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.

  • Report

    Small Unmanned Aerial System Adversary Capabilities

    Mar 12, 2020

    It is difficult to detect, identify, classify, and—consequently—counter nefarious small unmanned aerial systems (sUASs), particularly in urban areas. As the U.S. Department of Homeland Security prepares for this potential threat, it will need to know the types of threat scenarios in which these systems could be used, which design elements are likely to be exploited by a nefarious actor, and which technologies and capabilities may be available in the near future.

  • Drone quadcopter over a background of binary code, photos by Kadmy/Adobe Stock and enot-poloskun/Getty Images; design by Rick Penn-Kraus/RAND Corporation

    Report

    How to Analyze the Cyber Threat from Drones

    Mar 5, 2020

    Unmanned aerial systems—drones—have become more common, more readily available, and more sophisticated. And they have new capabilities, such as increased data collection and autonomous behavior. Their cybersecurity implications demand a coherent strategy.

Explore Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

  • 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

    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

  • Report

    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

  • 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

    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

  • Report

    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

  • U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the FY2016 budget at the Department of Homeland Security in Washington, February 2, 2015

    Commentary

    President Obama's Controversial Legacy as Counterterrorism-in-Chief

    There were no attacks like 9/11 during Obama's eight years in office. But there were plenty of terrorist adversaries. While he will be judged in part for his domestic achievements, Obama's counterterrorism choices are a major part of his legacy.

    Aug 22, 2016

  • The DHL parcel service subsidiary of Deutsche Post AG tested a "microdrones md4-1000" for delivery of medicine

    Commentary

    Regulating Drone Airspace Using 'Smart Markets'

    With commercially operated autonomous drones potentially on the horizon, a policy problem is likely to emerge: allocation of scarce airspace and preferred flight paths. “Smart markets” could help.

    Apr 19, 2016

  • An MQ-9 Reaper on the flightline at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan

    Commentary

    Do 'Guardian Forces' Belong in the Military?

    More and more national security workers in and out of uniform never get close to combat. They address cyber threats, operate satellite constellations, and control drones. It's time to rethink their place in the system.

    Mar 10, 2016

  • Shira Efron presenting at a Pardee Initiative lunch on May 21, 2015

    Dissertation

    The Use of Unmanned Aerial Systems for Agriculture in Africa: Can It Fly?

    Examines the feasibility of adopting agricultural unmanned aerial systems in Africa.

    Nov 11, 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

  • Periodical

    Periodical

    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

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