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Importance of the UAV Technology in the World of Aviation, Term Paper Example

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Term Paper

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are remotely piloted or self-piloted aircraft capable of carrying sensors, communications equipment, cameras or other payloads. It is an unscrewed, reusable vehicle powered by a reciprocating engine or a jet and which is capable of controlled, sustained, level flight.  The high-tech aircraft, uses aerodynamic forces to provide lift and fly under control of crew miles away from the dangers of combat or autonomously. They are capable of combat, reconnaissance, as well as support in battles. In a worst-scenario, if a UAV is lost in battle, the military personal can simply send another one in the air in a very short time without the trauma of prisoners or casualties which is associated with an aircraft going down in normal instances. UAVs are of two types: remotely piloted vehicles (RPVs) and drones (programmed for autonomous flight).The RPVs on the other hand are actively flown by an operator on the ground (Hugh M. 1997).

A fully operational system consists of the UAV with sensors, a ground control station (GCS) which houses sensors operators and the pilots as well as a primary communication site through a satellite link. There technicians and support personnel on the ground, that are responsible for handling the aircraft. This is a sophisticated activity that requires huge numbers of personnel to man at times exceed 80 men.

UAV’s can be controlled by a crew or can run autonomously, executing simple missions like reconnaissance on a program. The crew of a single UAV is made up of two sensor operators and a pilot who drives the aircraft through a standard flight stick and associated controls which transmit commands over a C-Band line-of-sight data link or a Ku-Band satellite link for operations beyond the C_band link. While onboard, the aircraft receives orders through an L-3 Com satellite data link system and crews and the pilots’ use the radar as well as the images emanating from the aircraft discern how to control the plane while the pilots used the cameras onboard cameras to take note of proceedings around the plane. For the crew, they have to trade the visibility of the outside for their personal safety (Hugh M. 1997).

The modern UAVs use some of the most sophisticated monitoring equipment available which include :a full-color nose camera used by the  pilot  to navigate the craft, a camera with a variable aperture which  functions as the UAVs  main set of “eyes” as well as an  adjustable  aperture infrared camera  for viewing under low-light and in the  night  and a synthetic aperture radar (SAR) for seeing through  clouds ,smoke or haze. Each Camera in the plane’s forward bank can produce still-frame radar images as well a full-motion video. The UAV can give a command post a real-time silhouette as well as the enemy’s location before the first vehicles or troops arrive. Such information helps field commanders to make quick and informed decisions about troop movements, deployment, and the potential of the enemy. The UAV becomes an automated battle combatant once it’s loaded with two Hellfire missiles.

The aircraft fires an infrared or laser beam from the MTS ball near the nose of the plane. The laser beam can be used by the on –board computer to calculate distance and trajectory or upon landing on the target the beam pulses and attracts the laser seekers missiles end.

Sensors bundled in the UAV also calculate direction, wind speed and other battlefield variables to collect all of this data into a firing solution a process called the “painting the target.” Once a target is painted, the UAV can send the firing solution ground forces or other aircraft so they can destroy it or unleash its own missiles to destroy the target. The UAVS alongside manned war planes have been flown   into combat alongside and provided air support to ground forces, as well as attacking areas where enemy air defenses have not been suppressed fully. They also find their use in areas that are naturally too dangerous to send in manned aircraft, like chemically or biologically contaminated environments and open ocean environments (Hugh M. 1997).

Uses of UAVs

The UAVs are amenable to varied functions which are majorly in areas of remote sensing and global information systems. These are central to the reconnaissance roles that most UAVs have been employed for. The other roles that UAVs are used for include transport and interaction.

Remote Sensing

UAVs serve various remote sensing roles which range from chemical and biological sensors to electromagnetic sensors. The electromagnetic spectrum sensors include both infrared or near infrared cameras as well as radar systems and visual spectrum. The Biological sensors on the other hand are capable of detecting various airborne microbes and other biological factors while the chemical sensors make use of laser spectroscopy to effect analysis of the concentrations of each element in the free air.

Transport

These vehicles are used UAVs can transport goods through various means going by the specific configurations. They utilize an internal payload system that uses an internal bay to store the payload

Scientific Research

The vehicles have a unique capability of penetrating areas that are considered too dangerous for pilots to venture. These include such areas as hurricane hunting amongst other such ventures. AAI Corporation has for example designed the 35-pound system; this can fly into a hurricane and communicate near-real-time data by relaying it to the national Hurricane Center in Florida. This UAV provides other data beyond the ordinary measurements and even closer to water surfaces that previously. (Hugh M. 1997).

With a clear understanding of the implications of supervising as well as controlling team of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), it is apparent that efficient design and implementation of the Human-Machine Interface (HMI) is required.  The HMI represents the fundamental point of interaction and the means of communicating knowledge between the system and the operator.  Quality of HMI affects operator performance and maintenance of good situation and intent awareness.  Operator information requirements during individual phases of a mission must be determined before considering how to present such information.  Additionally, the HMI enables operator control of the level of autonomy, which (Clarence E. Patricia A. $ Sharon D. 2006).

