Unmanned aerial vehicle

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A group photo of aerial demonstrators at the 2005 Naval Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Air Demo.

An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), commonly known as a drone, is an aircraft without a human pilot on board. Its flight is controlled either autonomously by computers in the vehicle, or under the remote control of a pilot on the ground or in another vehicle.[1]

There are a wide variety of drone shapes, sizes, configurations, and characteristics. Historically, UAVs were simple remotely piloted aircraft, but autonomous control is increasingly being employed.[2]

They are deployed predominantly for military applications, but also used in a small but growing number of civil applications, such as policing, firefighting, and nonmilitary security work, such as surveillance of pipelines. UAVs are often preferred for missions that are too "dull, dirty, or dangerous" for manned aircraft.

Contents

History [edit]

Ryan Firebee was a series of target drones/unmanned aerial vehicles.

The earliest attempt at a powered unmanned aerial vehicle was A. M. Low's "Aerial Target" of 1916.[3] Nikola Tesla described a fleet of unmanned aerial combat vehicles in 1915.[4] A number of remote-controlled airplane advances followed, including the Hewitt-Sperry Automatic Airplane, during and after World War I, including the first scale RPV (Remote Piloted Vehicle), developed by the film star and model airplane enthusiast Reginald Denny in 1935.[3] More were made in the technology rush during World War II; these were used both to train antiaircraft gunners and to fly attack missions. Nazi Germany also produced and used various UAV aircraft during the course of WWII. Jet engines were applied after World War II, in such types as the Teledyne Ryan Firebee I of 1951, while companies like Beechcraft also got in the game with their Model 1001 for the United States Navy in 1955.[3] Nevertheless, they were little more than remote-controlled airplanes until the Vietnam Era.

The birth of U.S. UAVs (called RPVs at the time) began in 1959 when United States Air Force (USAF) officers, concerned about losing pilots over hostile territory, began planning for the use of unmanned flights.[5] This plan became intensified when Francis Gary Powers and his "secret" U-2 were shot down over the Soviet Union in 1960. Within days, the highly classified UAV program was launched under the code name of "Red Wagon".[6] The August 2 and August 4, 1964, clash in the Tonkin Gulf between naval units of the U.S. and North Vietnamese Navy initiated America's highly classified UAVs into their first combat missions of the Vietnam War.[7] When the "Red Chinese"[8] showed photographs of downed U.S. UAVs via Wide World Photos,[9] the official U.S. response was, "no comment."

There are two prominent drone programs within the United States: that of the military and that of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The military’s drone program is overt, meaning it is recognized by the public and therefore only operates where US troops are stationed. The CIA’s program is covert. Missions performed by the CIA’s drone program do not always occur where US troops are stationed [10]

The CIA’s drone program was commissioned as a result of the terrorist September 11 attacks and the increasing emphasis on operations for intelligence gathering in 2004.[11] This clandestine program is primarily being used in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. UAVs collect intelligence in these countries by hovering around their target. The CIA’s first drone program is called the Eagle Program. It was led by Duane Clarridge, the director of the Counterterrorism Center. This program constructed the CIA’s first predator drone using “off the shelf technology”, which included items such as garage door openers and model airplanes [12]

Only on February 26, 1973, during testimony before the United States House Committee on Appropriations, the U.S. military officially confirmed that they had been utilizing UAVs in Southeast Asia (Vietnam).[13] While over 5,000 U.S. airmen had been killed and over 1,000 more were either missing in action (MIA), or captured (prisoners of war/POW); the USAF 100th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing had flown approximately 3,435 UAV missions during the war,[14] at a cost of about 554 UAVs lost to all causes. In the words of USAF General George S. Brown, Commander, Air Force Systems Command in 1972, "The only reason we need (UAVs) is that we don't want to needlessly expend the man in the cockpit."[15] Later that same year, General John C. Meyer, Commander in Chief, Strategic Air Command, stated, "we let the drone do the high-risk flying ... the loss rate is high, but we are willing to risk more of them ... they save lives!"[15]

During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Soviet-supplied surface to air missile batteries in Egypt and Syria caused heavy damage to Israeli fighter jets. As a result, Israel developed the first modern UAV. Israel pioneered the use of UAVs for real-time surveillance, electronic warfare and decoys.[16][17][18] The images and radar decoying provided by these UAVs helped Israel to completely neutralize the Syrian air defenses at the start of the 1982 Lebanon War, resulting in no pilots downed.[19] The first time drones were used as proof-of-concept of super-agility post-stall controlled flight in combat flight simulations was with tailless, Stealth-Technology-based three-dimensional Thrust Vectoring flight control jet steering in Israel in 1987.[20]

With the maturing and miniaturization of applicable technologies as seen in the 1980s and 1990s, interest in UAVs grew within the higher echelons of the U.S. military. In the 1990s, the U.S. Department of Defense gave a contract to U.S. corporation AAI Corporation of Maryland along with Israeli company Mazlat. The U.S. Navy bought the AAI Pioneer UAV that was jointly developed by American AAI Corporation and Israeli Mazlat, this type of drone is still in use. Many of these Pioneer and newly developed U.S. UAVs were used in the 1991 Gulf War. UAVs were seen to offer the possibility of cheaper, more capable fighting machines that could be used without risk to aircrews. Initial generations were primarily surveillance aircraft, but some were armed (such as the General Atomics MQ-1 Predator, which utilized AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-ground missiles). An armed UAV is known as an unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV).

As a tool for search and rescue, UAVs can help find humans lost in the wilderness, trapped in collapsed buildings, or adrift at sea.

In February 2013, it was reported that at drones were used by at least 50 countries, several of which made their own - for example Iran, Israel and China.[21]

The first UAV created was the Pioneer, which helps to identify artillery and boats (Carafano & Gudgel, 2007). Since its performance was so exemplary, they began to be used more and more, with new models constantly being introduced. As of 2008, the United States Air Force employed 5,331 drones, which is twice the number of manned planes (Singer, 2009b). Out of these, the Predators are the most commendable. Unlike other UAVs, the Predator was armed with Hellfire missiles so that it can terminate the target that it locates (Carafano & Gudgel, 2007). This was done after Predators sighted Osama Bin Laden multiple times but could not do anything about it other than send back images. In addition, the Predator is capable of orchestrating attacks by pointing lasers at the targets (Singer, 2009b). This is important, as it puts a robot in a position to set off an attack. Their overall success is apparent because from June 2005 to June 2006 alone, Predators carried out 2,073 missions, and participated in 242 separate raids (Singer, 2009a).

