By Jim Kouri
On Thursday, Col. Moamar Khadhafi’s military convoy was bombed by an American predator drone and then attacked by French jets before the deposed dictator was finally apprehended and killed by rebel fighters, the Pentagon disclosed yesterday.
As the war on terrorist groups continues and transnational organized crime organizations become more powerful, these drones will become even more valuable and effective without jeopardizing American lives.
Drones, or Unmanned aircraft systems (UASs), consist of an unmanned aircraft, sensor, communications, or weapons, carried on board the aircraft, collectively referred to as payloads, as well as ground controls. UASs have been used successfully in recent operations, and are in increasingly high demand by US military forces.
The Department of Defense’s use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) continues to increase. In 2000, DOD branches had fewer than 50 unmanned aircraft in their inventory. By May 2008, they had more than 6,000.
However, DOD faces challenges, such as UAS acquisition and the integration of UAS into joint combat operations. Over the past several years, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, and the military services have undertaken several initiatives to improve the management of UAS programs and the operational use of these systems.
Specifically, DOD has established new entities and refocused the mission of an existing organization. DOD has also initiated several studies to determine UAS needs and help inform future UAS acquisition decisions.
In addition, DOD issued the Unmanned Systems Roadmap 2007-2032 (Roadmap), which it characterizes as a comprehensive plan for the evolution and transition of unmanned systems technology, including UAS. Also, in select cases the military services are developing and fielding common UAS programs and proceeding to develop more common concepts of operations.
DOD has taken steps to improve the management and operational use of UAS, but its approach lacks key elements of an overarching organizational framework needed to fully integrate efforts, sustain progress, and resolve challenges.
To meet the demand, the Department of Defense is increasing its investment in and reliance on UASs, often deploying them in international hotspots.
The DOD has achieved certain operational successes using the UAS, including identifying time-critical targets in Iraq and Afghanistan, and striking enemy positions to defeat opposing forces. Some missions effectively supported joint operations, and in other cases, the missions were service-specific. DOD has encountered challenges which have hampered joint operations at times, making UASs more feasible.
LAW ENFORCEMENT DRONES
US law enforcement agencies are currently experimenting with their own version of unmanned aircraft for police operations. The US Border Patrol will use unmanned aerial vehicles on the Mexican border more frequently, as well.
The first view for most Americans of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle and for Tactical Aerospace Group (TAG) was an episode of the hit CBS network series, CSI:NY featured a supporting cast member in the form of a TAG UAV helicopter.
The one hour feature episode entitled “The Dove Commission” starred Gary Sinise and Melina Kanakaredes and was directed by Emilio Estevez. The show used a variation of a TAG “C” type UAV helicopter as a member of the elite NYPD Technical Assistance Response Unit to perform on-camera maneuvers integral to the story line.
The weaponized helicopter represented in the show was fitted with dual .30 caliber guns, video and thermal vision as well as a laser target acquisition system. The UAV was shown flying through the New York skyline culminating in a firing sequence from the outside of a 65th floor of a high rise building.
Although fictionalized in this episode with the NYPD, it indicates the very near future as these and other major departments move to integrate the strategic advantages offered by TAG UAVs into their arsenal of tools to avert terrorism and assist in surveillance, patrols, incident response and homeland defense capabilities.
The remote unmanned helicopter enhances law enforcement aerial capabilities by acting as a force multiplier for their existing airborne assets. This frees the department’s existing helicopters, along with their pilots and flight crews, to concentrate on incidents where human intervention and intelligence is needed on site. The TAG helicopter is also a welcome and viable solution to provide aerial capabilities to law enforcement departments that could not otherwise afford to acquire and maintain an aircraft contingent.
Sized to be transportable by SUV, trailer or van, the TAG UAV can be deployed in minutes to hover over an incident or crime scene providing crucial video or thermal imaging intelligence. The helicopter can also act as either a communications repeater or a local WiFi hub to provide full multimedia coverage to all law enforcement personnel in the vicinity by providing a downlink to the local command center and to their vehicles or portable handheld PDAs carried by each officer.