The Rise of Combat Drones: How They Are Changing Warfare
Military Drones: Definition, History, Types, and Future Trends
Military drones are unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that are used for various military purposes, such as intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, reconnaissance, and strike missions. Military drones have become an integral part of modern warfare, as they offer many advantages over manned aircraft, such as longer endurance, lower cost, and reduced risk to human operators. However, military drones also pose many challenges, such as ethical, legal, and technical issues, as well as potential threats from adversaries. In this article, we will explore the definition, history, types, advantages and disadvantages, and future trends of military drones.
What are military drones?
Definition of military drones
A military drone is an aircraft that does not have any human pilot, crew, or passengers on board. It is controlled either autonomously by onboard computers or remotely by a human operator on the ground or in another vehicle. Military drones can carry various payloads, such as cameras, sensors, weapons, or electronic jamming devices. Military drones are also known as unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs), combat drones, or battlefield UAVs.
History of military drones
The first use of unmanned aircraft for military purposes dates back to the early 20th century, when bomb-filled balloons were used by the Austrian army against Italy in World War I. The first technological drones were developed in the 1930s and 1940s for target practice and reconnaissance. The first armed drone was deployed by Iran in the Iran-Iraq War in the late 1980s. The modern military drone as we know it today was pioneered by Israel and the US in the 1990s and 2000s for counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations. The most famous example of such a drone is the MQ-1 Predator, which was originally designed for surveillance but later armed with Hellfire missiles. The Predator's successor, the MQ-9 Reaper, is a larger and more powerful hunter-killer drone that can carry a variety of munitions. The Reaper drone was used to kill the Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in Iraq in 2020.
What are the types of military drones?
Micro- and nano-drones
Micro- and nano-drones are very small drones that can fit in a pocket or a hand. They are used for covert surveillance and reconnaissance missions in urban environments or behind enemy lines. They can also be used for swarm attacks or decoys. Micro- and nano-drones have limited range and endurance, but they are hard to detect and cheap to produce. An example of a micro-drone is the Black Hornet, which is a tiny helicopter that can fly for up to 25 minutes and transmit live video to a handheld terminal.
unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV)
drone target acquisition
drone human rights
drone right to life
drone artificial intelligence
Korea Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research (KSTAR) facility (Korea Institute of Fusion Energy)
Wing Loong II UAV
General Qasem Soleimani
Iran nuclear deal
Libya civil war
General Khalifa Haftar
Turkey Bayraktar TB2 UAVs
Iran Mohajer UAVs
China CH UAVs
Israel Heron UAVs
US Global Hawk UAVs
France Harfang UAVs
UK Watchkeeper UAVs
Germany Luna UAVs
India Rustom UAVs
Pakistan Burraq UAVs
Saudi Arabia CAIG Wing Loong II UAVs
UAE CH UAVs
Small tactical drones
Small tactical drones are lightweight drones that can be launched by hand or from a vehicle. They are used for short-range intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance missions. They can also be used for strike missions with small weapons or explosives. Small tactical drones have a range of up to 100 kilometers and an endurance of up to 12 hours. They are usually controlled by a human operator on the ground or in a nearby vehicle. An example of a small tactical drone is the FULMAR, which is a fixed-wing drone that can carry a payload of up to 8 kilograms.
Medium-sized reconnaissance drones Medium-sized reconnaissance drones
Medium-sized reconnaissance drones are larger drones that can be launched from a runway or a catapult. They are used for long-range intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance missions. They can also be used for strike missions with precision-guided munitions or electronic warfare devices. Medium-sized reconnaissance drones have a range of up to 3,000 kilometers and an endurance of up to 24 hours. They are usually controlled by a human operator in a remote location or by an onboard computer. An example of a medium-sized reconnaissance drone is the MQ-5B Hunter, which is a propeller-driven drone that can carry a payload of up to 200 kilograms.
Large combat drones
Large combat drones are the biggest and most powerful drones that can be launched from an airbase or an aircraft carrier. They are used for high-intensity combat missions, such as air superiority, deep strike, suppression of enemy air defenses, and maritime patrol. They can carry a large variety of weapons, such as missiles, bombs, rockets, and guns. Large combat drones have a range of up to 10,000 kilometers and an endurance of up to 48 hours. They are usually controlled by a human operator in a remote location or by an onboard computer. An example of a large combat drone is the MQ-4C Triton, which is a jet-powered drone that can carry a payload of up to 1,360 kilograms.
Stealth drones are drones that are designed to evade detection by radar, infrared, acoustic, or visual sensors. They are used for covert or high-risk missions, such as reconnaissance, surveillance, target acquisition, and strike missions. They can carry various payloads, such as cameras, sensors, weapons, or electronic jamming devices. Stealth drones have a range and endurance that vary depending on their size and mission profile. They are usually controlled by a human operator in a remote location or by an onboard computer. An example of a stealth drone is the RQ-170 Sentinel, which is a flying-wing drone that was used to spy on Iran's nuclear facilities in 2011.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of military drones?
Advantages of military drones
Military drones offer many advantages over manned aircraft, such as:
They can fly longer and farther than manned aircraft, as they do not need to refuel or rest.
They can fly in harsh weather conditions and dangerous environments that would be too risky for human pilots.
They can perform complex maneuvers and tasks that would be too difficult or impossible for human pilots.
They can reduce the cost and complexity of military operations, as they do not require training, maintenance, or support personnel.
They can reduce the risk of casualties and collateral damage, as they do not put human lives at stake and can be more precise and discriminate in their actions.
Disadvantages of military drones
Military drones also pose many challenges and drawbacks, such as:
They can be vulnerable to hacking, jamming, interception, or sabotage by adversaries or rogue actors.
They can cause ethical, legal, and moral dilemmas, as they raise questions about accountability, responsibility, transparency, and legitimacy of their use.
They can cause psychological stress and trauma for the human operators who remotely control them and witness the effects of their actions.
They can cause political and social backlash and resentment from the target populations who perceive them as intrusive and oppressive.
They can create new security threats and arms races, as they proliferate and become more accessible and advanced.
What are the future trends of military drones?
A drone swarm is a group of drones that operate together in a coordinated manner to achieve a common goal. Drone swarms can enhance the capabilities and performance of individual drones by sharing information, resources, and tasks. Drone swarms can also increase the resilience and survivability of drones by distributing the risk and adapting to changing situations. Drone swarms can be used for various military purposes, such as reconnaissance, surveillance, communication, deception, attack, defense, or logistics.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is the ability of machines to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as learning, reasoning, planning, decision making, Artificial intelligence (AI) is the ability of machines to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as learning, reasoning, planning, decision making, and problem solving. AI can enhance the capabilities and performance of drones by enabling them to operate autonomously or semi-autonomously, without human intervention or supervision. AI can also enable drones to communicate and collaborate with each other, as well as with other platforms and systems. AI can be used for various military purposes, such as navigation, target recognition, threat assessment