Readers offer UAV design pointers

Readers believe military services should pool research, avoid scope creep

Several readers thought that our article, “Future UAVs must multitask,” raised  compelling questions about  the U.S. military’s strategy for developing drones, and wanted to offer their own opinions on the matter.

One anonymous reader thought that various research groups throughout the military services should work more closely with each to cut development time and conserve scarce funding. Taking this one step further, it might be possible for the services to craft a single unmanned aerial vehicle that can do not only reconnaissance and precision strikes, but also cargo transport.

The services need to “make a single UAV that can do all of the necessary functions…and be able to have the ability to communicate between more than one operator so that their missions are more efficient and synchronized,” the reader wrote.

Another anonymous reader described the quest for additional capabilities as nothing more than  scope creep and doubted that some of the capabilities will ever reach the user.

What’s more pressing, the reader said, is to fix problems with the systems that are “at the high end of the risk scale.”

The reader suggested that the military services concentrate first on making sure that the live data feeds are secure. After that, managers need to closely review the programs.

“Even if the payload is not a UAV problem, someone in management needs to take a holistic look at what problem you’re trying to solve [and] not dream up UAV solutions and look around for a problem to solve" with it, the reader wrote.

Ed Hennessy believes that research teams working on UAV development might be able to transfer some key lessons learned from the development of manned vehicles to the building of UAVs.

He noted that a number of years ago aircraft designers believed that there would become a point where manned attack aircraft would quickly become obsolete and all strike aircraft from that point forward would be UAVs or one sort or another, he wrote. However, that has not proved the case.

“Unmanned vehicles of any type are going to have to get smarter (from the point of artificial intelligence) to reach the level of functionality and interoperability that the military envisions. To date, they have all been mission-specific and narrowly focused,” he wrote.

While commending those who want to add cargo transport to the growing list of UAV capabilities, Hennessy believes it is not something that can be achieved immediately.

“I have a hard time seeing the C-130 transport analogy taking shape with UAVs in my lifetime; however, I always commend and support the visionaries in the DOD complex—eventually they will get it right.”

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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