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.

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

    Report

    Armed Aerial Drones 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

  • Report

    Designing Unmanned Systems with Greater Autonomy: Using a Federated, Partially Open Systems Architecture Approach

    Many current unmanned systems (UxSs) employ different communication systems and have limited autonomy, which limit information sharing with warfighters and other UxSs. This report identifies ways to address these limitations.

    Sep 17, 2014

  • A sensor operator and pilot follow a vehicle with a remotely piloted aircraft in a flight training simulator

    Report

    Building Toward an Unmanned Aircraft System Training Strategy

    Unmanned aircraft systems — or drones — have become increasingly prevalent in and important to U.S. military operations. Training now needs to be integrated more formally and cost-effectively into service and joint training programs.

    Jul 28, 2014

  • Fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) stand guard at a checkpoint in Mosul, Iraq, June 11, 2014

    Blog

    Obama's Iraq Dilemma

    On the surface, President Obama faces a classic foreign policy dilemma: The Iraqis are asking for U.S. military assistance to halt ISIS's dangerous offensive, but Obama has long promised the American people that he would withdraw the U.S. military from involvement in Iraq.

    Jun 17, 2014

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    Multimedia

    Media Call on Armed Aerial Drones and U.S. Security

    Lynn Davis, Director of RAND's Washington office and senior political scientist hosted a news media conference call to discuss armed aerial drones and U.S. security.

    May 16, 2014

  • Report

    The Effectiveness of Remotely Piloted Aircraft in a Permissive Hunter-Killer Scenario

    This report analyzes the operational effectiveness of several new concepts for employing remotely piloted aircraft in a permissive hunter-killer mission.

    May 9, 2014

  • DPU Soldiers conduct cyber defense exercise

    Blog

    Russia Hacks a U.S. Drone in Crimea as Cyberwarfare Has Gone Wireless

    For American audiences and policymakers alike, cyber activities in Crimea provide a chilling reminder that cyberspace is emerging as a 21st-century global battlefield.

    Apr 7, 2014

  • Pakistani girl holds up a picture she drew depicting the U.S. drone strike on her village which killed her grandmother

    Blog

    The Downside of Drones

    The chief political drawback is that target countries' populations view drone attacks as violations of their sovereignty every bit as much as manned raids. The chief military drawback: A drone attack destroys the critical intelligence that is needed to ensure that the tactical strike can be converted to strategic advantage.

    Nov 1, 2013

  • People hold posters of senior al Qaeda figure Abu Anas al-Liby during a demonstration over his capture by U.S. authorities

    Blog

    How War on Terrorism Has Evolved

    Special operations to capture terrorists are more dangerous than drone strikes, and nimble terrorist adversaries will develop countermeasures to make them even more difficult. But they are politically more acceptable and offer opportunities for intelligence and the visible delivery of justice.

    Oct 24, 2013

  • The opening of the 1st Afghan National Army Special Operations Brigade, Aug. 20, 2013

    Blog

    The Future of Counterterrorism: Fewer Drones, More Partnerships

    Drones are just one of three principal U.S. counterterrorism tools. Special Operations forces are now relying on a more balanced mix of tactics: Launching raids and developing partner forces offer more versatility than drone strikes and will probably become the wave of the future as America's big wars wind down.

    Oct 21, 2013

  • U.S. marines during a live-fire exercise on the flight deck of the amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio

    Blog

    Do U.S. Raids in Libya, Somalia Signal a Shift in Terror Strategy?

    The raids that the United States conducted over the weekend in Libya and Somalia could signal a new focus in Washington on capturing terrorist suspects and gathering intelligence rather than relying on drone strikes. RAND experts Linda Robinson, Angel Rabasa, and Seth Jones comment.

    Oct 10, 2013

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    Multimedia

    Events @ RAND Podcast: Drones

    In September 2013, Ted Harshberger, director of RAND Project AIR FORCE, moderated a panel discussion on current military and nonmilitary use of drones and other potential applications.

    Sep 25, 2013

  • Reaper drone

    Event

    Drones

    Drones—robotic, unmanned aerial vehicles used for surveillance—have transformed warfare and are beginning to transform civilian life as well. A RAND Policy Forum will address friendly and unfriendly drones, how they are being used today, who has them, and what other applications indicate cause for concern.

    Sep 25, 2013

  • An MQ-1C Gray Eagle unmanned aircraft

    Blog

    Drones Are Useful, but Not the Solution or the Problem

    The effectiveness of our attacks, particularly by drones, has already decimated the al Qaeda hierarchy, writes Harold Brown. That achievement, together with the negative effect on Muslim publics of drone attacks, suggests that the rate of their usage could be moderated.

    May 16, 2013

  • Nigerian troops march toward an Air Force C-130 Hercules

    Blog

    The Benefits of U.S. Drones in West Africa

    The establishment of a U.S. base in Niger is intended to facilitate intelligence collection and will provide a more complete picture of militant movements in Niger, Mali, and other countries in the Sahel, writes Seth Jones. The United States will share this intelligence with Malian and French forces.

    Apr 5, 2013

  • Report

    Expanding the Use of Time/Frequency Difference of Arrival Geolocation in the Department of Defense

    Explores an area in which the Department of Defense can operate smarter with its proliferating unmanned aircraft systems fleet.

    Nov 12, 2012

  • U.S. Air Force Academy's unmanned Viking 300 aircraft

    Blog

    Expect More Drone Use Like Recent Israeli Episode

    Practically any country that aspires to an indigenous aviation industry (as most countries do, even if only for national pride) has a reasonably capable, medium-altitude unmanned drone system in development or flying already, writes Ted Harshberger.

    Oct 11, 2012

  • Drone recovery demonstration

    Blog

    Drone Strikes Keep Pressure on al-Qaida

    Recently declassified correspondence seized in the bin Laden raid shows that the relentless pressure from the drone campaign on al-Qaida in Pakistan led bin Laden to advise al-Qaida operatives to leave Pakistan's Tribal Areas as no longer safe, writes Patrick B. Johnston.

    Aug 22, 2012

  • Report

    Methodologies for Analyzing Remotely Piloted Aircraft in Future Roles and Missions

    This briefing describes a suite of tools to help the Air Force think through future roles for remotely piloted aircraft.

    May 30, 2012

  • Report

    Incentive Pay for Remotely Piloted Aircraft Career Fields

    An econometric assessment of the effectiveness of incentive pays for retaining remotely piloted aircraft pilots and sensor operators.

    Mar 6, 2012

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