In contrast to the Predator, which is remotely piloted via satellites by pilots located 7,500 miles away, the Global Hawk operates virtually autonomously (Singer, 2009b). The user merely hits the button for ‘take off’ and for ‘land’, while the UAV gets directions via GPS and reports back with a live feed. Global Hawks have the capability to fly from San Francisco, and map out the entire state of Maine, before having to return (Singer, 2009b). In addition, some UAVs have become so small that they can be launched from one’s hand and maneuvered through the street (Singer, 2009a). These UAVs, known as Ravens, are especially useful in urban areas such as Iraq, in order to discover insurgents and potential ambushes the next block up (Carafano & Gudgel, 2007). Incidentally, UAVs are useful because that they can float around for days at a time. According to Carafano & Gudgel, insurgents are loathe to stay in the open for more than a few minutes at a time for fear of UAVs locating them (2007).

FAA designation [edit]

In the United States, the United States Navy and shortly after the Federal Aviation Administration have adopted the name unmanned aircraft (UA) to describe aircraft systems without a flight crew on board. More common names include UAV, drone, remotely piloted vehicle (RPV), remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), remotely operated aircraft (ROA). These "limited-size" (as defined by the FAI) unmanned aircraft flown in the USA's National Airspace System, flown solely for recreation and sport purposes such as models, are generally flown under the voluntary safety standards of the Academy of Model Aeronautics,[22] the United States' national aeromodeling organization. To operate a UA for non-recreational purposes in the United States, users must obtain a Certificate of Authorization (COA) to operate in national airspace.[23] At the moment, COAs require a public entity as a sponsor. For example, when BP needed to observe oil spills, they operated the Aeryon Scout UAVs under a COA granted to the University of Alaska Fairbanks.[24] COAs have been granted for both land and shipborne operations.[25]

The term unmanned aircraft system (UAS) emphasizes the importance of other elements beyond an aircraft itself. A typical UAS consists of the:

For example, the RQ-7 Shadow UAS consists of four UAs, two GCSs, one portable GCS, one Launcher, two Ground Data Terminals (GDTs), one portable GDT, and one Remote Video Terminal. Certain military units are also fielded with a maintenance support vehicle.

Because of this systemic approach, unmanned aircraft systems have not been included in the United States Munitions List Category VIII – Aircraft and Associated Equipment. Vice versa, the “Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Systems” are clearly mentioned at paragraph 121-16 Missile Technology Control Regime Annex of the United States Munitions List. More precisely, the Missile Technology Control Regime Annex levels rocket and unmanned aerial vehicle systems together.

The term UAS was since adopted by the United States Department of Defense (DOD) and the British Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

The term used previously for unmanned aircraft system was unmanned-aircraft vehicle system (UAVS).

Classification [edit]

Although most UAVs are fixed-wing aircraft, rotorcraft designs (i.e., RUAVs) such as this MQ-8B Fire Scout are also used.

UAVs typically fall into one of six functional categories (although multi-role airframe platforms are becoming more prevalent):

  • Target and decoy – providing ground and aerial gunnery a target that simulates an enemy aircraft or missile
  • Reconnaissance – providing battlefield intelligence
  • Combat – providing attack capability for high-risk missions (see Unmanned combat air vehicle)
  • Logistics – UAVs specifically designed for cargo and logistics operation
  • Research and development – used to further develop UAV technologies to be integrated into field deployed UAV aircraft
  • Civil and Commercial UAVs – UAVs specifically designed for civil and commercial applications
Schiebel S-100 fitted with a Lightweight Multirole Missile

They can also be categorised in terms of range/altitude and the following has been advanced as relevant at such industry events as ParcAberporth Unmanned Systems forum:

  • Hand-held 2,000 ft (600 m) altitude, about 2 km range
  • Close 5,000 ft (1,500 m) altitude, up to 10 km range
  • NATO type 10,000 ft (3,000 m) altitude, up to 50 km range
  • Tactical 18,000 ft (5,500 m) altitude, about 160 km range
  • MALE (medium altitude, long endurance) up to 30,000 ft (9,000 m) and range over 200 km
  • HALE (high altitude, long endurance) over 30,000 ft (9,100 m) and indefinite range
  • HYPERSONIC high-speed, supersonic (Mach 1–5) or hypersonic (Mach 5+) 50,000 ft (15,200 m) or suborbital altitude, range over 200 km
  • ORBITAL low earth orbit (Mach 25+)
  • CIS Lunar Earth-Moon transfer
  • CACGS Computer Assisted Carrier Guidance System for UAVs

The United States military employs a tier system for categorizing its UAVs.

Classifications by the United States military [edit]

The modern concept of U.S. military UAVs is to have the various aircraft systems work together in support of personnel on the ground. The integration scheme is described in terms of a "Tier" system, and is used by military planners to designate the various individual aircraft elements in an overall usage plan for integrated operations. The Tiers do not refer to specific models of aircraft, but rather roles for which various models and their manufacturers competed. The U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Marine Corps each has its own tier system, and the two systems are themselves not integrated.

U.S. Air Force tiers [edit]

An MQ-9 Reaper, a hunter-killer surveillance UAV.
  • Tier N/A: Small/Micro UAV. Role filled by BATMAV (Wasp Block III).[26]
  • Tier I: Low altitude, long endurance. Role filled by the Gnat 750.[27]
  • Tier II: Medium altitude, long endurance (MALE). Role currently filled by the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper.
  • Tier II+: High altitude, long endurance conventional UAV (or HALE UAV). Altitude: 60,000 to 65,000 feet (19,800 m), less than 300 knots (560 km/h) airspeed, 3,000-nautical-mile (6,000 km) radius, 24 hour time-on-station capability. Complementary to the Tier III- aircraft. Role currently filled by the RQ-4 Global Hawk.
  • Tier III-: High altitude, long endurance low-observable UAV. Same parameters as, and complementary to, the Tier II+ aircraft. The RQ-3 DarkStar was originally intended to fulfill this role before it was "terminated".[28][29] Role now filled by RQ-170 Sentinel.

U.S. Marine Corps tiers [edit]

  • Tier N/A: Micro UAV. Wasp III fills this role, driven largely by the desire for commonality with the USAF BATMAV.[30]
  • Tier I: Role currently filled by the Dragon Eye but all ongoing and future procurement for the Dragon Eye program is going now to the RQ-11B Raven B.
  • Tier II: Role currently filled by the ScanEagle.
  • Tier III: For two decades, the role of medium range tactical UAV was filled by the Pioneer UAV. In July 2007, the Marine Corps announced its intention to retire the aging Pioneer fleet and transition to the RQ-7 Shadow Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System by AAI Corporation. The first Marine Shadow systems have already been delivered, and training for their respective Marine Corps units is underway.[31][32]

U.S. Army tiers [edit]

  • Tier I: Small UAV. Role filled by the RQ-11B Raven.
  • Tier II: Short Range Tactical UAV. Role filled by the RQ-7B Shadow 200.
  • Tier III: Medium Range Tactical UAV. Role currently filled by the MQ-5A/B Hunter and IGNAT/IGNAT-ER, but transitioning to the Extended Range Multi-Purpose (ERMP) MQ-1C Gray Eagle.

