industry sources state that usage is largely at the de facto consent – or benign neglect – of local law enforcement. Use of UAVs for filmmaking is generally easier on large private lots or in rural and exurban areas with fewer space concerns. In certain localities such as Los Angeles and New York, authorities have actively interceded to shut down drone filmmaking efforts due to concerns driven by safety or terrorism.[60] [61] [62]

The FAA is debating offering guidelines for drone operators in the private sector by 2015, and European regulators are meeting on 9 February to iron out rules for UAVs in EU airspace. Domestically, lobbyists are petitioning the agency to give wide leeway to the use of unmanned aircraft for commercial photography, videography, and surveillance purposes. At the same time, lobbyists for occupations that stand to lose business to drones such as commercial pilots are petitioning the FAA to restrict drone use as well.

In both Europe and the United States, UAV videography is a legal gray area. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and their European equivalents have not issued formal regulations and guidelines surrounding drones in the private sector. UAV technology has advanced too quickly for bureaucrats to handle.

Commercial and motion picture filmmaking

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 the use of UAV technology in commercial aerial surveillance is expanding rapidly with increased development of automated object detection approaches.[59]

Commercial aerial surveillance

UAV remote sensing functions include Chemical sensors use laser spectroscopy to analyze the concentrations of each element in the air.

Remote sensing

Beyond the military applications of UAVs with which "drones" became most associated, numerous civil aviation uses have been developed, including aerial surveying of crops,[37] acrobatic aerial footage in filmmaking,[37] search and rescue operations,[37] inspecting power lines and pipelines,[54] counting wildlife,[54] delivering medical supplies to remote or otherwise inaccessible regions,[55] with some manufacturers rebranding the technology as "unmanned aerial systems" (UASs) in preference over the military-connotative term "drones."[37] Further uses include reconnaissance operations,[56] border patrol missions,[56] forest fire detection,[56] surveillance,[56] search & rescue missions,[56] detection of illegal hunting,[57] land surveying,[58] fire and large-accident investigation,[58] landslide measurement,[58] illegal landfill detection,[58] and crowd monitoring.[58]

Hermes 450 reconnaissance UAV of the Brazilian Air Force.
A Hydra Technologies Ehécatl taking-off for a surveillance mission
A UAV detecting an underground facility
IAI Heron, an unmanned aerial vehicle developed by the Malat (UAV) division of Israel Aerospace Industries
Aerovision Fulmar, developed by Aerovision for civilian applications
The RQ-7 Shadow is capable of delivering a 20 lb (9.1 kg) "Quick-MEDS" canister to front-line troops.
InView Unmanned Aircraft System for use in scientific, commercial and state applications.
Aeryon Scout in flight


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 Grey Eagles; 126 MQ-9 Reapers; 491 RQ-7 Shadows; and 33 RQ-4 Global Hawk large systems.[53]

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".[52] Therefore, cruise missiles 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.

However, artificial intelligence is advancing to the point where the aircraft are easily capable of taking off, landing, and flying themselves. Then they simply have to be instructed as to their mission. The military distinguishes between "man in the loop"(piloted) and "man on the loop" (supervised) systems, with "fully autonomous" (issued orders) growing organically from the second into a third category. A.I. systems have been capable of making decisions and planning sequences of actions for decades; as of 2013, few fully autonomous systems have been constructed, but this is more a matter of convenience and technical implementation than of any fundamental barrier.

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 unmanned Predator UAVs against Taliban and al-Qaeda militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan's tribal areas, of which one 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% of the people killed were militants, and 31% to 33% were civilians. U.S. officials disputed the percentage for civilians.[51] 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.

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 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, strike missions, 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 to over 40,000 pounds.

Predator launching a Hellfire missile

An unmanned aircraft system (UAS) includes 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.[50] The official acronym UAS is also used by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and other government aviation regulatory organizations.

Unmanned aircraft system

  • Class I: For small units. Role to be filled by all new UAV with some similarity to micro air vehicle.
  • Class II: For companies (cancelled).[49]
  • Class III: For battalions (cancelled).[49]
  • Class IV: For brigades. Role to be filled by the RQ-8A/B / MQ-8B Fire Scout.

Future Combat Systems (FCS) (U.S. Army) classes

  • Tier I: Small UAV. Role filled by the RQ-11B Raven.
  • Tier II: Short Range Tactical UAV. Role filled by the RQ-7B Shadow 200.
  • Tier III: Medium Range Tactical UAV. Role currently filled by the MQ-5A/B Hunter and IGNAT/IGNAT-ER, but transitioning to the Extended Range Multi-Purpose (ERMP) MQ-1C Gray Eagle.

