battlefield unmanned aerial systems (UASs)

In today’s battlefield unmanned aerial systems (UASs) also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), remotely piloted vehicles (RPVs) or drones are the United States Department of Defense’s most controversial defense weapon to date.


Many US top commanders and expert in military history, intelligence, and international security, says that unmanned aerial systems or UAS, as experts call them, are the most important new military technology in the twenty-first century since the intercontinental ballistic missile. With the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) writing rules to allow UAS to fly in American skies nowadays, drones are also ushering in the most dramatic new age in aviation since the jet engine. Only a dozen years ago, no one saw it all coming and perhaps it is even seems like a science fiction.

UAVs and UASs are not a relatively new defense weapon or a very futuristic robot but in fact they have been around since the 1930’s in the loose form of Austrian balloons which is used for reconnaissance back then. However, with the advancement of technology for the past few years, drones have become the most efficient, effective, and accurate means to gather intelligence and information, reconnaissance, and surveillance without putting the lives of our soldiers and officials in danger at the front lines.

Drones have been successful in targeting and killing high profile terrorists (many of whom were top Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants) and minimizing civilian casualties. They have also been successful in minimizing U.S. soldier casualties because the pilots are flying these vehicles in U.S. soil or somewhere safe away from the conflict zone. Drones have been and will continue to be a major successful factor in the U.S.’s war on terror.

Meanwhile on the other hand, as convenient and beneficial as drones are, they are also one of the most controversial weapons used because, internationally, they violate the United Nation’s Charter; violating a country’s territorial sovereignty and national integrity.

Although they are precise in eliminating their targets, they have killed too many innocent civilians who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Through the years, the U.S. has increasingly used drones to target and kill suspected terrorists, increasing the number of civilian casualties during the attack.

As a result, more and more people (mainly in Pakistan- who were neutral in the U.S.-Pakistan conflict) are getting frustrated or losing hope with U.S. military tactics and beginning to side with Pakistani militants, possibly derailing their goal of democracy in the region. In relation to innocent civilian casualties, if Pakistan or another country wanted to bring issue to international criminal court, who will be charged?

Will the soldier piloting the aircraft be charged, or his commander? Will former President Bush or President Obama be taken to court? Either way, the international legal issue surrounding drones are still very hazy and do not seem to be cleared any time soon especially with the war on terror is still raging in the Middle East. Not only do the drone strategy raise issues internationally, there is also a lot of controversy surrounding them domestically.

The government and many companies see drones as a great technological advantage to society or public life. They are can be used for surveillance of the U.S.-Mexican border, search for survivors of natural disasters through heat sensor technology, wildfire fighting, spraying pesticides, and searching for radiation or dangerous chemical leaks. Nevertheless, domestic drones can also be used to invade citizens’ privacy.

Recently, Congress allowed the FAA to allow over 70 drones to operate in U.S. airspace. These domestic drones can be equipped with infrared cameras, heat sensors, GPS, and automated license plate readers, making it easy to track people. These domestic drones are supposed to be used by civil organizations only; however, they can easily fall into the wrong hands and be reverse engineered and misused to do more harm than good.

Since 9/11 the congressional has approved the use of military drones on the war on terror due to their efficiency, effectiveness, and accuracy. Therefore making the US armed drones one of the most fearful flying machine in the sky of Middle East and being used many times to take down a high profile target with high percentage or changes to be hit within seconds . why drones are very efficient ?

Well first of all they are an automatic flying system , therefore the drones can operate within a larger scale of operation rather than their human counterparts in the F-16 or RAPTOR jet. for example before the drones are armed in the year 2000’s most of the US air force operations are relying on jets to do some reconnaissance , therefore the humans factor must be involve in the entire hours of that operation and making it less effective than drones because as humans our senses and energy or the capacity to do some work is quite limited.

And the length of the operation is also determined by the fuel inside the jet which consume a huge amount of fuel especially for military combat jet, so without the drones the operation could only last a day or two max. but with the drones the length of the operation hours could be extended significantly , thanks to their new innovative flying energy and system inside the drones which are very useful .

The drones are a smaller airplane therefore they have a lighter body and no human is needed inside the drones, therefore making it much more lighter to cover a larger area to do some reconnaissance with much more speed and better performance . of course the smaller the plane the smaller the energy is required to fill it up, therefore the US air force wants to increase their drone capability with their new high tech fuel cell or an electric battery which could give the drones the power to fly for a long distance with a longer duration rather than a normal flying jets.

With this new technology the drones are not just limited to their human controller in the safe zone , but thanks to their fuel and weight efficiency they can operate for a longer duration with their auto pilot on which make it much more reliable and easily to operate.

It may not seems like a huge or a big revolutionary advantage, but this is quite a big improvement over the past few decades because now we could have an eye from the sky to watch over a potential target in the hot zone of the conflict area without risking the lives of our armed forces and the drones can do it for at least 24/7 hours , so that they can maintain the enemy position as long as they can before they need to go back to the base to refuel and rearmed .

This is crucial because with the latest data we can have the most up to date information which will give our army a greater momentum to accomplish this war on terror . Drones are not just effective for killing but they are also good to do some surveillance .Which is by far the most common use of drones, if perhaps the least talked about.

The U.S. military currently considers drones as part of an integrated system, where drones are being used, particularly along the mountainous Afghan/Pakistan border, to provide long-term monitoring of a population, and to solve the thorniest of problems facing occupying armies fighting insurgents –mainly telling the civilians and the fighters apart.

By monitoring these areas, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the U.S. military hopes to use drones to gather ‘patterns of life’ or ‘signatures’ in surveilled communities, allowing them to identify when something disrupts that ‘pattern of life,’ or also known as the insurgent activity.