Future Combat Systems (FCS) (U.S. Army) classes [edit]

  • Class I: For small units. Role to be filled by all new UAV with some similarity to micro air vehicle.
  • Class II: For companies (cancelled).[33]
  • Class III: For battalions (cancelled).[33]
  • Class IV: For brigades. Role to be filled by the RQ-8A/B / MQ-8B Fire Scout.

Conversions or variants of existing manned aircraft [edit]

  • A-10PCAS, a Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II variant (in development).

Unmanned aircraft system [edit]

An unmanned aircraft system (UAS) includes ground stations and other elements besides the actual aircraft, the term was first officially used by the FAA in early 2005 and subsequently adopted by DoD that same year in their Unmanned Aircraft System Roadmap 2005–2030.[34] Many people have mistakenly used the term Unmanned Aerial System, or Unmanned Air Vehicle System, as these designations were in provisional use at one time or another. The inclusion of the term aircraft emphasizes that regardless of the location of the pilot and flightcrew, the operations must comply with the same regulations and procedures as do those aircraft with the pilot and flightcrew on board. The official acronym UAS is also used by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and other government aviation regulatory organizations.

Predator launching a Hellfire missile

The military role of unmanned aircraft systems is growing at unprecedented rates. In 2005, tactical- and theater-level unmanned aircraft alone had flown over 100,000 flight hours in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, in which they are organized under Task Force Liberty in Afghanistan and Task Force ODIN in Iraq. Rapid advances in technology are enabling more and more capability to be placed on smaller airframes which is spurring a large increase in the number of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (SUAS) being deployed on the battlefield. The use of SUAS in combat is so new that no formal DoD wide reporting procedures have been established to track SUAS flight hours. As the capabilities grow for all types of UAS, nations continue to subsidize their research and development leading to further advances enabling them to perform a multitude of missions. UAS no longer only perform intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions, although this still remains their predominant type. Their roles have expanded to areas including electronic attack, strike missions, suppression and/or destruction of enemy air defense, network node or communications relay, combat search and rescue, and derivations of these themes. These UAS range in cost from a few thousand dollars to tens of millions of dollars, with aircraft ranging from less than one pound to over 40,000 pounds.[citation needed]

When the Obama administration announced in December 2009 the deployment of 30,000 new troops in Afghanistan, there was already an increase of attacks by pilot-less Predator drones against Taliban and al-Qaeda militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan's tribal areas, of which one probably killed a key member of al-Qaeda. However, neither Osama bin Laden nor Ayman al-Zawahiri was the likely target, according to reports. According to a report of the New America Foundation, armed drone strikes had dramatically increased under President Obama – even before his deployment decision. There were 43 such attacks between January and October 2009. The report draws on what it deems to be "credible" local and national media stories about the attacks. That compared with a total of 34 in all of 2008, President Bush's last full year in office. Between 2006 and 2009, drone-launched missiles allegedly had killed between 750 and 1,000 people in Pakistan, according to the report. Of these, about 20 people were said to be leaders of al-Qaeda, Taliban, and associated groups. Overall, 66% to 68% of the people killed were militants, and 31% to 33% were civilians. U.S. officials disputed the percentage for civilians.[35] The U.S. Air Force has recently begun referring at least to larger UAS like Predator, Reaper, and Global Hawk as Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA), to highlight the fact that these systems are always controlled by a human operator at some location.

However, artificial intelligence is advancing to the point where the aircraft are easily capable of taking off, landing, and flying themselves. Then they simply have to be instructed as to their mission. The military distinguishes between "man in the loop"[piloted] and "man on the loop" [supervised] systems, with "fully autonomous"[issued orders] growing organically from the second into a third category. A.I. systems have been capable of making decisions and planning sequences of actions for decades; as of 2013, few fully autonomous systems have been constructed, but this is more a matter of convenience and technical implementation rather than any fundamental barrier.[citation needed]

To distinguish UAVs from missiles, a UAV is defined as a "powered, aerial vehicle that does not carry a human operator, uses 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".[36] Therefore, cruise missiles are not considered UAVs, because, like many other guided missiles, the vehicle itself is a weapon that is not reused, even though it is also unmanned and in some cases remotely guided.

Uses [edit]

A forward looking infrared (FLIR) camera mounted on the side of an UAV similar to that from UAVs Australia.
Aeryon Scout in flight.
InView UAV for use in scientific, commercial and state applications.
The RQ-7 Shadow is capable of delivering a 20 lb (9.1 kg) "Quick-MEDS" canister to front-line troops.
Fulmar UAV, developed by Aerovision for civilian applications.
IAI Heron, an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle developed by the Malat (UAV) division of Israel Aerospace Industries.
A UAV detecting an underground facility

UAVs perform a wide variety of functions. The majority of these functions are some form of remote sensing; this is central to the reconnaissance role most UAVs fulfill. Less common UAV functions include interaction and transport.

Remote sensing [edit]

UAV remote sensing functions include electromagnetic spectrum sensors, gamma ray sensors, biological sensors, and chemical sensors. A UAV's electromagnetic sensors typically include visual spectrum, infrared, or near infrared cameras as well as radar systems. Other electromagnetic wave detectors such as microwave and ultraviolet spectrum sensors may also be used, but are uncommon. Biological sensors are sensors capable of detecting the airborne presence of various microorganisms and other biological factors. Chemical sensors use laser spectroscopy to analyze the concentrations of each element in the air.