U.S. Army tiers

  • Tier N/A: Micro UAV. Wasp III fills this role, driven largely by the desire for commonality with the USAF BATMAV.[46]
  • Tier I: Role currently filled by the Dragon Eye 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.
  • 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 RQ-7 Shadow tactical unmanned aircraft system by AAI Corporation. The first Marine Shadow systems have already been delivered, and training for their respective Marine Corps units is underway.[47][48]

U.S. Marine Corps tiers

  • Tier N/A: Small/Micro UAV. Role filled by BATMAV (Wasp Block III).[42]
  • Tier I: Low altitude, long endurance. Role filled by the Gnat 750.[43]
  • Tier II: Medium altitude, long endurance (MALE). Role currently filled by the Predator and MQ-9 Reaper.
  • Tier II+: High altitude, long endurance conventional UAV (or HALE UAV). Altitude: 60,000 to 65,000 feet (19,800 m), less than 300 knots (560 km/h) airspeed, 3,000-nautical-mile (6,000 km) radius, 24‑hour time-on-station capability. Complementary to the Tier III- aircraft. Role currently filled by the RQ-4 Global Hawk.
  • Tier III-: High altitude, long endurance low-observable UAV. Same parameters as, and complementary to, the Tier II+ aircraft. The RQ-3 DarkStar was originally intended to fulfill this role before it was "terminated".[44][45] Role now filled by RQ-170 Sentinel.
An MQ-9 Reaper, a hunter-killer surveillance UAV

U.S. Air Force tiers

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.

Classifications by the United States military

The United States military employs a tier system for categorizing its UAVs.

  • NATO type 10,000 ft (3,000 m) altitude, up to 50 km range
  • Tactical 18,000 ft (5,500 m) altitude, about 160 km range
  • MALE (medium altitude, long endurance) up to 30,000 ft (9,000 m) and range over 200 km
  • HALE (high altitude, long endurance) over 30,000 ft (9,100 m) and indefinite range
  • HYPERSONIC high-speed, supersonic (Mach 1–5) or hypersonic (Mach 5+) 50,000 ft (15,200 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
  • Hand-held 2,000 ft (600 m) altitude, about 2 km range
  • Close 5,000 ft (1,500 m) altitude, up to 10 km range

They can also be categorised in terms of range/altitude and the following has been advanced as relevant at such industry events as ParcAberporth Unmanned Systems forum:

Schiebel S-100 fitted with a Lightweight Multirole Missile
  • 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)
  • 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

UAVs typically fall into one of six functional categories (although multi-role airframe platforms are becoming more prevalent):

Although most UAVs are fixed-wing aircraft, rotorcraft designs (i.e., RUAVs) such as this MQ-8B Fire Scout are also used.


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

The term UAS was since adopted by the United States Department of Defense (DOD) and the British Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

Because of this systemic approach, unmanned aircraft systems have not been 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.

For example, the RQ-7 Shadow UAS consists of four UAs, two GCSs, 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.

  • unmanned aircraft (UA);
  • control system, such as ground control station (GCS);
  • control link, a specialized datalink; and
  • other related support equipment.

The term unmanned aircraft system (UAS) emphasizes the importance of other elements beyond an aircraft itself. A typical UAS consists of the following:

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.[41]

Beyond FAA certification to operate legally in United States airspace, the regulation of usage of UA systems by government authorities in the United States for law enforcement purposes are determined at a state level. As of September 2014, 20 US states had enacted legislation addressing the use of UA systems and the handling of data collected by them.[39] Nearly all enacted laws require a probable cause warrant to be issued before the use of a UA system for surveillance purposes is authorized.[40]

As of August 2013, commercial unmanned aerial system[36] (UAS) licenses were granted on a case-by-case basis, subject to approval by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The agency expects that five years after it unveils a regulatory framework for UASs weighing 55 pounds or less, there will be 7,500 such devices in the air.[37] 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.[38]

The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012[32] sets a deadline of 30 September 2015, for the agency to establish regulations to allow the use of commercial drones. In the meantime, the agency claims it is illegal to operate commercial unmanned aerial vehicles, but approves non-commercial flights under 400 feet if they follow Advisory Circular 91-57, Model Aircraft Operating Standards, published in 1981.[27] However, the FAA's attempt to fine a commercial drone operator for a 2011 flight were thrown out on 6 March 2014 by NTSB judge Patrick Geraghty, who found that the FAA had not followed the proper rulemaking procedures and therefore had no UAV regulations.[33] The FAA will appeal the judgement.[34] Texas EquuSearch, which performs volunteer search and rescue operations, was also challenging FAA rules in 2014.[35]

