Browse Publications Technical Papers 2003-01-3064

American Attack Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs): A Century of Progress 2003-01-3064

In recognition of the centennial of manned flight, this perspective on more than 100 years of unmanned flight details some of the major developments in the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for combat. Since World War I, UAVs have been used for attacking enemy ships, bunkers, missile sites, and other high value, high threat targets. Up until World War II, however, these combat UAVs were really cruise missiles, as the technology wasn't mature enough to guide weapons on a target and then recover the delivery platform. Over the course of the century, technological progress has only now made the use of UAVs for offensive missions more effective and more affordable than manned aircraft. This paper reviews over a century of progress from the first credible unmanned aerial vehicle, through the experiments and deployments in each of the major wars and conflicts of the Twentieth Century, to the present day, where a revolution in unmanned systems promises a transformation on the battlefield of the Twenty-First Century.


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