Unmanned Aerial Vehicles: Background and Issues
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) have been referred to in many ways: RPV (remotely piloted vehicle), drone, robot plane, and pilotless aircraft are a few such names. Most often called UAVs, they are defined by the Department of Defense (DOD) as powered, aerial vehicle lift, can fly autonomously or be piloted remotely, can be expendable or recoverable, and can carry a lethal or non-lethal payload. The war an terrorism has put a high premium on the primary mission of UAVs, intelligence gathering. Furthermore, the military effectiveness of UAVs in recent conflicts such as Iraq (2003), Afghanistan (2001), and Kosovo (1999) has opened the eyes of many to both the advantages and disadvantages provided by unmanned aircraft. Long relegated to the sidelines in military operations, UAVs are now making national headlines as they are used in ways normally reserved for manned aircraft. Conventional wisdom states that UAVs offer two main advantages over manned aircraft: they are considered most cost-effective, and they minimise the risk to a pilot's life. However, the current UAV accident rate (the rate at which the aircraft are lost or damaged) is 100 times that of manned aircraft.
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