Magazine article National Defense

Unmanned Aviation Industry: How Long Will the Good Times Last?

Magazine article National Defense

Unmanned Aviation Industry: How Long Will the Good Times Last?

Article excerpt

* The unmanned aircraft industry is, by most measures, in its heyday. Thousands of new UAVs have been purchased, and continue to be bought by the military services. Unmanned aerial vehicles not only were spared from Secretary Robert Gates' recent budget shakeup, but actually emerged as winners.

The near-term outlook for military UAVs is bright, but the long-term outlook is more uncertain, warned a panel of experts.

Manufacturers should start thinking about how to provide better value for the Pentagon's UAV dollars, said Dyke Weath-erington, deputy director of unmanned warfare at the office of the secretary of defense, at an Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International conference.

The industry has to position itself to move beyond its flavor-of-the-month status and design systems that the military can keep using decades into the future, said Peter W. Singer, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and unmanned systems expert.

"It's getting difficult to see that next step," he said. In a budget crunch, the Pentagon's "commitment to manned systems may squeeze out more innovative and, arguably, more effective and even cheaper unmanned options. …

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