Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), is a military aircraft that is guided autonomously, by remote control, or both and it carries sensors, target designators, offensive ordnance, or electronic transmitters designed to interfere with or destroy enemy targets. Unencumbered by crew, life-support systems, and the design-safety requirements of manned aircraft, UAV's can be remarkably efficient, offering substantially greater range and endurance than equivalent manned systems.
Debut of UAV's :
UAV's are descended from target drones and remotely piloted vehicles (RPVs) employed by the military forces of many countries in the decades immediately after World War II. Modern UAV's debuted as an important weapons system in the early 1980s, when the Israeli Defense Forces fitted small drones resembling large model airplanes with trainable television and infrared cameras and with target designators for laser-guided munitions, all downlinked to a control station. Rendered undetectable by their small size and quiet engines, these vehicles proved effective in battlefield surveillance and target designation. Other armed forces learned from the Israeli success, notably the United States, which purchased some of the early Israeli models or produced them under license.
The most important American tactical UAV—and one that is representative of trends in the development of these aircraft—is the MQ-1 Predator, which first flew in 1994 and entered service the following year. The Predator, with a length of 26 feet 8 inches (8 metres) and a wingspan of 41 feet 8 inches (12.5 metres), is powered by a piston engine driving a pusher propeller. It flies at 80 miles (130 km) per hour and has an endurance of 24 hours. Control inputs and sensor outputs are transmitted via communications satellite.
A larger, turboprop-powered derivative of the Predator, the MQ-9 Reaper, has improved performance and carries a larger ordnance load. Both the Predator and the Reaper have been used in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and have been purchased by allies of the United States. Larger UAV's are used for strategic reconnaissance. The most important of these is the U.S. RQ-4 Global Hawk, a jet-powered craft 44 feet (13 metres) long and with a wingspan of 116 feet (35 metres). The Global Hawk has a cruise speed of 400 miles (640 km) per hour and an endurance of some 36 hours, and it carries a variety of photographic, radar, and electronic sensors.
Extremely small UAV's, in some cases hand-launched, are used to extend the vision of ground combat units beyond their front lines.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) have been around for centuries and were solely used for military purposes. The earliest recorded use of a UAV dates back to 1849 when the Austrians attacked the Italian city of Venice using unmanned balloons that were loaded with explosives.
Although balloons would not be considered a UAV today, this was a technology the Austrians had been developing for months before, which led to further advancements. In 1915,
British military used aerial photography
to their advantage in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle. They were able to capture more than 1,500 sky view maps of the German trench fortifications in the region.
The United States began developing UAV technology during the First World War in 1916 and created the first pilotless aircraft. Shortly after, the U.S Army built the Kettering Bug. While continuing to develop UAV technology, in 1930 the U.S Navy began experimenting with radio-controlled aircraft resulting in the creation of the Curtiss N2C-2 drone in 1937. During WWII, Reginald Denny created the first remote-controlled aircraft called the Radioplane OQ-2. This was the first massed produced UAV product in the U.S and was a breakthrough in manufacturing and supply drones for the military.
The change in mindset & the future:
Drones were previously known to be an unreliable and an expensive toy, but in the 1980’s this attitude began to change. The Israeli Air Force’s victory over the Syrian Air Force in 1982 contributed to this change. Israel used both UAV's and manned aircraft to destroy a dozen of Syrian aircraft with minimal losses. Further, in the 1980’s, The U.S created the Pioneer UAV Program to fulfil the need for inexpensive and unmanned aircraft for fleet operations. In 1986 a new drone was created from a joint project between the U.S and Israel. The drone was known as RQ2 Pioneer, which was a medium sized reconnaissance aircraft.
More recently, in 1990 miniature and micro UAV's were introduced and in 2000 the U.S deployed the Predator drone in Afghanistan while searching for Osama Bin Laden. Although many of the most notable drone flights have been for military purposes, technology is continuing to advance and receive more attention. In 2014, Amazon proposed using UAV's to deliver packages to customers and some real-estate companies are using drones to shoot promotional videos. The uses of drones will continue to grow in many industries worldwide.