Commercial aerial surveillance [edit]

Aerial surveillance of large areas is made possible with low cost UAV systems. Surveillance applications include: livestock monitoring, wildfire mapping, pipeline security, home security, road patrol and anti-piracy. The trend for use of UAV technology in commercial aerial surveillance is expanding rapidly with increased development of automated object detection approaches.[37]

Domestic policing [edit]

Drones are increasingly used for domestic police work in Canada and the United States[38][39] (a dozen US police forces had applied for drone permits by March 2013[21]). Texas politician and commentator Jim Hightower has warned about potential privacy abuses from aerial surveillance.[40][41] In February 2013, Seattle Mayor Michael McGinn responded to protests by scrapping the Seattle Police Department’s plan to deploy drones.[42]

Oil, gas and mineral exploration and production [edit]

UAVs can be used to perform geophysical surveys, in particular geomagnetic surveys[43] where the processed measurements of the differential Earth's magnetic field strength are used to calculate the nature of the underlying magnetic rock structure. A knowledge of the underlying rock structure helps trained geophysicists to predict the location of mineral deposits. The production side of oil and gas exploration and production entails the monitoring of the integrity of oil and gas pipelines and related installations. For above-ground pipelines, this monitoring activity could be performed using digital cameras mounted on one, or more, UAVs.[44] The InView Unmanned Aircraft System is an example of a UAV developed for use in oil, gas and mineral exploration and production activities.

Transport [edit]

UAVs can transport goods using various means based on the configuration of the UAV itself. Most payloads are stored in an internal payload bay somewhere in the airframe. For many helicopter configurations, external payloads can be tethered to the bottom of the airframe. With fixed-wing UAVs, payloads can also be attached to the airframe, but aerodynamics of the aircraft with the payload must be assessed. For such situations, payloads are often enclosed in aerodynamic pods for transport.

Scientific research [edit]

Unmanned aircraft are uniquely of penetrating areas which may be too dangerous for piloted craft. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) began utilizing the Aerosonde unmanned aircraft system in 2006 as a hurricane hunter. AAI Corporation subsidiary Aerosonde Pty Ltd. of Victoria, Australia, designs and manufactures the 35-pound system, which can fly into a hurricane and communicate near-real-time data directly to the National Hurricane Center in Florida. Beyond the standard barometric pressure and temperature data typically culled from manned hurricane hunters, the Aerosonde system provides measurements far closer to the water’s surface than previously captured. Further applications for unmanned aircraft can be explored once solutions have been developed for their accommodation within national airspace, an issue currently under discussion by the Federal Aviation Administration. UAVSI, the UK manufacturer also produce a variant of their Vigilant light UAS (20 kg) designed specifically for scientific research in severe climates such as the Antarctic.[citation needed]

There have also been experiments with using UAVs as a construction and artwork tool.[45] at locations such as the ETH Zurich.[46]

Armed attacks [edit]

MQ-1 Predator UAVs armed with Hellfire missiles are increasingly used by the U.S. as platforms for hitting ground targets. Armed Predators were first used in late 2001 from bases in Pakistan and Uzbekistan, mostly aimed at assasinating high profile individuals (terrorist leaders etc.) inside Afghanistan. Since then, there have been many reported cases of such attacks taking place in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.[47] The advantage of using an unmanned vehicle, rather than a manned aircraft, in such cases is to avoid a diplomatic embarrassment should the aircraft be shot down and the pilots captured, since the bombings take place in countries deemed friendly and without the official permission of those countries.[48][49][50][51]

A Predator based in a neighboring Arab country was used to kill suspected al-Qaeda terrorists in Yemen on November 3, 2002. This marked the first use of an armed Predator as an attack aircraft outside of a theater of war such as Afghanistan.[52]

Questions have been raised about the accuracy of the targeting of UAVs. In March 2009, The Guardian reported allegations that Israeli UAVs armed with missiles killed 48 Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip, including two small children in a field and a group of women and girls in an otherwise empty street.[53] In June, Human Rights Watch investigated six UAV attacks which was reported to have resulted in civilian casualties, and alleged that Israeli forces either failed to take all feasible precautions to verify that the targets were combatants, or failed to distinguish between combatants and civilians.[54][55][56] In July 2009, Brookings Institution released a report stating that in the United States-led drone attacks in Pakistan, ten civilians died for every militant killed.[57][58] S. Azmat Hassan, a former ambassador of Pakistan, said in July 2009 that American UAV attacks were turning Pakistani opinion against the United States, and that 35 or 40 such attacks only killed 8 or 9 top al-Qaeda operatives.[59]

CIA officials became concerned in 2008 that targets in Pakistan were being tipped off to pending U.S. drone strikes by Pakistani intelligence, when the U.S. requested Pakistani permission prior to launching drone attacks.[60] The Bush administration therefore decided in August 2008 to abandon the practice of obtaining Pakistani government permission before launching missiles from drones, and in the next six months the CIA carried out at least 38 Predator strikes in northwest Pakistan, compared with 10 in 2006 and 2007 combined.[60]

The U.S. has claimed that the Predator strikes killed at least nine senior al-Qaeda leaders, and dozens of lower-ranking operatives, depleting its operational tier in what U.S. officials described as the most serious disruption of al-Qaeda since 2001.[60] It was claimed that the Predator strikes took such a toll on al-Qaeda that militants began turning violently on one another out of confusion and distrust.[60] A senior U.S. counterterrorism official said: "They have started hunting down people who they think are responsible" for security breaches. "People are showing up dead, or disappearing."[60]

By October 2009, the CIA claimed to have killed more than half of the 20 most wanted al-Qaeda terrorist suspects in targeted killings using drones.[61] By May 2010, counter-terrorism officials said that drone strikes in the Pakistani tribal areas had killed more than 500 militants since 2008, and no more than 30 (5%) nearby civilians—mainly family members who lived and traveled with the targets.[62][63] Drones linger overhead after a strike, in some cases for hours, to enable the CIA to count the bodies and attempt to determine which, if any, are civilians.[63] A Pakistani intelligence officer gave a higher estimate of civilian casualties, saying 20% of total deaths were civilians or non-combatants.[63]

One issue with civilian casualties is the relative lack of discrimination of the 100 lb (45 kg) Hellfire, which was designed to eliminate tanks and attack bunkers.[64] Smaller weapons such as the Raytheon Griffin and Small Tactical Munition are being developed as a less indiscriminate alternative,[65] and development is underway on the still smaller, US Navy-developed Spike missile.[66] The payload-limited Predator A can also be armed with six Griffin missiles, as opposed to only two of the much-heavier Hellfires. Although it may never be known how many civilians have died as a result of U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, there are estimates of hundreds or thousands of innocent bystanders who have perished in such attacks.[67] Pakistani authorities released statistics indicating that between January 1, 2009, and December 31, 2009, U.S. Predator and Reaper drone strikes have killed over 700 innocent civilians. The website PakistanBodyCount.Org (by Zeeshan-ul-hassan Usmani, a Fulbright Scholar at the Florida Institute of Technology) shows 1065 civilian deaths between June 2004 to January 30, 2010 and tallying 103 drone strikes carried out by the United States.[68] With the increase of drone strikes, according to the most recent story in The International News, January 2010 proved to be a deadly month in Pakistan with 123 innocent civilians killed. In addition, it has been reported that 160 children have died from drone attacks in Pakistan.[69] Further, over 1000 civilians have been injured.[70] This evidence runs counter to the Obama administration's claim that "nearly for the past year there hasn't been a single collateral death" due to drone attacks.[71] According to the February 24, 2010 policy analysis "The Year of the Drone" released by the New America Foundation, the civilian fatality rate since 2004 is approximately 32%. The study reports that 114 reported drone strikes in northwest Pakistan from 2004 to present killed between 830 to 1210 individuals, around 550 to 850 of whom were militants.[72]

