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Aug 14, 2022

Lethal Drones: A Long Way From the Wright Brothers

Posted by in categories: drones, military, policy, robotics/AI

In 1903, the Wright brothers invented the first successful airplane. By 1914, just over a decade after its successful test, aircraft would be used in combat in World War I, with capabilities including reconnaissance, bombing and aerial combat. This has been categorized by most historians as a revolution in military affairs. The battlefield, which previously included land and sea, now included the sky, permanently altering the way wars are fought. With the new technology came new strategy, policy, tactics, procedures and formations.

Twenty years ago, unmanned aircraft systems (UASs) were much less prevalent and capable. Today, their threat potential and risk profile have increased significantly. UASs are becoming increasingly more affordable and capable, with improved optics, greater speed, longer range and increased lethality.

The U.S. has long been a proponent of utilizing unmanned aircraft systems, with the MQ-9 Reaper and MQ-1 Predator excelling in combat operations, and smaller squad-based UASs being fielded, such as the RQ-11 Raven and the Switchblade. While the optimization of friendly UAS capability can yield great results on the battlefield, adversarial use of unmanned aircraft systems can be devastating.

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