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Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are remotely piloted or self-piloted aircraft that can carry cameras, sensors, communications equipment or other payloads. They have been used in a reconnaissance and intelligence-gathering role since the 1950s, and more challenging roles are envisioned, including combat missions. Since 1964 the Defense Department has developed 11 different UAVs, though due to acquisition and development problems only 3 entered production. The US Navy has studyied the feasibility of operating VTOL UAVs since the early 1960s, the QH-50 Gyrodyne torpedo-delivery drone being an early example. However, high cost and technological immaturity have precluded acquiring and fielding operational VTOL UAV systems.

By the early 1990s DOD sought UAVs to satisfy surveillance requirements in Close Range, Short Range or Endurance categories. Close Range was defined to be within 50 kilometers, Short Range was defined as within 200 kilometers and Endurance as anything beyond. By the late 1990s, the Close and Short Range categories were combined, and a separate Shipboard category emerged. The current classes of these vehicles are the Tactical UAV and the Endurance category.

Pioneer: Procured beginning in 1985 as an interim UAV capability to provide imagery intelligence for tactical commanders on land and see at ranges out to 185 kilometers. No longer in the Army inventory (returned to the US Navy in 1995).

Tactical UAV : Designed to support tactical commanders with near-real-time imagery intelligence at ranges up to 200 kilometers. Outrider Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD) program terminated. Material solution for TUAV requirements is being pursued through a competive acquisition process with goal of contract award in DEC 99.

Joint Tactical UAV (Hunter): Developed to provide ground and maritime forces with near-real-time imagery intelligence at ranges up to 200 kilometers; extensible to 300+ kilometers by using another Hunter UAV as an airborne relay. Training base located at Fort Huachuca, with additional baseline at Fort Polk to support JRTC rotations. Operational assets based at Fort Hood (currently supporting the KFOR in Kosovo).

Medium Altitude Endurance UAV (Predator): Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration now transitioned to Low-Rate Initial Production (LRIP). Provides imagery intelligence to satisfy Joint Task Force and Theater Commanders at ranges out to 500 nautical miles. No longer in the Army inventory (transferred to the US Air Force in 1996).

High Altitude Endurance UAV (Global Hawk): Intended for missions requiring long-range deployment and wide-area surveillance (EO/IR and SAR) or long sensor dwell over the target area. Directly deployable from CONUS to the theater of operations. Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD) managed by the US Air Force.

Tactical Control Station (TCS): The Tactical Control Station is the software and communications links required to control the TUAV, MAE-UAV, and other future tactical UAV's. It also provides connectivity to other C4I systems.

Micro Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (MAV): DARPA program to explore the military relevance of Micro Air Vehicles for future military operations, and to develop and demonstrate flight enabling technologies for very small aircraft (less than 15cm/6in. in any dimension).

 

Overview

A number of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) presently exist, both domestically and internationally. Their payload weight carrying capability, their accommodations (volume, environment), their mission profile (altitude, range, duration) and their command, control and data acquisition capabilities vary significantly. Routine civil access to these various UAV assets is in an embryonic state and is only just now emerging.

A buildup of domestic UAV configurations, promoted by the Department of Defense (DOD) occurred in the late 1980s and well into the 90s. This occurred as the DOD sought UAVs to satisfy their mission unique surveillance requirements in either a Close Range, Short Range or Endurance category of vehicle. Close Range was defined to be within 50 kilometers, Short Range was defined as within 200 kilometers and Endurance as anything beyond. With the advent of newer technology and with the demonstrated performance of the UAVs provided to the DOD by industry, the Close and Short Range categories have since been combined, and a later separate Shipboard category has also been incorporated with them. The current classes or combination of these type vehicles are called the Tactical UAV, followed by the Endurance category.

For the potential civilian user of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, rather than continue with this terminology for the various categories of UAV, the following category titles are used: LOCAL, REGIONAL, and ENDURANCE.

UAV Categories

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