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Unmanned Aerial Vehicles: Background and Issues for Congress

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Congressional rept.

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Unmanned Aerial Vehicles UAVs have been referred to in many ways RPV remotely piloted vehicle, drone, robot plane, and pilotless aircraft. Most often called UAVs, they are defined by the Department of Defense DoD as powered, aerial vehicles that do not carry a human operator, use 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. UAVs range from the size of an insect to that of a commercial airliner. DoD currently possesses five major UAVs the Air Forces Predator and Global Hawk, the Navy and Marine Corpss Pioneer, and the Armys Hunter and Shadow. Other key UAV developmental efforts include the Air Force and Navys unmanned combat air vehicle UCAV, Navys vertical takeoff and landing UAV VTUAV and the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance UAV BAMS, and the Marine Corpss Dragon Eye and Dragon Warrior. The services continue to be innovative in their use of UAVs. Recent examples include arming UAVs Predator, Hunter, using UAVs to extend the eyes of submarines, and teaming UAVs with strike aircraft and armed helicopters to improve targeting. In the past, tension has existed between the services efforts to acquire UAVs and congressional initiatives to encourage a consolidated DoD approach. Some observers argue that the result has been a less than stellar track record for the UAV. However, reflecting the growing awareness and support in Congress and the DoD for UAVs, investments in unmanned aerial vehicles have been increasing every year. Congressional considerations include the proper pace, scope, and management of DoD UAV procurement appropriate investment priorities for UAVs vs manned aircraft future roles and applications and aerospace industrial base considerations. Summaries of UAVs now in operation include system characteristics, mission, payload, program status, inventory, cost, recent uses, losses, and recent actions.

Subject Categories:

  • Pilotless Aircraft
  • Administration and Management
  • Logistics, Military Facilities and Supplies

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