How low can an unmanned air vehicle fly?

by William Dean

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The flight path of a low-altitude unmanned air vehicle (UAV) has to make a tradeoff between flying low enough to avoid the air defense and high enough to avoid crashing into the ground. To study this issue, a model was constructed to simulate preprogrammed peak-to-peak flight paths over hilly terrain. A commanded altitude was added to all points on the flight paths. The clobber probability was calculated by introducing navigational error, and the intervisibility between a radar site and the UAV was also calculated. The outcomes were disappointing. For any commanded altitude for which clobber was tolerable, the radars on hilltops could see the UAV for well over a minute.

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