[31] COAs have been granted for both land and shipborne operations.[30] UAVs under a COA granted to the University of Alaska Fairbanks.Aeryon Scout At the moment, COAs require a public entity as a sponsor. For example, when BP needed to observe oil spills, they operated the [29] The US

in the United States

Legal regulation

In contrast to the Predator, which is remotely piloted via satellites by pilots located 7,500 miles away, the Global Hawk operates virtually autonomously.[26] 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.[26] In addition, some UAVs have become so small that they can be launched from one’s hand and maneuvered through the street.[26] 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 (Carafano & Gudgel, 2007). UAVs are especially useful because they can fly for days at a time. According to Carafano & Gudgel, insurgents are loathe to stay in the open for more than a few minutes at a time for fear of UAVs locating them (2007)

As of 2012, the United States Air Force employed 7,494 UAVs, and that means that almost 1 out of 3 US Air Force aircraft are UAVs.[25][26] Unlike other UAVs, the Predator was armed with Hellfire missiles so that it can terminate the target that it locates (Carafano & Gudgel, 2007). 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 (Singer, 2009b). 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 (Singer, 2009a).

In February 2013, it was reported that UAVs were used by at least 50 countries, several of which made their own: for example, Iran, Israel and China.[24]

As a tool for search and rescue, UAVs can help find humans lost in the wilderness, trapped in collapsed buildings, or adrift at sea.

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 1990s, the U.S. Department of Defense gave a contract to U.S. corporation AAI Corporation of Maryland along with Israeli company Mazlat. The U.S. Navy bought the AAI Pioneer UAV that was jointly developed by American AAI Corporation and Israeli Mazlat, and this type of UAV is still in use. Many of these Pioneer 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, but some were armed, such as the General Atomics MQ-1 Predator, which utilized AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-ground missiles. An armed UAV is known as an unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV).

During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Soviet-supplied surface-to-air missile batteries in Egypt and Syria caused heavy damage to Israeli fighter jets. As a result, Israel developed the first UAV with real-time surveillance.[19][20][21] 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, resulting in no pilots downed.[22] The first time UAVs were used as proof-of-concept of super-agility post-stall controlled flight in combat flight simulations was with tailless, stealth technology-based, three-dimensional thrust vectoring flight control, jet steering UAVs in Israel in 1987.[23]

Only on 26 February 1973, during testimony before the Air Force Systems Command, in 1972, "The only reason we need (UAVs) is that we don't want to needlessly expend the man in the cockpit."[18] Later that same year, General John C. Meyer, Commander in Chief, Strategic Air Command, 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!"[18]

The CIA’s UAV program was commissioned as a result of the 11 September terrorist attacks and the increasing emphasis on operations for intelligence gathering in 2004.[15] This clandestine program is primarily being used in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. UAVs collect intelligence in these countries by loitering around their target. The CIA’s first UAV program is called the Eagle Program. It was led by Duane Clarridge, the director of the Counterterrorism Center. This program constructed the CIA’s first using “off the shelf technology,” which included items such as garage door openers and model airplanes.

The Israeli Tadiran Mastiff, which first flew in 1973, is seen as the first modern battlefield UAV, due to its data-link system, endurance-loitering, and live video streaming.[14]

There are two prominent UAV programs within the United States: that of the military and that of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The military’s UAV program is overt, meaning that the public recognizes which government operates it and, therefore, it only operates where US troops are stationed. The CIA’s program is clandestine. Missions performed by the CIA’s UAV program do not always occur where US troops are stationed.[13]

The birth of U.S. UAVs (called RPVs at the time) began in 1959 when United States Air Force (USAF) officers, concerned about losing pilots over hostile territory, began planning for the use of piloted flights.[8] This plan became intensified when Francis Gary Powers and his "secret" U-2 were shot down over the Soviet Union in 1960. Within days, the highly classified UAV program was launched under the code name of "Red Wagon".[9] The 2 and 4 August 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.[10] When the "Red Chinese"[11] showed photographs of downed U.S. UAVs via Wide World Photos,[12] the official U.S. response was "no comment."

The idea of a pilotless aircraft is not a new concept. The concept of drones dates back to the mid-1800s, when Austrians sent off unmanned, bomb-filled balloons as a way to attack Venice. The drone seen today started innovation in the early 1900s, and was originally used for target practice to train military personnel. It continued to be developed during World War I, when the Dayton-Wright Airplane Company came up with the a pilotless aerial torpedo that would drop and explode at a particular, preset time.[5] The earliest attempt at a powered unmanned aerial vehicle was A. M. Low's "Aerial Target" of 1916.[6] Nikola Tesla described a fleet of unmanned aerial combat vehicles in 1915.[7] A number of remote-controlled airplane advances followed during and after World War I, including the Hewitt-Sperry Automatic Airplane. The first scale RPV (Remote Piloted Vehicle) was developed by the film star and model airplane enthusiast Reginald Denny in 1935.[6] More were made in the technology rush during World War II; these were used both to train antiaircraft gunners and to fly attack missions. Nazi Germany also produced and used various UAV aircraft during the course of WWII. Jet engines were applied after World War II in such types as the Teledyne Ryan Firebee I of 1951, while companies like Beechcraft also got in the game with their Model 1001 for the United States Navy in 1955.[6] Nevertheless, they were little more than remote-controlled airplanes until the Vietnam Era.

