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

  • 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

  • Report

    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

  • Report

    Emerging Trends in China's Development of Unmanned Systems

    RAND's 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

  • congressional-podcast-teaser-highres

    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

  • An MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle at Balad Air Base, Iraq

    Project

    Dispelling Myths About Armed Drones

    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.

    Feb 16, 2015

  • Report

    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

  • 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

    Commentary

    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

  • t-call-experts-hr

    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

    Commentary

    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

  • 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

    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.

    Apr 7, 2014

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

    Commentary

    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

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