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The History of Drones

In: Historical Events

Submitted By dman1239
Words 2009
Pages 9
The use of unmanned aircraft goes back 164 years, when Austria used pilotless balloons to drop bombs on Venice in 1849. However, for most people, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) came out of nowhere. What began as a popular imaginative concept for military use has come into being and has grown exponentially in numbers as well as sophistication.In many ways, UAVs are a bit like computers. First they were rare and now they are everywhere. While certain military journalists would say the use of UAVs has positively impacted many levels of military air support others would argue that UAVs have had a destructive effect. Evidence from sources will be compiled throughout this essay to explain the positive versus negative effects that the UAVs have and of the two effects have a larger reward for military purpose.
According to American Scientist Larry Greenmeier , “ The September 11, 2001 attacks initiated an outbreak of advances in military technology over the past decade that has helped the U.S. and its allies redefine modern warfare”. UAVs have had a greater impact on America's missions in the Middle East than conventional aircraft. The following several ideas are what military specialist Dadney. B , Asymmetric Operations Fellow Robert Froust , congressional research associate Elizabeth Bone and congressional specialist in National Defense Christopher Bolkcom believe have lead to the military’s unprecedented levels of usage of UAVs instead of conventional aircraft throughout the last decade: the preservation of soldier life, unparalleled levels of infiltration, surveillance, unlimited time restraints, and instant speed processing power.
Preservation of soldier life is the most important objective of safety in U.S military combat operations. In World War 1 (WW1), pilots had a typical life expectancy of several weeks while flying in combat, at least in the early part of the war. While today’s pilots are far safer than the early pilots of WW1, there are still frequent risks for injury or death. According to congressional research associate Elizabeth Bone and congressional specialist in National Defense Christopher Bolkcom UAVs the lives of pilots by performing the “3-D” missions- those dull, dirty, or dangerous missions that do not require a pilot in the cockpit. Therefore the only true logical way to reduce pilot injury or death completely is the nonexistence of a live human pilot on board the aircraft.

In addition to the safeguarding of pilot life with the use of UVAs they are also able to keep ground troops safer by scanning hundreds of miles around military bases to provide the U.S. military with real-time information so convoys can avoid ambushes from insurgents or roadside bombs (Conroy, 2011). Furthermore, UAVs can also scan convoy routes further from the base ahead of time and pick up any insurgent activity, especially the laying of improvised explosive devices, which are the largest cause of injury and death to troops (Conroy, 2011).
Another advancement that UAVs have made over conventional aircraft in the last decade in the Middle East has been the unparalleled levels of infiltration and surveillance as well as unlimited time restraints that they create. Conventional aircraft need to accommodate a pilot, so they have a minimum size and weight requirement. An aircraft must be at least large enough for a pilot to fit inside, and it must at least be powerful enough to put a grown man into the air. Once you cut out the need for a cockpit, you free up the size, shape, and weight of an aircraft. This freedom allows engineers to design UAVs specifically to fit the criteria of a mission. Some UAVs are even as small as insects, allowing for unprecedented levels of infiltration and surveillance. Furthermore, the pilot limits the conventional aircraft. Unless an aircraft has several trained pilots on board, expecting an aircraft to stay in the sky for more than a day is unreasonable. UAVs are not limited by the physiological needs of human pilots. A set of pilots working in shifts could theoretically pilot a UAV indefinitely, and with nuclear-powered UAVs in the works, this means that UAVs could literally be aloft for months at a time (B. Dabney, 2012).

