Drone in Military
Drone technology is like many such technologies that found its genesis in the military. As development and sophistication increased, Drones found other varied applications, and eventually trickled down into the consumer and business ecosystem. Today’s discussion is more focused on the military application of Drones in military and how it may just be the next paradigm shift in the development of related technologies and going into the future, might as well replace or augment well tested manned platforms with unmanned versions of the same.
A commonly mistaken point to note here, is that drones in military or UAVs are just one integral part of an entire system in the military dealing with making the UAV more efficient and effective in achieving its objective, known as the Unmanned Aerial System or UAS. So, without further ado, let’s start with how UAVs can be classified.
Drones in military are commonly classified based on their weight, range, speed as well as their intended
- Target/Decoy: Providing a dummy target or distraction to the enemy that simulates a full-fledged aircraft.
- Recon: Providing battlefield intelligence.
- Combat:Providing attack capability for high risk missions and delivering required destructive payloads.
Drone in Military: Types
- Micro/Nano Drones – Insect size, often noiseless and very hard to detect by radar or sight, these drones are used to spy on targets after being deployed from a small box carried by a soldier in the utility belt. Example of such a drone would be the Black Hornet which British soldiers have been using in Afghanistan since 2013
- Small Tactical Drones – These consists of lightweight drones that can be tossed in the air by a soldier. They are mainly developed for the purpose of ISTAR – Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance. Examples of such drones are FULMAR and Aladin. FULMAR can fly upto 12 hours, 90km depending on what it is carrying.
- Medium Sized Reconnaissance Drones – The majority of drones operating in the world today are of this type. These drones have medium-size and medium-range operational capabilities developed for ISTAR purposes. These drones like other larger drones can be classified into MALE (Medium Altitude, Long Endurance) or HALE (High Altitude, Long Endurance). Most well-known drone of this class is the HERON, made in Israel by Israeli Aerospace Industries (ISI). This drone has seen healthy adoption in many other foreign countries such as the US, Canada, India, Morocco, Australia and Turkey. The Germans also use their ingenuously developed drone, LUNA, made by EMT Penzberg. They are cheaper than the HERON but is limited by an inferior range of 100kms.
- Large Combat and Surveillance Drones – Probably the most well-known large-scale combat drones are the Predators and its larger cousin, the Reapers, used by the US. They have proven quintessential in regions where political relations can be a limiting factor over a drone’s effectiveness. It can penetrate into enemy territory and have often carried out controversial/extrajudicial missions in countries where the US is not officially at war. These types of drones are normally heavily weaponized, carrying laser guided bombs or missiles. Other drones of this type include the CH-4 and Global Hawk. The Northrop Grumman made; Global Hawk today boasts of the greatest capabilities in almost all aspects as compared to the other drones of the same class. The Global Hawk can also be used for signal surveillance, i.e. for intercepting and decoding wireless communication data.
Drone technology has come a long way from its initial days as decoys or dummy targets for target practice. Today it is set to revolutionize the way militaries all around the world exercise power and influence, all the while without endangering a single human life. We have reached that point of technological development where human reaction times or even the human body itself has become a limiting factor in an aircraft’s capabilities. Due to this reason, military powers all around the world are investing millions of dollars on researching potential ways in which a drone can be made more autonomous and make more coherent independent decisions so that human association might be reduced, except as a supervisor acting from a remote location. In this way drones in military, have the power to stop wars before it starts, survey potential threats in complete secrecy and above all, be a significant deterrent in the loss of human lives in times of conflict or otherwise.