Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) is as the name denotes an aerial vehicle that is unmanned. Two types of UAVs are operational today – one that is autonomous and the other which is remotely operated by a pilot. Over the past few years, there has been a massive craze about drones. Back in 2010, America’s Federal Aviation Authority estimated that as we approach 2020, there would be 15000 drones in the country. Today, more than that number is selling every month.
The use of drones for military purposes have also increased many fold as all the major militaries around the world are using it for surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance. Some of the countries that have documented record of using UAVs in combat are United States of America, United Kingdom, Israel, Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, and Turkey. This is a $2.5 billion industry with estimates of crossing $9.4 billion by 2025. READ MORE AT RC HOBBY REVIEW.
Early Development in UAV Technology
The first use of UAVs was recorded in 1849 during besiege of Venice by the Australians. The Australians attempted to drop 30-40 pounds of explosives on the besieged city with the use of balloons. 200 balloons were set to float over the city carrying the explosives, which were to drop with the use of time fuse.
However, the first mechanical and real glimpse of an unmanned aerial vehicle was shortly after World War 1. With AM Low’s radio control techniques, the first unmanned aircraft was made. Using AM Low’s technique, the aerial vehicle known as ‘flying bomb’ took its first flight on September 12, 1916. This demonstrated the early concept of unmanned aerial vehicle and the vehicle later went on to be the base for cruise missiles today.
Although, there have been many attempts at developing unmanned aerial vehicles over the past century. The true predecessor of today’s drone technology did not come into existence until the 1980s.
In 1982, the Israelis used UAVs as decoys to claim victory over the Syrian Air Force causing massive damage with minimal casualty. America first used the Predator RQ-1L UAV in the Balkans and Iraq in 1995 and 1996; the UAV was highly effective in both the places. As the American War in Afghanistan accelerated, UAVs saw more combat than ever before causing massive damage to the enemy. With this, the era of unmanned aerial vehicles had incepted and several new types of UAVs emerged such as Miniature and Micro UAVs, Endurance UAVs, Beamed power UAVs, and more. The defense researcher DARPA came up with Amber a photographic reconnaissance UAV and the rest is history.
Today’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
We cannot truly guess how advanced the modern military UAVs are today because most of the military projects are conducted under secrecy. However, let us look that the things we know exist in terms of UAV technology.
We currently know that there are more than 150 different drone technology used across 40 countries. Drones come in several sizes from the smallest Black Hornet mini-copter, no larger than a hummingbird to the gigantic 15K-pound RQ-4 Global Hawk.
The United States was the first country to use armed drones in combat in 2001 during the War in Afghanistan. However, over the past 2 years, this technology has seen some real developments with six new countries added to the list of having used armed drones in combat.
The Developers of Most Advanced UAVs
UAVs in the United States
The United States is ahead of all the other countries in terms of drone technology. The country accounts for 77 percent of RDT&E into unmanned aerial vehicle technology over the next 10 years.
MQ-9 Reaper is the number 1 strike drone of the US costing a massive $1.2 billion. This is the latest drone in the Predator series with a top speed of 240 KTAS, it can climb altitudes up to 50K ft, and can carry a payload of 3,750 pounds. The advanced unmanned aerial vehicle can operate without refueling for a staggering 27 hours. The UAV is equipped with laser range finder, infrared sensors, cameras, and other critical equipment. These drones are capable of flying anonymously or can be operated remotely.
Since the introduction of drone technology, America has been ahead of all the other countries in the use of armed drones. The country also uses a wide range of UAVs for the purpose of surveillance from the large to the tiny. Read more at RC Hobby Review
UAVs in Israel
Israel is the largest exporter of unmanned aerial vehicles worldwide. Going by the report of Frost & Sullivan, the country exported drones costing $4.62 billion between the years 2005 to 2012. There are several reasons Israel has attained this dominance in drone technology. The primary reason is the reluctance of the United States to share its drone technology. Israel is a country subset by hostile neighbors; the country had to develop advanced defense technology to ward-off its hostile neighbors. Israel was also among the first countries to venture into the field of unmanned aerial vehicle technology, which naturally provides it the upper hand.
According to reports, Israel has more than 100 advanced drones in its arsenal. Israel does not only manufacture drones, but the country is also the leader in anti-drone technology. Read more at RC Hobby Review
UAVs in China
Over the years, China has become the preferred destination for UAV shopping for several countries, counties who do not meet the US stringent export norms and are politically unfriendly to Israel.
In a recent announcement, China said they are ready to start mass manufacturing their most advanced drone Cai Hong 5. It is claimed by the Chinese that the Cai Hong 5 is equivalent to the MQ-9 Reaper; however, if you go over the specifications, it is evident that the engine of Cai Hong is weaker. The drone can fly at a maximum height of 30, 000 ft for 60 hours. Read more at RC Hobby Review
Major Powers all over the world are investing heavily in drone technology and Artificial Intelligence. The drones of the future will be extraordinary. An American company – Psibernetix – claims to have developed an AI that can beat even the best-trained pilots in combat. Countries like the US and China are investing a huge amount of money in the development of AI for combat. The future of warfare may not directly involve humans, but robots and drones.