UAV worldwide

efore the 1990s, Israel alone seemed truly committed to developing unmanned military aircraft, which it believed would reduce the loss of pilots and aircraft on dangerous reconnaissance and surveillance missions. Although the U.S. had been using remotely piloted vehicles (primarily as aerial targets) since the 1960s, the technologies to make unmanned aerial vehicles more than a curiosity did not yet exist. Not until Operation Desert Storm, and the remarkable success of Pioneer—a joint development of Israel Aircraft Industries and AAI in the U.S.—did UAVs begin to win converts. Pioneer, first called into service as a combat spotter by the Navy on February 6, 1991, aided the battleship Wisconsin in locating Iraqi boats and shore targets 19 mi. away, and then destroying them with its 16-in. guns. It was not long before Iraqi soldiers learned to associate the buzzing of the tiny Pioneer with the Earth-shattering bombardment that followed moments later—leading to the first-ever surrenders of human soldiers to (unarmed) flying robots in combat. The real-time and near-real-time tactical reconnaissance provided by Navy, Marine, and Army UAVs helped bring that conflict to a rapid end. Pioneer also quickly caught the attention of military and government leaders and the media throughout the world. Aerospace firms in the U.S., Europe, and Asia pulled longignored concepts out of their files, updating them with new technologies and materials. Newer UAVs were sent into service in the Balkans a few years later and continued flying over Iraq, helping to enforce no-fly zones and preventing Iraq’s military from conducting surprise attacks on its own people. By the time of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, just how far UAV technology had advanced quickly became evident. South-

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The proliferation of UAVs continues to accelerate, with a growing number of companies, countries, and innovative designs entering the market.

by J.R. Wilson Contributing writer 30
AEROSPACE AMERICA/APRIL 2009

roundup 2009 west Asia became a proving ground for a wide array of UAVs. both armed and unarmed Predators dominated the skies over Baghdad and across the country. from antipiracy patrols over the Straits of Malacca. used primarily for reconnaissance. fire detection. target acquisition. wildlife tracking. Its three nose cameras then enable them to see who or what is waiting over the next hill or behind the next building.S. increased both payload and range. to drug and illegal alien interdiction along national borders. which General Atomics Aeronautical Systems had developed for the USAF. Predators spent nearly 34. In a single year (June 2005-June 2006). 2002. originally developed for helicopter use against tanks (helicopter fire-and-forget).S. Others ranged from hand-launched. as military leaders note that UAV operations in Afghanistan have been doubling every three months. are benefiting from a nearly “perfect storm” of turn-of-thecentury technology breakthroughs. to agricultural. less expensive computer technology has enabled more and better sensors. flying more than 2. however. and academic requirements lists across the globe. Improved Shadow . operated. With the demand for Predators growing beyond the number available to military commanders. more durable composite materials for skin and structure.000 hr in the air. opening a new chapter in UAV combat applications. The AAI-built Shadow. and their users. The remainder. over-the-hill observation aircraft to the jet-fighter-sized Global Hawk. combined with more powerful lightweight powerplants. One of the most popular UAVs in Southwest Asia is the 4-lb Raven. led by the Predator. Raven TECHNOLOGY Today’s UAVs. These aircraft have moved to the top of both military and civilian government. GPS navigation and location have given UAVs unprecedented precision in reaching designated targets and pinpointing targets of opportunity. The UAVs were used to attack an al-Qaida convoy near Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan on February 2. a host of other UAVs were sent to Southwest Asia. Faster. Predator and Global Hawk were controlled via satellite by Air Force personnel in the U. are strictly local—launched. long after the toppling of Hussein’s government. Hundreds have been deployed to Iraq. UAVs also have seen increasing use in other parts of the world—from Eastern Europe to the Horn of Africa.000 hr over Iraq and Afghanistan by the end of 2008 (including those operated by the Romanian air force). Of those. and battlefield damage assessment by the Army and Marine Corps.000 missions over Iraq. and recovered by ground and naval forces in-theater. Those numbers are expected to jump substantially this year. which warfighters hurl into the air like javelins. Moving on to Iraq the next year. had flown some 400. military and coalition forces—roughly twice as many unmanned as manned aircraft. and weather observation missions worldwide. Predators also became the world’s first armed UAVs when the CIA equipped some of its own with Hellfire air-to-ground missiles. Lighter. part of thousands of different UAVs now belonging to the U. industry. sent into service while still a prototype.