Ryan Firebee was a series of target drones/unpiloted aerial vehicles.



  • History 1
  • Legal regulation 2
    • in the United States 2.1
  • Classification 3
    • Classifications by the United States military 3.1
      • U.S. Air Force tiers 3.1.1
      • U.S. Marine Corps tiers 3.1.2
      • U.S. Army tiers 3.1.3
      • Future Combat Systems (FCS) (U.S. Army) classes 3.1.4
      • Unmanned aircraft system 3.1.5
  • Uses 4
    • Remote sensing 4.1
    • Commercial aerial surveillance 4.2
    • Commercial and motion picture filmmaking 4.3
    • Sports 4.4
    • Domestic policing 4.5
    • Oil, gas and mineral exploration and production 4.6
    • Disaster relief and medical assistance 4.7
    • Scientific research 4.8
    • Armed attacks 4.9
      • Civilian casualties 4.9.1
    • Aerial target practice in training of human pilots 4.10
    • Search and rescue 4.11
    • Conservation 4.12
    • Animal rights 4.13
    • Maritime patrol 4.14
    • Forest fire detection 4.15
    • Archaeology 4.16
    • Future potential 4.17
  • Design and development considerations 5
    • Certification aspects 5.1
    • Degree of autonomy 5.2
    • Endurance 5.3
    • Detect and avoid 5.4
    • Hardening of the control stations 5.5
    • Buddy attacks 5.6
  • Existing UAV systems 6
  • Historical events involving UAVs 7
  • Domestic aerial surveillance and other incidents 8
    • Australia 8.1
      • Sydney Harbour Bridge collision 8.1.1
      • Endure Batavia drone incident 8.1.2
    • Belgium 8.2
    • Brazil 8.3
    • Canada 8.4
      • Vancouver International Airport incidents 8.4.1
    • Democratic Republic of Congo 8.5
    • France 8.6
      • Nuclear power plant overflights 8.6.1
    • Germany 8.7
    • India 8.8
    • Japan 8.9
    • Nepal 8.10
    • Republic of Ireland 8.11
      • Prison drug smuggling incident 8.11.1
      • Legal status 8.11.2
    • USSR 8.12
    • South Africa 8.13
    • United Kingdom 8.14
    • United States 8.15
      • Surveillance and policing 8.15.1
    • Countermeasures 8.16
      • Non-police uses 8.16.1
      • JFK International incident 8.16.2
      • Virginia Bull Run crash 8.16.3
      • Manhattan drone crash 8.16.4
      • New York drone conference 8.16.5
      • Georgia prison tobacco smuggling incident 8.16.6
      • Tallahassee airliner near-collision 8.16.7
      • St Louis building collision 8.16.8
      • Staples Center incident 8.16.9
      • George Washington bridge incident 8.16.10
      • Anti-UAV legislation 8.16.11
    • Venezuela 8.17
    • Vietnam 8.18
  • UAV operations 9
  • UAVs in popular culture 10
  • Public opinion in the US (military use) 11
  • Lobbying in the US 12
  • Morality (military use) 13
    • Civilian death 13.1
    • Technology 13.2
  • Legality (military use) 14
  • See also 15
  • References 16
  • External links 17

They are usually deployed for military and special operation applications, but also used in a small but growing number of civil applications, such as policing and firefighting, and nonmilitary security work, such as inspection of power or pipelines. UAVs are often preferred for missions that are too "dull, dirty or dangerous"[4] for manned aircraft.

There are many different names for these aircraft. They are called UAS (unpiloted air system), UAV (unpiloted aerial vehicle), RPAS (remote piloted aircraft systems) and model aircraft. It has also become popular to refer to them as drones. Their flight is controlled either autonomously by onboard computers or by the remote control of a pilot on the ground or in another vehicle. The typical launch and recovery method of an unmanned aircraft is by the function of an automatic system or an external operator on the ground.[2] Historically, UAVs were simple remotely piloted aircraft, but autonomous control is increasingly being employed.[3]

Remotely piloted aircraft are subject to civil regulation under ICAO and under the relevant National aviation authority
  • Remotely piloted aircraft
Autonomous aircraft are considered to be not suitable for regulation due to legal and liability issues


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