Unmanned Aerial Vehicles


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.

Explore Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

  • 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

  • Report

    Armed Aerial Drones 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • Event


    A RAND Policy Forum on September 25, 2013 will be held on the topic of drones with speakers Ted Harshberger, Randall Steeb, and Steven Gitlin.

    Sep 25, 2013

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • Report

    The Future of Air Force Motion Imagery Exploitation: Lessons from the Commercial World

    Commercial television production practices inspire an approach to managing exploitation of the Air Force's rapidly growing motion imagery collections.

    Mar 6, 2012

  • Journal Article

    Searching for the Strategy

    Unmanned aerial systems have enormous potential, but the MoD lacks an overarching UAS vision.

    Dec 1, 2011

  • Journal Article

    When Will the U.S. Drone War End?

    The next president of the United States needs to answer this question: When, and under what conditions, will the U.S. government stop using drones to bomb suspected terrorists around the world?

    Nov 1, 2011

  • Report

    Feasibility of Laser Power Transmission to a High-Altitude Unmanned Aerial Vehicle

    Is powering an ultra-high-altitude unmanned aerial vehicle with a laser beam a practical possibility?

    Jun 9, 2011

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