control center. engineers also are now looking at anti-UAV systems.. With that much money and openness to new concepts. The following year. Predator or Global Hawk can be “piloted” from ground stations halfway around the world. John Warner (R-Va. in fact. look for improvised explosive devices. and smart munitions such as cruise missiles. in turn. sizes. propulsion systems. The growing variety of platforms worldwide has led to a wide range of shapes. of course. serving as mothership. and intelligence. Even that does not come close to the Vulture.000 lb of payload. designed with flapping wings to make them more easily mistaken for actual birds or insects. and maintenance facility for UAVs and. The most ambitious of the former is the UXV Combatant warship proposed by BAE Systems. and capability in satellite communications have enhanced contact with ground forces in remote mountains and urban “canyons” and added communications relay to the growing list of UAV missions.S. “We’re very concerned about the emerging unmanned aerial vehicle threat and. the first targeted for 2015. then chairman of the Armed Services Committee. The Pentagon budget jumped 74% between 2002 and 2008 (even without the costs of the wars). for example. and perform a seemingly endless list of additional tasks. weight. produce 5 kW of onboard power. VTOL aircraft like the Marine Corps V-22. and Lockheed Martin Skunk Works. Specialty UAVs “sniff” the air for chemical or biological weapons. patrol borders. in all likelihood. By 2000.and nanotechnology and the desire to see and hear inside buildings. and defense plans. so many advances and successes had been recorded that Sen. technology. are bird. UAVs are so much a part of warfare and military planning that two new concepts—dedicated UAV carriers and counter-UAV systems—are under consideration or development. Also being resurrected in labs.and insect-style MAVs. New battlefield successes further bolstered the increasingly positive environment for all unmanned systems. The program work statement was extremely basic: Carry at least 32 AEROSPACE AMERICA/APRIL 2009 1. and range/altitude/endurance mixes. Lockheed Martin. is designing a high-altitude airship 25 times larger than the Goodyear blimp that could remain “parked” 100.S.). Another group of BAE engineers has developed a land-based launch boost system for small UAVs. And although the technologies that have made the current generation of U. locate smugglers and terrorists using small boats. it also could host helicopters. the how-when-where of UAV use grew almost exponentially. the latter for 2030. a lot of us here think that threat is here and now. the speed with which space launchers and nuclear weapons are proliferating suggests that gap may close far faster in the less complex UAV race. hostages. business develop- . Boeing Integrated Defense Systems.size. has brought about a rebirth for lighter-than-air unmanned fliers. snipers. could be launched in a swarm into a building to seek out terrorists. aid search and rescue missions. thanks to both advances in micro. pairing vehicles up to 25 kg with a mortar-based launcher. while a hand-launched micro air vehicle (MAV) like the Marine Corps Wasp can be monitored from a laptop or hand-held video display. That.000-ton vessel. European. The U. unmanned surface and underwater vessels as well. Tiny platforms. the September 11 attacks forced a rewrite of all budget. both to use against potential adversaries and to learn how best to protect their own UAVs from someone else’s countermeasures. and Israeli systems so successful will take time and resources to duplicate. The 8. Serving as a kind of small carrier. That would give small units more capable aircraft while incorporating a technology that greatly reduces the typical launch forces a mortar creates—forces that would seriously damage most UAVs. currently in competitive design for DARPA by Aurora Flight Services. which could enter service in the 2020s if pursued by a major naval force. from small and medium-sized tethered balloons and blimps to massive powered airships. As a result. would be dedicated to the launch and recovery of large numbers of unmanned vehicles. inserted a directive into the defense budget mandating that a third of all aircraft used to attack behind enemy lines had to be unmanned by 2010.000 ft above its target zone for weeks or even months.” Michael Means. turning them into a global growth industry attracting both established defense giants and start-ups. monitor radiation levels. protect convoys from ambush. and its allies are not the only militaries deploying or planning to deploy UAVs. especially for UAVs and ground and water counterparts. demonstrate 99% on-station capability and high probability of mission success—and stay aloft for five years without landing. with an equally substantial boost in R&D and procurement funding.

