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MQ-9 Reaper  (Source: U.S. military)
The U.S. military is using its UAVs to help try and reduce the number of pirate attacks

United States military unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) drones normally used for missile attacks or reconnaissance are now protecting the Somali coast from a recent increase of piracy.

The military now has its MQ-9 Reaper UAV patrolling in the Indian Ocean, marking the first time UAVs have been used for safety patrols.

Specifically, the MQ-9 Reaper, a 36-foot long craft that can fly up to 16 hours, has been used for coordinated strikes in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.  The UAVs utilize laser, radar and infrared, and have the ability to carry up to 12 guided missiles and munitions.

The drones patrolling Somalia aren't equipped with weaponry as of yet, but depending on the number of hijackings, it's a future possibility, military officials told the Associated Press.

“What we hope will happen is that they will get much earlier warning of suspicious vessels or suspected [pirate] mother ships that can then be targeted by the naval vessels. Or alerts and broadcasts can be sent out indicating the positions of these ships [and] indicating they should keep as clear a distance as possible," said London International Maritime Bureau, Cyrus Mody.

The U.S. military has used 3-foot-long drones in Somalia before, but this is a significant step forward to try and stifle dangerous pirate attacks.  An international group of warships from the United States, Japan, China, South Korea and other nations are patrolling near Somalia, but the pirate attacks are still occur.





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