MQ-9 Reaper  (Source: USAF)

RQ-11 Raven UAV  (Source: AeroVironment)
The US military continues unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) research, with a focus on reconnaissance and surveillance to combat-ready systems

The use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) is a controversial topic that the U.S. military and lawmakers are currently discussing on a more frequent basis.

Despite the controversy, there is still a large amount of global development for the popular new aircraft, capable of being used for a number of different campaigns.

The United States Marine Corps is testing the small and portable RQ-11 Raven UAV to scout out local geography and surveillance for M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tanks – and tank-UAV pairings could become more commonplace on the battlefield.

Here is what Cpl. Peter Richter, Scout and TOW platoon, 2nd Tanks, Raven operator noted to: 

“The Ravens give you a good birds-eye view, they receive reconnaissance that can be too far out to see. They also are very good for locating and navigating bad terrain such as swamps.”

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is currently researching medium-altitude, long-endurance UAVs with the ability to launch from smaller U.S. Navy ships.  Instead of relying on helicopters, which have flight time and mission range constraints, UAVs could monitor a wider area. Ideally, the U.S. government is looking for a UAV that can launch from a vessel with a range of 600 to 900 nautical miles.  

Other countries have expressed interest in using UAVs more for defensive purposes, as India recently discussed plans for 49 UAVs designed to patrol the country’s border region with Pakistan and China. Instead of live munitions, these UAVs would have electronic sensors and on-board cameras to identify potential threats crossing the border.

The Italian Air Force, which has a fleet of Predator and Reaper UAVs that have been used in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, unarmed Reapers will begin patrolling the Italian southern coast. Italy also reportedly uses drones to track high-profile targets, such as high-ranking Mafia members.

Controversy continues to swirl around the use of UAVs for offensive targets in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and select other nations spread throughout the Middle East and Africa. 

Drones are routinely used identify, track, and kill selected targets, but civilian collateral damage has drawn strong complaints from foreign governments – and citizens that live in areas patrolled by drones.

Regardless of public criticism, both in the United States and abroad, the U.S. military - and other partners - will continue to develop and use UAVs as they see fit.

Sources: Military Aerospace, UPI, Defense News, US Marine Corps Times

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