Academic journal article South Asian Studies

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles: A Revolution in the Making

Academic journal article South Asian Studies

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles: A Revolution in the Making

Article excerpt


The first experiment to fly an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was conducted just after about a decade of Wright Brother's successful experiment of Flying Machine. Since then the technology of unmanned aerial vehicles has improved to the levels, that now the ideas are floating at the different policy formulation levels to make the wars totally unmanned. One of the most important aspects of this de-manning of the war is increasing the payload capacity of the unmanned vehicles to the levels that they may carry any sort of weapons (though never discussed openly, the idea of increasing the payload capacity automatically imply that when time demands, that payload will be nuclear or other devices capable of lashing unmatched lethality on the belligerents).

Drones have revolutionised the conduct of warfare. The most important purpose of the UAVs - as is considered in the United States - is to decrease the "friction" element of war that makes the conduct of the operations difficult. United States Air Force's Basic Doctrine states that; "War is a complex and chaotic human endeavour. Uncertainty and unpredictability - what many call the 'fog' of war - combine with danger, physical stress, and human fallibility to produce 'friction', a phenomenon that makes apparently simple operations unexpectedly, and sometimes even insurmountably, difficult" (US Air Force, 1997, p. 6). Drones are networked autonomous tactical UAVs. Networked, because they collect the surveillance from ground and transfer the information to the man sitting in the loop. Autonomous, because they are unmanned or to put more succinctly uninhabited. They address the element of 'friction' i.e. "danger, physical stress, and human fallibility" (Kish, Pachter, & Jacques, 2009, p. 103).

This notion has been challenged by the popular view that war is such a complex phenomenon that machines and robots cannot perform in the same way as do the humans. Robots do only what they are programmed to do, while a human brain is capable of unpredictable functionality. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a robot as "an efficient insensitive (italics added) person who functions automatically"(Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 2016). It explains everything because war involves lives of millions of human beings, and where lives of humans are involved, there insensitive and emotionless robots cannot be relied on. Regardless of this opposition, robots and drones are overtaking not only human duties but also responsibilities in almost every walk of life.1 F. Kaplan in a 2009 piece published in Newsweek called it "Attack of the drones" (Kaplan, 2009). He discussed that how the advent of the drones has killed the F-22 fighter program in the United States. A similar article published in Economist, mentioned that the dynamics of airpower has undergone huge transformation and "the notion of air superiority, have been transformed in the past few years by the rise of remotecontrolled drone aircraft, known in military jargon as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)" ('Attack of the Drones', 2009). Their use since the end of the cold war by the United States and other countries has increased exponentially. They have proved their steel in the major wars of the post-cold war era: First Gulf war, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and now in Syria.

This article is an attempt to grasp the extent to which unmanned aerial vehicles have been developed since the first flight of a kite. What are the problems that current and potential future UAVs will face? This article is based on the descriptive research.

Defining a UAV-Drone

No authentic account exists that how the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) got the name drones. The UAVs-drones initially performed reconnaissance functions which in the military jargons are known as 'dull and dry' jobs. Male drone bees also have the similar dull and dry life, and they are sting-less. (Iacobucci, 1997). So that can be one reason, the UAVs might have got the name 'drones'. …

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