however. but. noting slightly different specifications. The project involves not just industry but also government air traffic and airworthiness agencies. At the same time. efforts are under way to implement regulations for UAVs to operate in the continent’s crowded.S. at least outwardly. we could find updated information on only 23.. EDA awarded a €0.ment manager for the Stinger antiaircraft missile at Raytheon.K. in an effort to address safety issues for both military and commercial UAV operations across the continent. is the VOLANS covert optical airborne reconnaissance naval adapted system.” Raytheon is looking at a modified Stinger. from Germany’s EMT Penzberg. The company is also working with Boeing on a directed-energy weapon called Laser Avenger. Those platforms run the gamut from MAVs to multiton behemoths. told the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) last December. however. thus broadening market demand both within the EU and worldwide. That includes synchronizing military research funded by the European Defense Agency with civil security and other commercial applications supported by the European Commission. In January 2008. Europe’s militaries are finding new uses for the technologies they are receiving and are making ever greater demands on the R&D community to expand those applications. Global Hawk. developers of large platforms such as nEUROn and Global Hawk. Numerous meetings during the past year have looked at ways to further cooperative development efforts among EU member states and companies. either hand-held or mounted on a Humvee. which enables a modified Sperwer-B AEROSPACE AMERICA/APRIL 2009 33 . and Germany continue to lead Europe in the development and produc- tion of UAVs.S. of the U.5million contract to the Air4 All consortium— comprising more than a dozen of Europe’s largest aerospace and defense contractors— to develop a detailed road map for the integration of UAVs into European airspace by the end of 2015 at the latest. Those numbers remain hard to validate. programs. and little or no verification on the remainder. This is especially important to both EU and U. It also is possible that some of these refer to one aircraft by multiple names. Aerospace America has found references. That also could account for the multiple aircraft with pictures or descriptions indicating they are downsized replicas. the Army doesn’t have a near-term cost-effective capability to counter an emerging UAV threat to protect brigade combat teams and high-priority assets. CHINA One of the few opportunities to see what China is doing in UAVs comes at the annual Air Show China. multinational airspace—regulations that could benefit EU industry by limiting the degree to which U. for the first time in public. One such development.S. For this year. But adequate training ranges within Europe are severely limited under current flight restrictions. to 41 primary UAVs and variants from 14 different manufacturers (including the air force). it appeared to show. with varying degrees of detail. designed to detonate IEDs at a distance but also seen as a way to shoot down or blind enemy UAVs. The European Union’s basic UAV thrust has been to develop dual-use systems for military and Patria mini-UAV civilian applications. as a possible anti-UAV weapon.built UAVs meet the new standards. France. from some 30 manufacturers.S. the extent of China’s UAV effort—more than a dozen aircraft from multiple state-run manufacturers. EUROPE The U. with over 90 different aircraft or variants. Nonetheless. as with previous Chinese exhibitions. That was the case at the 7th Air Show in November 2008. Meanwhile. as well as UCAVs. which are seen as a less expensive route than new manned fighters to enlarging air attack and air superiority capabilities. as well as academic and private research groups. what was real and what was illusion were difficult to sepaWong Long rate. “Currently. as with U.

