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There has been tremendous growth in demand for unmanned aircraft systems (UASs) by the United States military since 2001, and the Navy is making large investments in a number of programs, including acquisition of high-altitude maritime surveillance systems, demonstration programs for carrier-capable unmanned combat aircraft, and acquisition of rotary and small fixed-wing tactical UASs. In this book, RAND provides an evaluation of the Navy's ongoing and proposed UAS programs and describes the most promising applications of those UASs to the Navy's operational tasks. The book identifies robust communications as a key enabler for UASs in many operational tasks and recommends steps the Navy can take to ensure these communications are available. Additionally, it identifies some operational tasks that are better suited to manned aircraft and recommends limiting investment in UASs for these tasks.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction and Objectives

  • Chapter Two

    Unmanned Aircraft Systems in Use or Development Today

  • Chapter Three

    Performance Advantages and Disadvantages of Unmanned Aircraft Systems

  • Chapter Four

    Applications for Navy Unmanned Aircraft Systems

  • Chapter Five

    Conclusions and Recommendations

  • Appendix

    Summary of Equations Used in Analysis of Communication Systems

The research described in this report was prepared for the United States Navy. The research was conducted in the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Department of the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation monograph series. RAND monographs present major research findings that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND monographs undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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