The use of unmanned aerial vehicles offers new capabilities in a variety of operations. In some cases, the aircraft can replace their counterparts that carry human pilots or passengers. But each mission must be chosen carefully—not to be overshadowed by the rush to employ drones.
In the vast majority of drone operations,
That is the question for assigning drone missions.
a human is in the loop as a controller—but
not always. Some unmanned aerial vehicles,
or UAVs, can be programmed to follow a particular course
and perform specific missions. In the commercial space,
this makes for good business. The military has applications
for completely unmanned drone flights. However, in most
applications, a human controller is required to alter a
drone’s course, release weapons or take photos, for example.
In initial U.S. Navy UAV missions, the aircraft will
function as tankers for carrier air wings. It already has
been shown that a UAV can operate from
an aircraft carrier deck, making the refuel-
ing mission a good one. The UAV could
be assigned an orbit and programmed to
begin delivering fuel when the drogue is engaged or
pushed in a certain distance and cease when the drogue
is disengaged or extended full length. A human should
To Man or
Not to Man?
BY ADM. RICHARD C.
MACKE, USN (RET.)
Two U.S. Navy officers inspect an MQ-5B Hunter
unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) at Kandahar
Airfield in Afghanistan. The Navy’s increased
use of UAVs is changing the nature of its air
operations, but it also is raising concerns
about manned versus unmanned missions.