Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

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An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is an aircraft that carries no human pilot or passengers. UAVs — sometimes called “drones” — can be fully or partially autonomous but are more often controlled remotely by a human pilot. RAND research has contributed to the public discussion on the use of drones for warfare and surveillance.

  • drone-myths

    Project

    Dispelling Myths About Armed Drones

    Feb 16, 2015

    Armed drones have raised hopes among some for a transformational weapon to use against U.S. adversaries, and raised concerns among others about proliferation and misuse. However, drones are fundamentally misunderstood; many of the myths about them can be dispelled.

  • A U.S. Air Force MQ-1 Predator on its final approach to Indian Springs Auxiliary Field in Nevada

    Report

    Armed and Dangerous? UAVs and U.S. Security

    Apr 7, 2014

    While armed drones are not truly transformative weapons, they do offer the United States some significant advantages, particularly against enemies that lack air defenses. How the United States uses these weapons today and into the future will be important in shaping a broader set of international norms that discourage their misuse by others.

Explore Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

  • An Australia Post drone is pictured during a delivery trial in Melbourne, April 15, 2016

    Commentary

    How to Prevent Drones Colliding in Crowded Skies

    The federal government should work with private firms to develop drone traffic management systems and test drone designs. This could help stimulate the development of drone aviation. It could also help modernize the air traffic control system.

    Sep 14, 2016

  • News Release

    U.S. Rules for Targeted Killing Using Drones Need Clarifying

    Current U.S. policies on using drones for targeted killing are characterized by ambiguities in interpretations of international law and too many generalities, despite recent efforts by the Obama administration to clarify the policies.

    Sep 8, 2016

  • A U.S. Air Force remotely piloted aircraft

    Report

    Clarifying the Rules for Using Drones in Targeted Killing

    U.S. international legal policies involving the use of drones in targeted killing need more clarity, specificity, and consistency. Policymakers must define an approach that protects civilians and human rights, while allowing latitude to fight terrorism.

    Sep 8, 2016

  • U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the FY2016 budget at the Department of Homeland Security in Washington, February 2, 2015

    Commentary

    President Obama's Controversial Legacy as Counterterrorism-in-Chief

    There were no attacks like 9/11 during Obama's eight years in office. But there were plenty of terrorist adversaries. While he will be judged in part for his domestic achievements, Obama's counterterrorism choices are a major part of his legacy.

    Aug 22, 2016

  • The DHL parcel service subsidiary of Deutsche Post AG tested a "microdrones md4-1000" for delivery of medicine

    Commentary

    Regulating Drone Airspace Using 'Smart Markets'

    With commercially operated autonomous drones potentially on the horizon, a policy problem is likely to emerge: allocation of scarce airspace and preferred flight paths. “Smart markets” could help.

    Apr 19, 2016

  • An MQ-9 Reaper on the flightline at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan

    Commentary

    Do 'Guardian Forces' Belong in the Military?

    More and more national security workers in and out of uniform never get close to combat. They address cyber threats, operate satellite constellations, and control drones. It's time to rethink their place in the system.

    Mar 10, 2016

  • Report

    Toppling the Taliban: Air-Ground Operations in Afghanistan, October 2001–June 2002

    This report describes the preparations for Operation Enduring Freedom, Army operations and support activities, coalition issues, and civil-military operations in Afghanistan from October 2001 through June 2002.

    Jan 4, 2016

  • Shira Efron presenting at a Pardee Initiative lunch on May 21, 2015

    Dissertation

    The Use of Unmanned Aerial Systems for Agriculture in Africa: Can It Fly?

    Examines the feasibility of adopting agricultural unmanned aerial systems in Africa.

    Nov 11, 2015

  • Service members train with the Shadow remotely piloted aircraft system, Feb. 6, 2014

    Report

    Air National Guard Remotely Piloted Aircraft and Domestic Missions

    Air National Guard remotely piloted aircraft — or drones — may be useful in responding to a variety of domestic threats and potential emergencies. However, there are congressional concerns, as well as operational and policy constraints to be addressed.

