UAVs Come of Age
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are changing the face of modern warfare,
homeland security, law enforcement and even weather reporting.
As UAV technology improves, unmanned vehicles are playing a greater role in
national military operations, with missions ranging from early warning and
maritime tracking to communications relay. In the past decade, unmanned
platforms have morphed from novelty support systems to essential tools in
modern warfare. As UAV technology becomes more mainstream, applications are
being explored for the Department of Defense (DOD), homeland defense,
international defense, civil border patrol and commercial markets.
What are UAVs?
A UAV is any aircraft flown without a pilot. Researchers have referred to
them as remotely-piloted vehicles (RPV), remotely-operated vehicles (ROV),
drones, robot planes or pilot-less aircraft. These designations are somewhat
broader than UAV, which refers only to aircraft, while ROV and RPV could refer
to submarines, boats, ground vehicles, and other types of moving
Most often called UAVs, they are defined by the United States DOD as powered,
aerial vehicles that do not carry a human operator, use aerodynamic forces to
provide vehicle lift, can fly autonomously or be piloted remotely, can be
expendable or recoverable, and can carry a lethal or non-lethal payload.
UAVs range from the size of an insect to that of a commercial airliner. The
U.S. DOD currently possesses five major UAVs: the Air Force’s Predator and
Global Hawk, the Navy and Marine Corps’ Pioneer and the Army’s Hunter and
Shadow. The U.S. military services continue to be innovative in their use of
UAVs. Recent examples include arming UAVs, using UAVs to extend the eyes of
submarines and teaming UAVs with strike aircraft and armed helicopters to
UAVs also range in degree of autonomy. Some require a team of field technicians
while others are capable of flying themselves once launched. While aircraft
like the Predator and Boeing X-45A Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle require
extensive resources and qualified professionals to operate effectively,
operators can be stationed in one location while the UAVs fly at another
location halfway around the world. This takes the risk off of pilots who don’t
have to be anywhere near the plane.
UAVs in Military Operations
The war on terrorism has put a high premium on the primary mission of UAVs
today: intelligence gathering. Furthermore, the outstanding military
effectiveness of UAVs in recent conflicts has opened the eyes of many to the
number of the advantages provided by unmanned aircraft.
As the world's most modern military forces adopt network-centric operations,
their leaders are recognizing the overwhelming advantage provided by having the
products of real-time surveillance and intelligence gathering at their
fingertips. Perhaps the safest, most efficient and flexible method for
gathering such information is through the use of unmanned aircraft.
The earliest UAVs were developed after World War I. They were used during World
War II to train antiaircraft gunners. Nevertheless, they were little more than
full-sized remote controlled airplanes until the late 20th century. Lately,
interest in such craft has grown within the higher ranks of the U.S. military,
as they offer the possibility of cheaper, more capable fighting machines that
can be used without risk to aircrews. Initial generations have primarily been
surveillance aircraft, but some have already been fitted with weaponry.
As military leaders look to the future, they are examining how information
dominance and real-time shared situational awareness are critical to the
challenges of military operations. The U.S. military is laying the groundwork
to complete its transition from an industrial-age fighting force to an
information-age force that is agile and rapidly deployable. And as technology,
procedures and familiarity improve, more advanced UAV and UCAV systems are set
to play a major role in the future of intelligence gathering and in delivering
even greater capability to the future war fighter.
Civilian Opportunities for UAVs
Civilian applications of UAVs can be grouped into four major categories:
commercial, civil, security and scientific. The majority of these applications
involve monitoring, communications and imaging. These areas of interest affect
a large number of civilian fields and are highly needed in the commercial
Of all of these applications, those that will emerge soonest are local
monitoring and surveillance. More research is currently being aimed at
exploring possible peacetime surveillance roles for UAVs in the U.S. to monitor
illegal entry into the country and provide surveillance over the White
As UAVs become simpler and less expensive to operate and maintain, they will be
more suitable for mainstream commercial applications. One day, overnight
delivery companies might employ unmanned robotic flyers to deliver priority
mail. Large-scale farming could be revolutionized by UAVs, which would monitor
crop areas and tell farmers when to harvest. UAVs equipped with aerial cameras
could also be used for moviemaking, television news and sports reporting.
