Use of UAVs Shows Glimpse of Future, Raises Concerns
October 2, 2011 6:26 PM
UAV pilots are expected to outnumber pilots physically flying aircraft, but some experts are worried
As the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)
continues to expand
, the U.S. Air Force expects UAV pilots to soon outnumber manned aircraft.
The realization that there will one day be more pilots remotely controlling aircraft than sitting in the cockpit offers new challenges, including how effective UAVs would be in air-to-air combat.
Gen. Edward Rice, commander of the Air Education and Training Command, noted that there would be at least 1,000 pilots specializing in UAV aircraft.
Meanwhile, U.S. Army officials noted there is a growing demand for UAVs, but that demand will be difficult to fulfill due to budget cuts. The USAF also faces issues with budget cuts, and must now carefully choose which type of aircraft it invests in over the next decade, with Congress continually reminded that defense budget cuts could greatly handicap each branch of the US military.
In addition to U.S. research, UAV research has steadily increased in the UK, Israel, and other major military locations throughout the rest of the world. The Israel Air Force believe its Heron TP UAV will be able to collect data while flying over Iran, as the nation's largest UAV hopes to further modernize Israel's air technology.
The need for UAV technology has also led to an increase in private contractors developing software and aircraft that also progress with continued improvements. Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman have dominated the UAV market, while AAI Corp. and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems also receive significant funding for their own research.
As the need for UAVs grows, intelligence gathering and armed missions are two priorities for U.S. armed forces fighting overseas.
The recent killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen and lead Al-Qaida organizer, has shown the effectiveness of UAVs to follow and engage high-value enemy targets. The CIA-operated UAVs monitored al-Awlaki for a few weeks before deciding to engage -- waiting for the high-value target to relocate to a more secluded area, which helped reduce the likelihood of collateral damage.
UAVs will be used to collect intelligence and launch missions throughout the Middle East -- and select locations -- while U.S. military leaders continue to tackle budget problems and lingering technological issues.
Air Force Times
The Jerusalem Post
The Atlantic Wire
"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson
U.S. Continues to Pour Resources Into Development of UAV Technology
July 27, 2011, 6:40 PM
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