    Jun 22, 2015

  • A precision-guided missile was fired during its first test-fire outside of the United States, near Tikrit, Iraq

    Report

    Comparing U.S. Army Systems with Foreign Counterparts

    To address possible capability gaps in its systems, the U.S. Army should examine options for countering long-range rockets, support research and development in robotics, consider approaches to lighten the loads for infantrymen, and examine the need for a new specialized manned reconnaissance aircraft.

    May 13, 2015

  • U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a statement regarding a January counterterrorism operation that accidentally killed two aid workers held hostage by al Qaeda, April 23, 2015

    Commentary

    The Death of Hostages and High-Flying Illusions

    Risk is unavoidable in fighting war or terrorism. Soldiers are sometimes felled by friendly fire, and civilians ostensibly on the sidelines become accidental targets. It is unrealistic to believe that such tragedies can always be prevented. Risks can be reduced but never entirely eliminated.

    May 4, 2015

  • Periodical

    RAND Review: May-June 2015

    This issue of RAND Review reports on smart-grid technologies, the nuclear deal with Iran, the education crisis among Syrian children, diversity in the biomedical scientific workforce, and recent philanthropic gifts to RAND.

    May 4, 2015

  • A drone operated by paramilitary police flies over the site of explosions at Binhai new district in Tianjin, China, August 17, 2015

    Report

    Emerging Trends in China's Development of Unmanned Systems

    An exploratory analysis of China's development and use of unmanned systems focuses on maritime unmanned systems, the roles China sees for them, Chinese development of unmanned vehicles, and uses for such systems in the East and South China Seas.

    Mar 12, 2015

  • MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial attack vehicle in flight

    Multimedia

    The Use of Long-Range Armed Drones: Fact v. Myth

    In this March 2015 Congressional Briefing, a panel of RAND experts discuss the effect of armed drones on global warfare, whether U.S. policy on armed drones shapes the way other nations deploy them, and the sale of armed drones to allies.

    Mar 3, 2015

  • An MQ-9 Reaper sits on a ramp in Afghanistan

    Commentary

    Armed Drone Myth 3: Global Proliferation Demands Blanket Restrictions on Sales

    More than 70 countries have acquired drones of different classes and for different purposes. However, the number of countries actually developing “armed” drones is far smaller. And smaller still is the number of those countries developing long-range armed systems.

    Feb 19, 2015

  • Illustration of idea, solution, and money

    Commentary

    Managing Technology in an Unmanageable World

    The need for purposeful and focused R&D in the U.S. has never been greater, but technology is advancing so quickly that the structures available to manage it have not kept pace. A comprehensive examination of the technological landscape is needed to help the government take a more holistic approach to investing in and regulating technologies.

    Feb 19, 2015

  • An MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft takes off from Joint Base Balad, Iraq

    Commentary

    Armed Drone Myth 2: It's Counterproductive to Develop International Norms

    The challenge in establishing international norms for armed drones will be to define rules that preserve the rights of countries to use them in legitimate ways against legitimate threats (senior al Qaeda or Islamic State terrorists) while constraining illegitimate uses (political dissidents).

    Feb 18, 2015

  • An MQ-9 Reaper sits on the flightline at Creech Air Force Base, NV

    Commentary

    Armed Drone Myth 1: They Will Transform How War Is Waged Globally

    Long-range military drones are fundamentally misunderstood. Their champions wrongly contend they are revolutionizing warfare, while critics fear their spread would greatly increase the threat that China, terrorists, and others pose.

    Feb 17, 2015

  • Periodical

    RAND Review: January-February 2015

    This issue of RAND Review reports on technology literacy in kids, self-driving cars, marijuana legalization, hacking and cybersecurity, monetary compensation for mass tragedies, and recent philanthropic gifts to RAND.

    Jan 12, 2015

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