Tallash (Endeavor and Hadaf). including video. from the 0. Abadil INDIA India has been a major buyer of UAVs. It has been credited with multiple variants of the Mohajer (Dorna and Hodhod).S. in terms of systems that are known or believed to be under development or in production. Baweja said one prototype has been developed for trial. capabilities. But government and military officials also have been pushing for an increased indigenous capability. ships in the Persian Gulf. and Nishant/Gagan reconnaissance and surveillance platforms. and Chinese models. One way to upgrade the country’s own technology is through joint development programs with others. The submarine need only rise to periscope depth to lift the launcher above the surface and get the MAVs airborne. Three MAVs can be packaged into a pressure-tight tank along with a folding catapult launcher and mounted to a telescoping multipurpose mast. In 2007. Some experts in Israel. And any decision to launch the MAVs and risk having a well-equipped enemy track its broadcast signal to pinpoint the submarine’s location would make VOLANS a special-use-only system. It is believed to have developed several variants of the Abadil UAV. from 10 manufacturers— but with a significant difference: Most can be fully vetted. Israeli platforms cover a broad spectrum of sizes. dismiss their vehicles as copies of outdated Italian. most reported to be short-range reconnaissance and surveillance models. if the submarine keeps its communications mast extended. The MAV could either transmit real-time data from within a 30-km range. South African. with its mid-size Rustom. which also produces the Russian Antonov An-140 airliner under license. who have made numerous claims about the country’s UAV expertise and reconnaissance flights over U. Signals from the MAVs can be retrieved through an antenna. used by Hezbollah. which has dealt with Iranian UAVs 34 AEROSPACE AMERICA/APRIL 2009 Skylark . especially from Israeli manufacturers. such as rockets and space launch vehicles—it would be unwise to dismiss Iran’s UAV programs out of hand. with at least half a dozen companies said to have developed nearly a dozen vehicles. announced development of a stealth vehicle with a 700-km range. Another is HESA. India’s primary UAV manufacturer has been DRDO. and missions. or widen its patrol and rendezvous with the boat at a preselected time and location to download stored data. but little other information is available. and that India’s navy has placed an order for eight of the new UAVs. and Saeqeh UAVs.650-kg medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) mul- Lashya IRAN Iran’s UAV programs also are difficult to verify.5-kg Mosquito urban MAV to the 4. chair of Hindustan Aeronautics. allowing the submarine to extend its sensor range on the surface and in the air above it while remaining submerged. such as providing a submarine-based special operations team with a current view of a target. given the secrecy of the Islamic giant’s internal affairs—and the scientific success it claims to be having in other aerospace efforts. reported that HAL and Israeli Aerospace Industries have undertaken a joint program to develop helicopter UAVs. as announced at Aero India 2009 in February. is Qods Aeronautics Industries. Ashok Baweja. However. Iranian officials. Because the submarine would have to surface to recover the drones. Lakshya. The most prolific of the state-owned firms. they probably would be deployed on one-way missions. ISRAEL and the MIDDLE EAST Israel’s list of UAVs matches China’s at 40 models and variants.version of EMT’s Aladin hand-launched MAV to be catapulted from a submerged submarine.

The company already produces two UAVs under the Yabhon name—a jet-propelled high-speed diving target drone (Yabhon HMD) and a piston pusher prop for long-endurance reconnaissance and surveillance (Yabhon RX-6). its principal effort since 2004 has been the TIHA. target acquisition. believed to be supplied by Iran. the Lebanese-based Shiite militia Hezbollah has made considerable news in the past few years by flying UAVs. a Predator-class MALE intelligence.timission Heron TP. primarily designed for reconnaissance and surveillance or as aerial targets. While looking to bolster its own military capabilities in an area where it has long trailed its Western European neighbors and the U.S. Turkey has developed its own wide range of UAVs in recent years. over Israel. already among the most vigorous in the region. and reconnaissance (ISTAR) vehicle. AEROSPACE AMERICA/APRIL 2009 35 . Elbit Systems. Various reports have identified the Hezbollah vehicles as the Mohajer 4 and Abadil-T. One Israeli response has been an increased program to develop UAV countermeasures. and Aeronautics Defense Systems offer at least nine each. A number of familiar names have joined the unmanned ranks. Pakistan has been seeking to advance its own unmanned capabilities. UAV programs and manufacturers have proliferated. short-range aircraft. UAV operations against alQaida and its supporters along the Afghan border. Although it has no production facilities. And while TAI earned its reputation with a series of small. including Kamov. RUSSIA With the rebuilding of Russia’s military forces in recent years. according to reports quoting Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul. PAKISTAN Facing a growing Indian UAV capability. and angry over U. both from IAI.— and cognizant of China’s UAV efforts—Russia also sees UAVs as a potentially lucrative export market. Yakovlev Pchela Heron Also planned to debut this year. All of the known Pakistani UAVs are small. low-altitude vehicles. The most active is Integrated Dynamics. with a primary customer in India. most under the banner of TUSAS Aerospace Industries. Most Israeli manufacturers have at least two UAVs under development or in production. surveillance.S. Russia’s most recent UAV deployments were during its 2008 invasion of Georgia. IAI. where both sides fielded unmanned systems and accused each other of using them to trigger combat engagements. scheduled for first flight in this year. is a mini that can be carried in a soldier’s rucksack and outfitted with day/night cameras for closerange surveillance. Abu Dhabi has joined the race to field its own Predator-class MALE UAV Yablon with Adcom Military Industries’ Yabhon RX-18. Sukhoi (responsible for Russia’s largest UAVs). More than half a dozen companies are reported to have at least 30 UAV models under development or in production. and Yakovlev. short-range. something its Arab neighbors also would be eager to field. These have included efforts in the Predator class as well as development of massive aircraft along the lines of Global Hawk.

