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 drone operated by paramilitary police flies over the site of explosions at Binhai new district in Tianjin, China, August 17, 2015, photo by Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters

    Report

    Emerging Trends in China's Development of Unmanned Systems

    Mar 12, 2015

    An 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.

Explore Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

  • North Korean defectors living in South Korea hold balloons containing leaflets and CDs denouncing Kim Jong-un near the demilitarized zone north of Seoul, February 16, 2013

    Report

    Options for Flying Contraband into North Korea

    Activist groups in South Korea are seeking improvements in the balloons they use to carry political, religious, and humanitarian materials across the border into North Korea. Balloon delivery techniques have evolved and some have started using hexacopter drones. How effective are these methods?

    Apr 2, 2018

  • Man with drone in a warehouse.

    Research Brief

    What's the Buzz? Delivery Drones Are Here

    Delivery drones are fast becoming a reality. As many as three million commercial drones could be flying in U.S. airspace by 2020. The prospect of a package arriving at your door in a matter of minutes is exciting, but what do we know about the hidden costs, the safety concerns, and the trade-offs?

    Mar 5, 2018

  • Report

    Limited Intervention: Evaluating the Effectiveness of Limited Stabilization, Limited Strike, and Containment Operations

    The report analyzes the strategic effects of low-cost and small-footprint military options across a range of irregular warfare operations and in a range of operational environments.

    Feb 22, 2018

  • An MQ-9 pilot

    Report

    A Career Field Planning Tool to Build a Healthy MQ-1/9 RPA Pilot Community

    The personnel who operate remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) are crucial in the Air Force, but many in the RPA career field are dissatisfied, and it is difficult to train and retain enough pilots to meet the demand. To assist in building a healthy, sustainable RPA career field, RAND has developed a long-term RPA career field planning model.

    Jan 23, 2018

  • Periodical

    RAND Review: January-February 2018

    This issue highlights RAND research on life inside the Islamic State and on the economic returns of early childhood investments, plus lessons for the U.S. from Britain's approach to free child care.

    Jan 3, 2018

  • Unmanned aircraft system (uav) quadcopter drone in the air over commercial buildings

    Report

    International Commercial Drone Regulation and Drone Delivery Services

    Commercial drone regulations vary from country to country; regulatory bodies struggle to adapt current laws to new technology. The author draws on a literature review to summarize regulations and highlight the obstacles to drone use worldwide.

    Dec 5, 2017

  • A drone takes off from an operations center in Muhanda, Rwanda, on its way to deliver blood supplies to remote hospitals, October 12, 2016

    Commentary

    Drones Could Deliver Change to Africa

    Drones could transform Africa's urban and rural infrastructure and enhance its agricultural productivity. But deployment of drones on the continent faces technological, economic, social, and legal, and regulatory challenges.

    Nov 17, 2017

  • A quadrocopter being flown over a field

    Report

    Options for Regulating Small Unmanned Aerial Systems

    The FAA predicts that there will be between 2.75 and 4.47 million small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS) flown in the United States by 2021. As the skies become more crowded, action is needed from the federal government and sUAS manufacturers and operators to ensure the public's safety.

    Nov 6, 2017

  • Robots working with cardboard boxes on a conveyer belt

    Commentary

    AI's Promise and Risks

    Artificial intelligence seems to be advancing faster than efforts to understand its potential consequences, good and bad. And discussions about AI often veer toward extremes. More balanced, rigorous analysis is needed to help shape policies that mitigate AI's risks and maximize its benefits.

    Oct 24, 2017

  • Report

    Design Perspectives on Delivery Drones

    This report explores the vehicle design aspects of delivery drones, including flight efficiency, energy consumption, noise, and safety, which are central to the viability of delivery drones.

    Sep 28, 2017

  • Report

    The Energy Implications of Drones for Package Delivery: A Geographic Information System Comparison

    In this report, we use a geographic information system analysis to compare truck versus delivery drone energy use.

    Sep 28, 2017

  • A delivery drone flying over a city

    Report

    What's the Buzz? The City-Scale Impacts of Drone Delivery

    This report examines the developing technology for using drones to deliver packages and attempts to identify the societal impacts. In particular, the author estimates the potential effects on energy consumption, aerial congestion, and other outcomes.

    Aug 9, 2017

  • Maj. Bishane, a 432nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron MQ-9 Reaper pilot, controls an aircraft from Creech Air Force Base, Nevada

    Report

    Stress and Dissatisfaction in the Air Force's Remotely Piloted Aircraft Community

    The demand for the Air Force's remotely piloted aircraft has spiked in the past few years. Crews feel stressed due to heavy workloads, understaffing, and other factors. What can the Air Force do to mitigate these stressors?

    Apr 27, 2017

  • Journal Article

    Non-State Actors in North Korean Airspace

    In previous decades, going back to the Korean War, the South Korean government used to send balloons carrying propaganda into North Korean territory.

    Jan 10, 2017

  • A Zipline delivery drone releases its payload during a demonstration near San Francisco, California, May 5, 2016

    Report

    What's the Buzz on Delivery Drones?

    Millions of commercial drones may be in the air by 2020. This could make near-instant airborne delivery a reality. But what are the hidden costs?

    Dec 20, 2016

  • The autonomous ship "Sea Hunter" is shown docked in Portland, Oregon before its christening ceremony April 7, 2016

    Commentary

    Killer Robots: Moral Concerns vs. Military Advantages

    The U.S. military should balance Americans' ethical concerns over computers making life and death decisions with the need to maintain an edge in the face of rapid advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning across the globe.

    Nov 4, 2016

  • Report

    The moral component of cross-domain conflict

    The study considers the body of work on morality and armed conflict in the future operating environment and provides insights on the ways in which new ways of fighting may challenge traditional moral principles.

    Oct 20, 2016

  • An Australia Post drone is pictured during a delivery trial in Melbourne, April 15, 2016

    Commentary

    How to Prevent Drones Colliding in Crowded Skies

    The federal government should work with private firms to develop drone traffic management systems and test drone designs. This could help stimulate the development of drone aviation. It could also help modernize the air traffic control system.

    Sep 14, 2016

  • A U.S. Air Force remotely piloted aircraft

    Report

    Clarifying the Rules for Using Drones in Targeted Killing

    U.S. international legal policies involving the use of drones in targeted killing need more clarity, specificity, and consistency. Policymakers must define an approach that protects civilians and human rights, while allowing latitude to fight terrorism.

    Sep 8, 2016

  • News Release

    U.S. Rules for Targeted Killing Using Drones Need Clarifying

    Current U.S. policies on using drones for targeted killing are characterized by ambiguities in interpretations of international law and too many generalities, despite recent efforts by the Obama administration to clarify the policies.

    Sep 8, 2016

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