After more than 30 drone strikes hit civilian homes in Afghanistan in 2012, President Hamid Karzai demanded that such attacks end, but the practice continues in areas of Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia that are not in war zones. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter has criticized such use of drones, "We don't know how many hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed in these attacks...This would have been unthinkable in previous times."[73]

In 2012, the USAF trained more drone pilots than ordinary jet fighter pilots for the first time.[74]

Singer states that, “an Air National Guard pilot in an F-16 saw flashing lights underneath him while flying over Afghanistan at twenty-three thousand feet and thought he was under fire from insurgents. Without getting required permission from his commanders, he dropped a 500-pound bomb on the lights. They instead turned out to be troops from Canada on a night training mission.” (2009a, p. 43). This is important because if that plane had been a UAV, it would have had more time to make its decision. Since the UAV has long- range cameras, it would have been able to get a visual on the potential target and discover that they were friendly (Singer, 2009a). In addition, it also would not feel fear or adrenaline that could potentially affect the decision of a person who fears for their life (Singer, 2009a).

In February 2013, U.S. senator Lindsey Graham stated that 4,756 people have been killed by U.S. UAVs.[75]

Search and rescue [edit]

A Bell Eagle Eye, offered to the US Coast Guard.

UAVs will likely play an increased role in search and rescue in the United States. This was demonstrated by the use of UAVs during the 2008 hurricanes that struck Louisiana and Texas. Micro UAVs, such as the Aeryon Scout have been used to perform Search and Rescue activities on a smaller scale, such as the search for missing persons.[76]

For example, Predators, operating between 18,000–29,000 feet above sea level, performed search and rescue and damage assessment. Payloads carried were an optical sensor (which is a daytime and infra red camera) and a synthetic aperture radar. The Predator's SAR is a sophisticated all-weather sensor capable of providing photographic-like images through clouds, rain or fog, and in daytime or nighttime conditions; all in real-time. A concept of coherent change detection in SAR images allows for exceptional search and rescue ability: photos taken before and after the storm hits are compared and a computer highlights areas of damage.[77][78]

Conservation [edit]

In June 2012, WWF announced it will begin using UAVs in Nepal, to aid conservation efforts, following a successful trial of two aircraft in Chitwan National Park, with ambitions to expand to other countries, such as Tanzania and Malaysia. The global wildlife organization plans to train ten personnel to use the drones, with operational use beginning in the fall.[79][80] In August 2012 UAV's were used by members of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in Namibia to document the annual seal cull.[81] In March 2013 the Times published a controversial story that UAV conservation nonprofit ShadowView, founded by former members of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society had been working for several months with anti hunting charity The League Against Cruel Sports to expose illegal fox hunting in the UK,[82] pro hunt supporters have argued that using UAVs to film hunting is an invasion of privacy.[83]

Forest fire detection [edit]

Another application of civil UAVs is prevention and early detection of forest fires. The chief exponent of this type of is the FT-ALTEA, developed by Flightech Systems. The possibility of constant flight, both day and night, makes the methods used until now (helicopters, watchtowers ...) becoming obsolete. Its payload is provided by numerous cameras (HD, thermal, hyperspectral ...) and multiple sensors that provide real-time emergency services not only information about the location of the outbreak of fire, to many data (wind speed temperature, humidity ...) that are helpful for fire crews to conduct fire suppression.

Future potential [edit]

In the future, drones will be able to perform a variety unique tasks apart from what they are capable of today. Currently, engineers are working to produce UAVs that are capable of air to air combat, aerial refueling, combat search and rescue with facial recognition and resupply to agents on the ground.[84]

Design and development considerations [edit]

UAV design and production is a global activity, with manufacturers all across the world. The United States and Israel were initial pioneers in this technology, and U.S. manufacturers had a market share of over 60% in 2006, with U.S. market share due to increase by 5–10% through 2016.[85] Northrop Grumman and General Atomics are the dominant manufacturers in this industry, on the strength of the Global Hawk and Predator/Mariner systems.[85] According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Israeli companies were behind 41% of all UAVs exported in 2001-2011.[86] The European market share represented just 4% of global revenue in 2006.[85]

Development costs for American military UAVs, as with most military programs, have tended to overrun their initial estimates. This is mostly due to changes in requirements during development and a failure to leverage UAV development programs over multiple armed services. This has caused United States Navy UAV programs to increase in cost from 0% to 5% while United States Air Force UAV programs have increased from 60% to 284%.[87]

Degree of autonomy [edit]

UAV monitoring and control at CBP

Early UAVs used during the Vietnam War after launch captured video that was recorded to film or tape on the aircraft. These aircraft often were launched and flew either in a straight line or in preset circles collecting video until they ran out of fuel and landed. After landing, the film was recovered for analysis. Because of the simple nature of these aircraft, they were often called drones. As new radio control systems became available, UAVs were often remote controlled and the term "remotely piloted vehicle" came into vogue. Today's UAVs often combine remote control and computerized automation. More sophisticated versions may have built-in control and/or guidance systems to perform low-level human pilot duties such as speed and flight-path stabilization, and simple scripted navigation functions such as waypoint following. In news and other discussions, often the term "drone" is still mistakenly used to refer to these more sophisticated aircraft.[citation needed]

From this perspective, most early UAVs are not autonomous at all. In fact, the field of air-vehicle autonomy is a recently emerging field, whose economics is largely driven by the military to develop battle-ready technology. Compared to the manufacturing of UAV flight hardware, the market for autonomy technology is fairly immature and undeveloped. Because of this, autonomy has been and may continue to be the bottleneck for future UAV developments, and the overall value and rate of expansion of the future UAV market could be largely driven by advances to be made in the field of autonomy.[citation needed]

Autonomy technology that is important to UAV development falls under the following categories:

  • Sensor fusion: Combining information from different sensors for use on board the vehicle
  • Communications: Handling communication and coordination between multiple agents in the presence of incomplete and imperfect information
  • Path planning: Determining an optimal path for vehicle to go while meeting certain objectives and mission constraints, such as obstacles or fuel requirements
  • Trajectory Generation (sometimes called Motion planning): Determining an optimal control maneuver to take to follow a given path or to go from one location to another
  • Trajectory Regulation: The specific control strategies required to constrain a vehicle within some tolerance to a trajectory
  • Task Allocation and Scheduling: Determining the optimal distribution of tasks amongst a group of agents, with time and equipment constraints
  • Cooperative Tactics: Formulating an optimal sequence and spatial distribution of activities between agents in order to maximize chance of success in any given mission scenario

Autonomy is commonly defined as the ability to make decisions without human intervention. To that end, the goal of autonomy is to teach machines to be "smart" and act more like humans. The keen observer may associate this with the development in the field of artificial intelligence made popular in the 1980s and 1990s such as expert systems, neural networks, machine learning, natural language processing, and vision. However, the mode of technological development in the field of autonomy has mostly followed a bottom-up approach, such as hierarchical control systems,[88] and recent advances have been largely driven by the practitioners in the field of control science, not computer science.[citation needed] Similarly, autonomy has been and probably will continue to be considered an extension of the controls field.

To some extent, the ultimate goal in the development of autonomy technology is to replace the human pilot. It remains to be seen whether future developments of autonomy technology, the perception of the technology, and most importantly, the political climate surrounding the use of such technology, will limit the development and utility of autonomy for UAV applications. Also as a result of this, synthetic vision for piloting has not caught on in the UAV arena as it did with manned aircraft. NASA utilized synthetic vision for test pilots on the HiMAT program in the early 1980s (see photo), but the advent of more autonomous UAV autopilots, greatly reduced the need for this technology.[citation needed]

Interoperable UAV technologies became essential as systems proved their mettle in military operations, taking on tasks too challenging or dangerous for troops. NATO addressed the need for commonality through STANAG (Standardization Agreement) 4586. According to a NATO press release, the agreement began the ratification process in 1992. Its goal was to allow allied nations to easily share information obtained from unmanned aircraft through common ground control station technology. STANAG 4586 – aircraft that adhere to this protocol are equipped to translate information into standardized message formats; likewise, information received from other compliant aircraft can be transferred into vehicle-specific messaging formats for seamless interoperability. Amendments have since been made to the original agreement, based on expert feedback from the field and an industry panel known as the Custodian Support Team. Edition Two of STANAG 4586 is currently under review. There are many systems available today that are developed in accordance with STANAG 4586, including products by industry leaders such as AAI Corporation, CDL Systems, and Raytheon, all three of which are members of the Custodian Support Team for this protocol.

Endurance [edit]

Because UAVs are not burdened with the physiological limitations of human pilots, they can be designed for maximized on-station times. The maximum flight duration of unmanned, aerial vehicles varies widely. Internal-combustion-engine aircraft endurance depends strongly on the percentage of fuel burned as a fraction of total weight (the Breguet endurance equation), and so is largely independent of aircraft size.[citation needed]

Solar-electric UAVs hold potential for unlimited flight, a concept originally championed by the AstroFlight Sunrise in 1974[89][90][91][92] and the much later Aerovironment Helios Prototype, which was destroyed in a 2003 crash.

Electric UAVs kept aloft indefinitely by laser power-beaming[93] technology represent another proposed solution to the endurance challenge. This approach is advocated by Jordin Kare and Thomas Nugent.

One of the major problems with UAVs is the lack of inflight refueling capability. In 2012 the US Air Force was promoting research that should end in an inflight UAV refueling capability.[94] A UAV-UAV simulated refuelling flight using two Global Hawks was achieved in 2012.[95]

One of the uses for a high endurance UAV would be to "stare" at the battlefield for a long period of time to produce a record of events that could then be played backwards to track where improvised explosive devices (IEDs) came from. Air Force Chief of Staff John P. Jumper started a program to create these persistent UAVs, but this was stopped once he was replaced.[96]

In 2007, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) revealed a program to develop technology for a UAV with an endurance capability of over 5 years. The program, entitled VULTURE (an acronym for Very-high altitude, Ultra-endurance, Loitering Theater Unmanned Reconnaissance Element[97]), entered Phase II on September 14, 2010, with a contract signed with Boeing for development of the SolarEagle flight demonstrator.[98]

Notable high endurance flights
UAV Flight time Date Notes
QinetiQ Zephyr Solar Electric 336 hours 22 minutes 9–23 July 2010 [99]
QinetiQ Zephyr Solar Electric 82 hours 37 minutes 28–31 July 2008 [100]
Boeing Condor 58 hours 11 minutes 1989 The aircraft is currently in the Hiller Aviation Museum, CA.

[101]

Penguin B UAV Factory 54 hours 27 minutes 5–7 July 2012 [102]
QinetiQ Zephyr Solar Electric 54 hours September 2007 [103][104]
IAI Heron 52 hours  ? [105][106]
AC Propulsion Solar Electric 48 hours 11 minutes June 3, 2005 [107]
MQ-1 Predator 40 hours 5 minutes  ? [108]
GNAT-750 40 hours 1992 [109][110]
TAM-5 38 hours 52 minutes August 11, 2003 Smallest UAV to cross the Atlantic

[111][112]

Aerosonde 38 hours 48 minutes May 3, 2006 [113]
shahed-129 24 hours 2012 [114]
TAI Anka 24 hours 30 December 2010 [115]
Vanguard Defense Industries 2 hours 55 minutes 11 February 2011 VTOL platform carrying an 18 lb payload.[116]

Hardening of the control stations [edit]

Given the increasing military use of cyber attacks against Microsoft software, the United States Armed Forces have moved towards Linux ground control software.[117][118]

Buddy attacks [edit]

Norton Schwartz, former top officer of the USAF, sees future UAVs operating under the control of manned aircraft to make "buddy attacks".[119]

Existing UAV systems [edit]

UAVs have been developed and deployed by many countries around the world. For a list of models by country, see: List of unmanned aerial vehicles. The use of unmanned aerial systems, however, is not limited to state powers: non-state actors can also build, buy and operate these combat vehicles.[120]

The export of UAVs or technology capable of carrying a 500 kg payload at least 300 km is restricted in many countries by the Missile Technology Control Regime. At the center of the American military's continued UAV research is the MQ-X, which builds upon the capabilities of the Reaper and Predator drones. As currently conceived, the MQ-X would be a stealthier and faster fighter-plane sized UAV capable of any number of missions: high-performance surveillance; attack options, including retractable cannons and bomb or missile payloads; and cargo capacity.[121]

China has exhibited some UAV designs, but its ability to operate them is limited by the lack of high endurance domestic engines, satellite infrastructure and operational experience.[122]

