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.

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    Opportunities for the Brazilian Navy to Employ Additional Unmanned Systems

    The Brazilian Navy needs to have both the capabilities and capacity to meet a wide range of demands over vast and diverse geographic areas. What are some of the potential ways the Brazilian Navy could use unmanned systems to improve effectiveness and, potentially, reduce risks and costs?

    Aug 10, 2021

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    Small Unmanned Aerial System Adversary Capabilities

    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.

    Mar 12, 2020

Explore Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

  • Fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) stand guard at a checkpoint in Mosul, Iraq, June 11, 2014


    Obama's Iraq Dilemma

    On the surface, President Obama faces a classic foreign policy dilemma: The Iraqis are asking for U.S. military assistance to halt ISIS's dangerous offensive, but Obama has long promised the American people that he would withdraw the U.S. military from involvement in Iraq.

    Jun 17, 2014

  • Pakistani girl holds up a picture she drew depicting the U.S. drone strike on her village which killed her grandmother


    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

  • The opening of the 1st Afghan National Army Special Operations Brigade, Aug. 20, 2013


    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

  • U.S. marines during a live-fire exercise on the flight deck of the amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio


    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

  • Reaper drone


    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

  • An MQ-1C Gray Eagle unmanned aircraft


    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

  • Nigerian troops march toward an Air Force C-130 Hercules


    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

  • Dissertation


    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

  • U.S. Air Force Academy's unmanned Viking 300 aircraft


    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

  • Drone recovery demonstration


    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

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    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

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    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

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    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

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    Unmanned Aircraft Systems for Logistics Applications

    An evaluation of potential logistics applications for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) determines whether they are technically feasible, operationally feasible, and more cost-effective than other options. Six factors are identified that can be used to compare UAS and non-UAS based solutions to logistics tasks.

    Jan 25, 2012

  • Journal Article

    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

    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

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    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

  • News Release

    News Release

    Flawed Strategy, Not a 'Failure of Air Power,' Led to Israel's Disappointing Performance in 2006 Lebanon War

    Israel's disappointing performance in its war against Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006 did not reflect a "failure of air power," but rather a failure of Israel's political and military leaders to properly assess the enemy, set achievable goals, apply an effective strategy and adequately manage public expectations.

    May 23, 2011

  • Report


    Flawed Strategy, Not a 'Failure of Air Power,' Led to Israel's Disappointing Performance in 2006 Lebanon War

    Israel's disappointing performance in its war against Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006 did not reflect a

    May 23, 2011

  • Report


    Applications for Navy Unmanned Aircraft Systems

    Evaluates the U.S. Navy's ongoing and proposed unmanned aircraft system (UAS) programs and describes the most promising applications of those UASs to the Navy's operational tasks.

    Jun 8, 2010