Law enforcement agencies nationwide are also considering UAVs for surveillance
purposes. The U.S. Transportation Department has looked at possible security
functions for UAVs such as following trucks with hazardous cargo. The Energy
Department has also been developing high-altitude instruments that can be
carried by UAVs to measure radiation in the atmosphere.
Types of UAVs and Honeywell’s Role in the Future
As the UAV market grows, a number of different types of UAVs are emerging
for various applications. Honeywell technology is playing a major role in the
development of many of these future systems.
Organic Air Vehicles (OAVs)
OAVs are designed to operate from the battlefield by field troops and
provide small combat teams and individual soldiers with the capability to
detect the enemy forces concealed in forests or hills, around buildings in
urban areas or in places where the shooter does not have a direct
OAVs can hover and stare, and essentially become sentinels for maneuvering
troops. Rather than sending a soldier into harm's way to scout a particularly
potential high-risk area, a unit will be able to use the OAV instead. Typical
OAV missions include reconnaissance and surveillance, path finding for friendly
ground vehicles (both robotics and manned), maneuver force protection, and
targeting for non-line-of-sight fire operations.
Honeywell is creating lightweight integrated avionics developed for OAVs as a
common core avionics package and vetronics mobility package for UAVs and UGVs.
This common electronics and software package can be applied to small, unmanned
air vehicles, but also can be used on conventionally winged as well as Vertical
Take Off and Landing (VTOL) vehicles and the soldier UGV. It also has the
potential of being used as the mobility control for the larger MULE UGV. This
lightweight (1.5 lb.) core integrated avionics suite from the OAV shares its
principal components with large quantity artillery projectiles.
The OAV's core package consists of a MEMS inertial measurement system, a GPS
receiver and a flight management unit processor that:
|Integrate GPS and inertial data for position and attitude information
|Run Honeywell’s MACH flight control laws
|Generate outputs to control servos
|Perform payload management and coordinate communications content and
Micro Air Vehicles (MAVs)
MAVs are primarily being explored as mission capable flight systems for
military surveillance and reconnaissance applications. MAVs are classified as
UAVs with the dimension of the vehicle not exceeding 15 cm.
Honeywell is currently flight testing a new 13-inch autonomous MAV surveillance
aircraft that a foot soldier can carry on his back. The primary purpose of the
MAV is to provide intelligence on enemy activity without risking the lives of
human pilots or ground reconnaissance teams. Honeywell is developing the MAV
for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) as part of its
Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD) program.
Called a ducted fan air vehicle, the MAV flies like a helicopter, using a
propeller that draws in air through a duct to provide lift. The MAV's propeller
is enclosed in the duct and is driven by a gasoline engine. A heavy fuel engine
variant of the MAV will be available in 2006.
The MAV is controlled using Honeywell's MEMS electronic sensor technology. The
micro air vehicle may become part of the U.S. Army's Future Combat Systems
program as the "hover and stare" Class I Unmanned Aerial Vehicle
System. Honeywell is the prime contractor developing the MAV along with
subcontractors AAI Corp. for the airframe, AVID for modeling and simulation and
Techsburg for testing and acoustics.
Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs)
UGVs could be used for a variety of applications, including off-road
navigation. Small, man-portable UGVs are also being explored for urban
reconnaissance scenarios. NASA, DARPA and the U.S. Army are all investing in
research to explore other possible uses for UGVs in the future of military
operations as well as space exploration.
Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles (UCAVs)
UCAVs, commonly referred to as unmanned fighter jets, are known as are one
of the more futuristic applications now being studied for UAVs. The joint U.S.
Air Force/Navy program, recently renamed J-UCAS (joint-uninhabited combat air
system) is examining a fundamentally different sort of combat UAV - not simply
a reconnaissance UAV with a modest combat payload. This vehicle would have
performance and payload comparable to a contemporary strike aircraft. While
UCAVs will probably take a decade or more to mature, much like earlier
aerospace revolutions, it is possible that they will prove a viable alternative
to other manned combat air vehicles in the future. UCAV development is also
underway in other countries such as France, Sweden and Italy.
The Future of UAVs
The global appetite for unmanned aircraft is showing no sign of abating.
Instead there are growing indicators that countries increasingly are looking
for an even greater variety of systems.
As technology maturation continues to open doors to more opportunities in the
vast market of UAVs, Honeywell is dedicated to working closely with its
partners to remain at the forefront of new developments and help broaden the
use of UAVs in future military and civilian applications.
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