Historical events involving UAVs [edit]

  • During the Persian Gulf War, Iraqi Army forces surrendered to the UAVs of the USS Wisconsin.[123][124]
  • In October 2002, a few days before the U.S. Senate vote on the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution, about 75 senators were told in closed session that Saddam Hussein had the means of delivering biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction by UAV drones that could be launched from ships off the Atlantic coast to attack U.S. eastern seaboard cities. Colin Powell suggested in his presentation to the United Nations that they had been transported out of Iraq and could be launched against the U.S.[125] It was later revealed that Iraq's UAV fleet consisted of only a few outdated Czech training drones.[126] At the time, there was a vigorous dispute within the intelligence community as to whether CIA's conclusions about Iraqi UAVs were accurate. The U.S. Air Force, the agency most familiar with UAVs, denied outright that Iraq possessed any offensive UAV capability.[127]
  • The first US targeted UAV killing outside the conventional battlefield took place on November 3, 2002, in the Marib district of Yemen. Six alleged terrorists were killed in their SUV by a UAV-fired missile.[128] The command centre was in Tampa, Florida, USA.
  • In December 2002, the first ever dogfight involving a UAV occurred when an Iraqi MiG-25 and a U.S. RQ-1 Predator fired missiles at each other. The MiG's missile destroyed the Predator.[129]
  • The U.S. deployed UAVs in Yemen to search for and kill Anwar al-Awlaki,[130] an American and Yemen imam, firing at and failing to kill him at least once,[131] before he was killed in a drone attack in Yemen on 30 September 2011. The targeted killing of an American citizen was unprecedented. However, nearly nine years earlier in 2002, US citizen Kemal Darwish was one of six men killed by the first UAV strike outside a war zone, in Yemen.[132]
  • In December 2011, Iran captured a United States' RQ-170 unmanned aerial vehicle which flew over Iran, and rejected President Barack Obama's request to return it to the US.[133][134] Iranian officials claim to have recovered data from the U.S. surveillance drone. However, it is not clear how Iran brought it down.[135] There have also been reports that Iran spoofed the GPS signal used by the drone[21] and tricked it into landing on an Iranian runway.

Domestic aerial surveillance [edit]

Although UAVs are today most commonly associated with military actions, UAVs are increasingly used by civilian government agencies, businesses, and private individuals. In the United States, for example, government agencies use drones to patrol the nation's borders, scout property, and hunt down fugitives.[136] One of the first authorized for domestic usage was the ShadowHawk UAV in service in Montgomery County, Texas and is being used by their SWAT and emergency management offices.[137]

Drones over the United States [edit]

Surveillance and policing [edit]

UAVs can be powerful surveillance tools, capable of carrying face recognition systems, license plate scanners, thermal imaging cameras, open WiFi sniffers, and other sensors.[138] The Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit on January 10, 2012 against the Federal Aviation Administration.[139] As a result of the lawsuit, the FAA released for the first time a list of the names of all public and private entities that have applied for authorizations to fly drones domestically.[140] Some of these government licenses belong to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, a component of the Department of Homeland Security. Drones have been used by CBP to patrol of United States borders since 2005, and the Agency currently owns 10 drones.[141]

A May 2012 report issued by the DHS Inspector General found that CBP "needs to improve planning of its unmanned aircraft systems program to address its level of operation, program funding, and resource requirements, along with stakeholder needs." [142] Also, despite the Bureau’s limited mission to safeguard the borders, the Bureau often flies missions for the FBI, the Department of Defense, NOAA, local law enforcement, and other agencies. In December 2011, the CBP made headlines when reporters discovered that the agency's drones were being used to assist local law enforcement in North Dakota without receiving prior approval from the FAA or any other agency.[143]

Individuals in the United States have few legal privacy protections from aerial surveillance conducted through UAVs. In Florida v. Riley,[38] the United States Supreme Court held that individuals on their own private property do not have right to privacy from police observation from public airspace. The weakness of legal protection from UAV surveillance have led to calls from civil liberties advocacy groups for the U.S. government to issue laws and regulations that establish both privacy protections and greater transparency regarding the use of UAVs to gather information about individuals.[144] As an example, the ACLU has warned of a possible "nightmare scenario" in the future where the police might be able with computer technology to combine mobile phone tracking with drone video signals and build up a database of the people's routine daily movements.[21]

On February 24, 2012, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, joined by over 100 organizations, experts, and members of the public, submitted a petition to the FAA requesting a public rule-making on the privacy impact of drone use in US airspace.[145] In June 2012, Senator Rand Paul and Representative Austin Scott both introduced legislation that would require law enforcement to obtain a warrant before using a drone to conduct criminal surveillance.[146] EPIC has stated that transparency and accountability must be built into the FAA's system of drone regulation in order to provide basic protections to the public.[147]

While Congress rapidly moves ahead to authorize further use of domestic drones, many remain skeptical regarding privacy concerns.[39] Some privacy scholars argue that the domestic use of drones for surveillance will ultimately benefit privacy by encouraging society to demand greater privacy rights.

Associated today with the theatre of war, the widespread domestic use of drones for surveillance seems inevitable. Existing privacy law will not stand in its way. It may be tempting to conclude on this basis that drones will further erode our individual and collective privacy. Yet the opposite may happen. Drones may help restore our mental model of a privacy violation. They could be just the visceral jolt society needs to drag privacy law into the twenty-first century.
—M. Ryan Calo[148]

Non-police uses [edit]

Law enforcement and other government agencies are not the only entities that use UAVs. Private citizens and media organizations use UAVs as well. Occupy Wall Street journalist Tim Pool uses what he calls an Occucopter, for live feed coverage of Occupy movement events.[149] The "occucopter" is an inexpensive Parrot AR.Drone radio controlled quadrotor, with cameras attached and controllable by Android devices or iOS devices such as the iPhone. In February 2012 an animal rights group used a MikroKopter small helicopter drone to film hunters shooting pigeons in South Carolina. The hunters shot the drone down.[150] UAVs also have been shown to have many other uses in civilian uses such as agriculture, Hollywood, and in the construction industry.[151]

Drones over the United Kingdom [edit]

In 2012 the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals used a quadrocopter drone to deter badger baiters in Northern Ireland.[152] In March 2013, the British League Against Cruel Sports announced they had carried out trial flights with drones and planned to use a fixed-wing Openranger and an Octocopter to gather evidence to make private prosecutions against illegal hunting of foxes and other animals.[153] The drones were supplied by ShadowView Ltd, Berkshire. A spokesman for Privacy International said that "Licencing and permission for drones is only on the basis of health and safety, without considering whether privacy rights are violated."[153] The Civil Aviation Authority (United Kingdom) rules are that drone aircraft less than 20 kilograms in weight must be in direct visual contact with the pilot, cannot fly within 150 meters of a congested area or within 50 meters of a person or vehicle and cannot be used for commercial activity.[153][154] Staffordshire police were reported to be using drones as alternatives to standard police support units in 2012.[154]

