A long-awaited study mapping out possible Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAV) developments has been issued by the US Department of Defense but it fails to direct the US military services to take any particular course of action.


Observers hoped the roadmap would "set funding priorities across the services" and make "tough choices and funding adjustments". DoD officials say, however, that the document is merely "to stimulate the planning process and provide a forum for mutual discussion".

"Our hope is that this roadmap will provide visibility and support for technology areas and evolving UAV missions, and will encourage the DoD and industry partners to aggressively proceed with UAV-related developments."

The document describes how UAV usage might evolve over the next 25 years, outlining perceived missions and emerging UAV technologies. It "is merely intended to highlight opportunities".

In the past 10 years, the DoD has invested more than $3 billion in UAV activities and may "invest over $4 billion in the coming decade".

The US military has 90 UAVs in the field with another 200 likely to be added in the next 10 years, with UAVs performing a wider variety of missions than reconnaissance.

Likely capabilities include:

silent operations as fuel cells replace internal combustion engines; high speed and long endurance UAVs to provide airborne communications relay and a fallback against GPS satellite navigation system jamming; faster targeting for cruise missiles through more precise terrain mapping from high-altitude UAVs; another technology showing promise is self-repairing structures.

The roadmap, however, does not quell the debate regarding the potential cost advantages of UAV compared with manned aircraft.

Source: Flight International