Imagine the scene. In the middle of a vast hot desert, a sport utility vehicle carrying known terrorists is speeding along the road. In a nearby country, a military crew in a van full of computers is monitoring its progress, via satellite. Back in the desert, a pilotless aircraft has been cruising silently for many hours, thousands of feet above the ground. The crew sends the plane instructions to fly on a course to intercept the vehicle. Before long, the plane is viewing the car via its onboard video camera. Then, it launches a laser-guided missile that disintegrates the vehicle in an impressively powerful display of violence. All the occupants are killed instantly. While this might sound futuristic these are the types of missions that UAVs are able to carry out without ever having being noticed prior to an attack (Conroy, 2013). This high level of surveillance and infiltration as well as unlimited time restraints is why UAVs have been the leading choice of aircraft in the Middle East.
The instant processing speed of a UAV over conventional aircraft pilots within the last decade in the Middle East has allowed our U.S Military to make quicker and better thought-out decisions, which has ultimately led to improved control of certain regions. Removing the pilot from the equation has its advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, you lose the experience and judgment of a trained professional. On the other, you gain instant-speed processing power. UAVs, much like computers, they can process levels of information that no human could ever dream of sorting through. Thus, with instant processing speed comes improved accuracy (B. Dabney, 2012). Taken from Romesh Ratensar’s article “ 5 Reasons Why Drones Are Here To Stay” (2013), quoted from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, “the strikes as of May 23, 2013 have killed 3,136 people, including 555 civilians. Though tragic, the ratio of civilian deaths caused by drones—about 17 percent—compares favorably with alternative forms of warfare. In conventional military conflicts, civilian deaths typically account for anywhere between 30 percent and 80 percent of all fatalities. By those standards, U.S. drones strikes have been remarkably precise—and their accuracy has improved with time”. In the future, UAVs equipped with facial recognition software could potentially be able to spot a target within a crowd of thousands of faces, or respond to threats with lightning-fast reflexes (Ratnesar, 2013). These types of advancements in technology are what have made the UAVs superior to conventional aircraft within the last decade in the Middle East.
In conclusion, what began as a trial attempt in 1849 with the use of a UAV in Venice has now turned into a fully evolved method of accomplishing all the important components of successful air warfare. Over the last decade the U.S Military has been able to make substantial ground in the Middle East with the use of UAVs. One advanced usage of UAVs over conventional aircraft is that using UAVs is no different than any other form of military force, except that the people who pull the trigger are a world away and out of any physical danger themselves (Conroy, 2011). In addition to the safety of pilots, UAVs can better be concealed, which can allow them to scan for potential danger to our ground troops. Secondly, what has triggered our military to turn to the use of UAVs is the unparalleled levels of infiltration and surveillance. UAVs are able to go places the military has only ever dreamed of with a manned aircraft. For counter-insurgency or anti-terrorism missions, UAVs are easier to use discretely than manned aircraft because most of the team required to support them is far from the conflict zone (Ratnesar, 2013). Furthermore, by freeing up space for fuel by eliminating a human crew subject to fatigue, UAVs can also fly for much longer than conventional aircraft. Nor do UAVs have to be rotated in and out of a war zone like manned aircraft (Szondy, 2013). Lastly, UAVs are superior over conventional aircraft with the power of instant processing power. With this instant processing power UAVs are able to provide our decision makers more detailed information about targets, allowing the strikes to be more accurate and cause fewer civilian casualties.

UAVs have taken on crucial tasks in the military that have often been deemed too risky for humans: providing surveillance, launching missile attacks on insurgent leaders and dismantling roadside bombs that have been a leading cause of deaths in the recent war. According to Brianna Lee’s article “ 5 Things You Need To Know About Drones” (2012), quoted from Frontline reports “that since September 11, 2001, the number of drones in the U.S.’s military arsenal has expanded from 60 to more than 6,000, with President Obama making unprecedented use of these robotic warriors. Drone strikes have taken out some of al-Qaeda’s most notorious figures, including American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki”.


Bone, Elizabeth, and Christopher Bolkcom. "Unmanned Aerial Vehicles: Background and Issues for Congress." Report for Congress (2003): n. pag. Print. This is a report of Congress written by a research associate and specialist in national defense. It covers the background information of UAVs and the issues that are associated with them.

B, Dabney. "5 Reasons Why Drones Are the Wave of the Future - Strike Fighter Consulting Inc." Strike Fighter Consulting Inc RSS. N.p., 17 Apr. 2012. Web. 21 Sept. 2013.
The article was written to list the reasons why and how that drones are the future of aviation. In addition, how unmanned aerial vehicles are on a rising trend of innovative research due to overwhelming success in the Middle East.

Conroy, John W. "Drones Keeping 10th Mountain Soldiers Safe from Some Dangers." Watertown Daily Times. N.p., 15 Nov. 2011. Web. 21 Sept. 2013.
The main purpose of this news article was to give examples of how UAVs have been keeping soldiers safe from attack. The article gives some in depth real life experiences that have led to the safe keeping of soldiers by UAVs.

Greenemeier, Larry. "The Drone Wars: 9/11 Inspired Advances in Robotic Combat." Tech Media Network, 03 Sept. 2011. Web. 22 Sept. 2013.
The article from Larry Greenemeier was written to show how the attack on the United States on Sept 11. 2001 has as made an impact on the use of drones for military purposes.

Lee, Brianna. "5 Things You Need To Know About Drones." Creative News Group, 13 Sept. 2012. Web. 22 Sept. 2013.
The article written by Brianna Lee states helpful facts and ideas from many other credible people and sources on what people should need to know more about on drones and how important they can be to military use.

O'Neil, Mike. " World War I Fighter Pilots." World War I Fighter Pilots. American Aviators of WW1, n.d. Web. 18 Sept. 2013.
The purpose of this website is to share information regarding aviators in WW1. This particular article goes in depth about the respect level for pilots in the first Great War as well as how dangerous it was to be a pilot in the war.

Ratnesar, Romesh. "5 Reasons Why Drones Are Here To Stay." BloombergBusinessWeek. Bloomberg, 23 May 2013. Web. 21 Sept. 2013.
Purpose of the following article was to give substantial context from credible sources as to why the author believes that drones are here to stay. Several great examples are given by the writer to support why he believes UAVs are here to stay.

Szondy, David. "Beyond Military Drones – the Future of Unmanned Flight." Beyond Military Drones – the Future of Unmanned Flight. Gizmag, 29 June 2013. Web. 22 Sept. 2013.
The article written by David Szondy goes into the ways other than just military use how UAVs can been beneficial. The author believes that UAVs will play a large role in the future of aviation.

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