Can next-gen UAVs maintain advantage in contested airspace?

The U.S. military’s unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) rule the global skies – for now – but one day in the perhaps not too distant future their airborne supremacy will come to a close, a fact that the Defense Department and defense industry are all too aware of, reports Paul McLeary of Aviation Week.

Indeed, plans are already underway for the next chapter in the UAV story, including developing wide-area surveillance drones that can fly in enemy territory but “don’t need to have the same degree of imbued stealth or survivability,” Christopher Ames, director of international strategic development at General Atomics, maker of the Predator, said in the article.

While tight budgets and heightened security are limiting the specifics available as to how emerging UAV technologies will handle tomorrow’s contested airspace, the article does address one other known option on the table: the consideration of sending drones out in swarms in an effort to ensure that the data is collected at all costs. One UAV could potentially hand off the job to another if it is unable to complete the mission due to power loss, attack or system fail.

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