and GEIA predicts Global Hawk and BAMS will be taking the bulk of U. and reconnaissance integral to the Navy’s airborne ISR recapitalization strategy. successfully acquiring and tracking an unmanned Little Bird. infrastructure. and expertise from across DOD “to provide persistent maritime intelligence.” But surpassing the relatively remote possibility of a crowded-sky collision is the potential of UAVs and manned aircraft working as a team. Robert Dishman of the Persistent Maritime Unmanned Aircraft Systems Program Office told AUVSI that BAMS will leverage hardware. The X-47B could stay aloft for up to 50 hr with a range of 3. But despite the now firmly set inclusion of UAVs in military planning and operations at all levels.” The BAMS UAV. funding by 2019. The Government Electronics Industry Association (GEIA). would give the Navy persistent surveillance capability even in a “satellite-denied environment. high-definition streaming video from UAVs at long distances from the helicopter.mi. Global Hawk and Predator currently dominate UAV spending. The Navy has no current plans to procure such a system. Capt. The UTA is fully integrated with the Apache’s display systems. allowing the crew to receive and view realtime. or UTA. scheduled to begin carrier-based launch and recovery flight tests in 2011 and attempt an autonomous carrier landing around 2013. It would allow the crew of an AH-64D Apache Block III attack helicopter to control linked UAVs. Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman have created a joint venture called Longbow to develop an unmanned tactical common data link assembly. military moves deeper into the evolving realm of the networked battlespace. which is to be tested in about 2015.16-billion development contract awarded to Northrop Grumman in April 2008 “represents the Navy’s largest investment in unmanned aircraft systems to date. The on-orbit collision in February between a derelict Soviet-era satellite and an operational Iridium communications spacecraft was an even greater underscore. The UTA completed its first powered flight at the end of 2008. based on Global Hawk and its accompanying system. using autonomous refueling.” That also applies to the Navy’s broad area maritime surveillance system (BAMS).S. 36 AEROSPACE AMERICA/APRIL 2009 . predicts DOD spending on UAVs will decline by about one-third in the next 10 years. the realities of a sagging global economy and pressures to reduce defense spending are likely to slow what has been a spectacular two-decade record of development and deployment.” That need gained importance after a successful Chinese antisatellite test in 2007 and Iran’s claim to have launched its first indigenously produced satellite. demonstrating not just the potential for the direct loss of a satellite but also the continuing danger of the expanding debris field it created. attention is turning to the need for better coordination of manned and unmanned aircraft. but is looking at it as part of an examination of future “capability gaps.000 n. Some combat pilots in Southwest Asia have referred to the hundreds of UAVs operating in the same airspace as “FOD [foreign object debris] in the sky. for example.S. Navy officials talked about the prospects of a sixth-generation unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) to supplement and eventually replace the fifth-generation F-35 aboard carriers. At AUVSI’s Unmanned Systems Pro- Global Hawk gram Review 2009. surveillance. The concept vehicle for that will be the Northrop Grumman X-47B.” and that a $1.X-47 UNITED STATES As the U.

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