Drones over South Africa [edit]

In December 2012, the Kruger National Park started using a Seeker II drone aganst rhino poachers. The drone was loaned to the South African National Parks authority by its manufacturer Denel Dynamics, South Africa.[153][155]

Drones over Japan [edit]

T-Hawk[156] and Global Hawk[157] drones were used to gather information about the damaged Fukushima Number 1 nuclear plant and disaster-stricken areas of the Tōhoku region after the March 2011 tsunami. Anti-whaling activists used an Osprey drone (made by Kansas-based Hangar 18) in in 2012 to monitor Japanese whaling ships in the Antarctic.[158]

Drones over Venezuela [edit]

In June 2012, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez claimed that Venezuela had begun producing its own drone. General Julio Morales added that the drone had a range of 100 kilometres (about 60 miles), a maximum altitude of 3,000 metres (about 10,000 feet), could fly for 90 minutes, measured three by four metres and was a part of a system to survey and monitor pipelines, dams and other rural infrastructure. General Morales was the president of the state-run Cavim arms manufacturer, which developed the aircraft.[159][160]

Drones over Belgium [edit]

In 2013 The Flemish Research Institute for Nature and Forest and the Flanders Marine Institute planned to use drones with a camera and a detection system that automatically recognises different types of vegetation, trees and individual plants in order to make regular assessments of the biodiversity of the Flemish terrain. Their previous system of using 25 civil servants to map the country was unsatisfactory and time-consuming.[161]

UAVs in popular culture [edit]

Public opinion [edit]

In February 2013, Fairleigh Dickinson University's PublicMind poll found that 48% of American voters think it is "illegal for the U.S. government to target its own citizens living abroad with drone attacks. Just 24% say that it's legal."[164] "The public clearly makes an assumption very different from that of the Obama administration or Mr. Brennan: the public thinks targeting American citizens abroad is out of bounds," Peter Woolley, founding director of PublicMind and professor of political science at FDU, said to CNN.[165]

In the same poll, however, by a wide six–to-one margin (75%-13%), voters approved of the U.S. military using drones to carry out attacks abroad “on people and other targets deemed a threat to the U.S.” Republicans, men and whites approve more strongly than Democrats, women, and non-whites, but approval is robust in all demographic categories. Voters also approve by a strong three-to-one margin (65%-21%) the CIA using drones to carry out attacks abroad, but this approval is significantly less than approval for the U.S. military carrying out such attacks.[166]

Morality [edit]

The “unmanned” aspect of UAVs is primarily what sets them apart from manned aircraft. This aspect also raises certain moral concerns. Some believe that the asymmetry of fighting humans with machines that are controlled from a safe distance lacks integrity and honor that was once valued during warfare. Others feel that if such technology is available, then there is a moral duty to employ it in order to save as many lives as possible.[167] Another potential moral issue with UAVs is because they do not allow for pilot casualties, some fear that they will be used more frivolously, and that human lives affected by drone strikes will not be regarded with as much consideration as with manned aerial attacks.

Legality [edit]

A confidential Justice Department memo concludes that the U.S. government can order the killing of American citizens if they are believed to be “senior operational leaders” of Al-Qaeda or “an associated force”—even if there is no intelligence indicating they are engaged in an active plot to attack the U.S.[168] The secrecy surrounding such strikes is fast emerging as a central issue in this week’s hearing of White House counterterrorism adviser John O. Brennan, a key architect of the drone campaign, to be CIA director. Brennan was the first administration official to publicly acknowledge drone strikes in a speech last year, calling them “consistent with the inherent right of self-defense.” In a separate talk at the Northwestern University Law School in March, Attorney General Eric Holder specifically endorsed the constitutionality of targeted killings of Americans, saying they could be justified if government officials determine the target poses “an imminent threat of violent attack.”[168] But the confidential Justice Department “white paper” introduces a more expansive definition of self-defense or imminent attack than described by Brennan or Holder in their public speeches. It refers, for example, to what it calls a “broader concept of imminence” than actual intelligence about any ongoing plot against the U.S. homeland. "The condition that an operational leader present an ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future,” the memo states.[168] Instead, it says, an “informed, high-level” official of the U.S. government may determine that the targeted American has been “recently” involved in “activities” posing a threat of a violent attack and “there is no evidence suggesting that he has renounced or abandoned such activities.” The memo does not define “recently” or “activities.” As in Holder’s speech, the confidential memo lays out a three-part test that would make targeted killings of American lawful: In addition to the suspect being an imminent threat, capture of the target must be “infeasible, and the strike must be conducted according to “laws of war principles.” But the memo elaborates on some of these factors in ways that go beyond what the attorney general said publicly. For example, it states that U.S. officials may consider whether an attempted capture of a suspect would pose an “undue risk” to U.S. personnel involved in such an operation. If so, U.S. officials could determine that the capture operation of the targeted American would not be feasible, making it lawful for the U.S. government to order a killing instead, the memo concludes. The undated memo is entitled “Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a U.S. Citizen who is a Senior Operational Leader of Al Qaeda or An Associated Force.” It was provided to members of the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary committees in June by administration officials on the condition that it be kept confidential and not discussed publicly.[168] Although not an official legal memo, the white paper was represented by administration officials as a policy document that closely mirrors the arguments of classified memos on targeted killings by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, which provides authoritative legal advice to the president and all executive branch agencies. The administration has refused to turn over to Congress or release those memos publicly—or even publicly confirm their existence. A source with access to the white paper, which is not classified, provided a copy to NBC News.[168] The white paper also includes a more extensive discussion of why targeted strikes against Americans does not violate constitutional protections afforded American citizens as well as a U.S. law that criminalizes the killing of U.S. nationals overseas. It also discusses why such targeted killings would not be a war crime or violate a U.S. executive order banning assassinations. “A lawful killing in self-defense is not an assassination,” the white paper reads. “In the Department’s view, a lethal operation conducted against a U.S. citizen whose conduct poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States would be a legitimate act of national self-defense that would not violate the assassination ban. Similarly, the use of lethal force, consistent with the laws of war, against an individual who is a legitimate military target would be lawful and would not violate the assassination ban.” [168]

See also [edit]

Historic
Facilities, units and programs
Intelligence

References [edit]

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