An Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), commonly known as a drone, is an aircraft without any human pilot, crew, or passengers on board. UAVs are a component of an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS), which includes the addition of a ground controller and a communications system with the UAV. The flight of unmanned aerial vehicles can operate under the remote control of a human operator, such as remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), or with varying degrees of autonomy, such as autopilot assistance, up to fully autonomous aircraft that do not have human intervention. The large UAV class applies to large unmanned aerial vehicles used primarily for combat operations by the military.
Examples of these large unmanned aerial vehicles are the Predator A and B from General Atomics in the USA and the Northrop Grumman Global Hawk from the USA. UU. (Figures 1, 7 and 1). Unmanned aerial vehicles are aircraft that are guided autonomously, by remote control or both, and that carry a combination of sensors, electronic receivers and transmitters and offensive ammunition.
They are used for strategic and operational reconnaissance and for battlefield surveillance, and they can also intervene on the battlefield indirectly, designating targets for precision guided munitions launched or fired from manned systems, or directly, by launching or firing these munitions themselves. All major military powers and even some militia groups employ unmanned aerial surveillance vehicles on the battlefield to broaden the vision of ground and naval forces and improve the range and accuracy of their support fire. For example, in its conflict with Israel, the Lebanese group Hezbollah used the Iranian-made Ababil (“Swallow”), a vehicle with a wingspan of 3.25 meters (10 feet and 8 inches) that operates with a thrust propeller and is launched from a pneumatic launcher mounted on a truck or by means of a propellant rocket. Tactical surveillance ships vary in sophistication, from vehicles that, like the Ababil, prowl the battlefield looking for and designating targets to “mini unmanned aerial vehicles” launched by hand with a single visible or infrared spectrum television camera.
An early example of the latter is the US AeroVironment FQM-151 Pointer, a UAV that weighs less than 10 pounds (4.5 kg) and looks like a motorized sailboat model. The Pointer first served in the United States Marine Corps during the Persian Gulf War. It is being replaced by the Puma, a Pointer development with more advanced sensors, by the RQ-11 Raven, a reduced version of the Puma, and by the Wasp, a small vehicle that weighs about 1 pound (less than half a kilogram) and has a wingspan of 2 feet and 4.5 inches (72 cm); the latter is being delivered to Air Force ground combat control teams, as well as to marines up to the platoon level. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) began funding feasibility studies of extremely small “microunmanned aerial vehicles” of no more than 6 inches (15 cm).
These studies (and others like them conducted since 2003 in Israel) have produced an astounding variety of designs powered by electric motors or small gas turbines the size of a watch battery, but no publicly recognized use has yet been found for them. The next wave of unmanned aerial vehicle development is likely to be the so-called uninhabited combat aerial vehicles (UCAV). If the experimental Boeing X-45 and the Northrop Grumman X-47 are representative of these vehicles, they will look like small B-2 Spirit stealth bombers and will vary in size from one third to one sixth of the gross weight of a single-seat fighter bomber. They will most likely complement or even replace piloted fighter bombers in the role of attack in high-threat environments.
Finally, large and extremely light “Endurance” unmanned aerial vehicles powered by solar energy have been launched to test the viability of communications and surveillance vehicles that would remain parked at high altitudes for months or even years in a row.