Pentagon draws up UAV road map

"Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Roadmap: 2002-2027"

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The Defense Department today outlined its road map for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for the next 25 years, highlighting its top 10 goals for the fledgling vehicles' future capabilities.

DOD will promote a common vision for future UAV-related efforts by making its plans available to industry and allies. The document stated that UAVs will play a central role in the military's transformation to a more agile and technologically superior force.

The purpose of this road map is to help identify the key areas for improvement," said Dyke Weatherington, deputy of the UAV Planning Task Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.

Weatherington said the road map is a "living document" and will be updated as technology improves and further capabilities are defined.

One key area of focus is what DOD is calling weaponization — giving UAVs the ability to carry weapons and controllers the authority to fire them. Accompanying such ability, however, comes an added degree of risk and responsibility, Weatherington said.

"One of the aspects [that complicates the situation is] positive control of the weapons," he said. "When you remove a human from the aircraft and you move that functionality for weapons control somewhere else, that requires an additional burden on the system to make sure you're maintaining positive control."

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is working on an unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV), which is designed to have the ability to suppress enemy air defenses, strike targets and carry out electronic attacks.

The warfighter needs to have confidence in the UAV system to perform the mission it is designed for, Weatherington said. The UAV needs to deliver to the end user the capabilities it promises.

The department's top UAV 10 goals are:

* Develop and operationally assess for potential fielding a UCAV capable of performing several missions, including suppression of enemy air defenses, strike and electronic attack. Due date: fiscal 2010.

* Develop and demonstrate a tactical UAV-class aviation heavy-fuel engine suitable for use in UAVs such as Shadow, Pioneer and A-160. Due date: fiscal 2005 to 2007.

* Have the secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff and the military services develop the capability and the performance metrics to evaluate UAV program costs. Due date: fiscal 2003.

* Demonstrate high-definition TV capability with real-time precision targeting capability on a UAV. Due date: fiscal 2005.

* Migrate all tactical and above UAVs to common data link-compatible formats for line-of-sight and beyond-line-of-sight communications. Due date: fiscal 2006.

* Investigate aerodynamics with a focus on improving digital flight control systems optimized for small UAVs. Due date: fiscal 2006.

* Define a standard UAV interface providing critical situational awareness data and precise location data supporting airspace integration. Due date: fiscal 2004.

* Coordinate revising a Federal Aviation Administration order for special military operations and replace it with a military flight plan generator. Due date: fiscal 2004.

* Define security measures for positive control of weapons on weaponized UAVs. Due date: fiscal 2008.

* Decrease the annual mishap rate of larger UAVs to less than 20 per 100,000 flight hours by fiscal 2009 and less than 15 per 100,000 by fiscal 2015.


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