Historically, development and the implementation of technology has been the main focus in systems performance.  But success for these systems is greatly dependent on the successful performance of the humans who interact with these systems to meet the required capabilities. The practice of Proper systems engineering practice calls for meticulous requirements definition which details the relationship between the system and the people who use them. In defining these requirements, there is the need to understand the environment in which these people operate, the inherent “capacity” of user populations, and the operational contexts in which these operate when using the new system. All the domains that are centered on humans contribute to the definition, as well as utilization of the system but it is the context and predictability measures that can contribute greatly to the HSI process.  While tradeoffs must be made inside the human domains, the integration of the domains allows for more balanced trade-offs with other specialty engineering disciplines (Clarence E. Patricia A. $ Sharon D. 2006).

Aerial monitoring ,remote sensing, and surveillance  do no offer attractive packages for  human experienced pilots because of  low incomes and the  fatigue induced and generated   indirectly  by the great number of repetitive flight paths as well as  decreased  level of variation during flight configuration .another reason is due to the  required precision flight profile for the purpose of obtaining   accurate data, measurements as well accurate  information. In addition to these some other flights like flights over the disaster prove very stressful for pilots because of the death impact to human factor and the request for help from victims of disaster in cases where such help is not provided for safety reasons or even the general interference disaster victims and the flight crew. Overloading the flight crew operated in remote areas or even overloading the aircraft during disaster events in rescue missions are all results of over-reacting human factors in such instances and this can result in loss of aircraft control, deaths and time wastage(Clarence E. Patricia A. $ Sharon D. 2006).

There is an ever increasing role of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in the United States affairs, both in the global wars, as well as in the protection of citizens at home. UAVs can be equipped with communications and surveillance systems perform an important role both on local and national levels in offering support to Homeland Security. However, there have been many obstacles to the use of UAVS in the National Airspace (NAS and which can only be overcome via support from the industry and government leadership (CRS Report RL3187).

Global problems calls for global solutions and local and regional monitoring is crucial in attaining these solutions requires local and regional monitoring. Using satellite systems for Local and regional surveillance for developed and developing countries is unaffordable and even more expensive for almost all. Less Developed Countries, because of some vital reasons likes: the recovery of investment needed for almost all satellite systems, there are also very high operational costs involved due to the very expensive ground control centers used for each satellite system when doing the surveillance. In the case of the developed world there are high software costs; data transfer costs as well as downlink costs without forgetting the indirect costs incurred due to regional exclusivity as well as IPRs (Greta W 2003).

This calls for the use of  UAVs under the  remote control of a pilot at very low operational flight costs, anytime ,in all weather conditions and any where air service systems which suits customized surveillance or as a monitoring device. The access to UAVs for all less developed Countries is a crucial political issue, whose basis is on old cold war principles which provide restrictions in general terms with the aim of conserving national security. This approach  is not only old but also conflicting with free global trade principles to date and therefore the source of all difficulties dragging the achievement of global solutions to the actual problems related to management or monitoring of the environment, prevention of disaster as well as remote sensing for surveillance in preserving forest or during fires. Allowing the access to state-of-the-art aerospace technology in my opinion will guarantee low costs remote sensing services generally because of the size of the market at global scale, large user population in addition to the valuable improvements resulting from the ability to cover wide areas which sometimes are uninhabited.

Less developed worlds have been a victim of the policy which restrict and prohibit the civil use of UAV technology from long time. Remote sensing and regional surveillance can be performed better by equipment of high quality capable of providing appropriate data and information that can later  be retrieved copied and read so that it can be  simulated to give good evidence with full details. This also saves on resources, efforts and time while getting useful data and information. Therefore the use of UAV is more suitable for homeland security in addition to the  other advantages it offers of saving money, time, using multiple observation points and sensors , maintaining overall operational costs low as well the ability t be used in environmentally unfriendly environment.

The affordability of  UAVs for Local or regional surveillance for the less developed countries comes in the sense that  these products are well designed to be used in simple or repetitive tasks able to be controlled  remote by a pilot with  self-guidance or autonomous  systems, through the use of both GPS and  ground based navigation systems  loaded in onboard computer, availing  data to the autopilot, controlling  altitude as any aircraft and performing take-off and landing, in any  conditions, just as are any other aircraft does them, or even better in the pilot’s absence. In addition to cutting the direct flight operations because of the pilot-less UAVs, the absence of the pilot in the flight deck adds another advantage because airport’s landing minima are reduced in zero vertical visibility, there is all weather flight capabilities, as well as reduced levels of fatigue or stress which poses danger.

Border Security has been a big priority by the congress since. The northern border which separates the mainland United States and Canada is 4,121 miles long with 430 official as well as unofficial ports of entry.1 the possibility of entry via unpopulated regions and the expansive nature of the border make the border difficult to patrol. On the other hand the southern border separates the United States and Mexico and is 2,062 miles long with thirty entry ports and “various unofficial crossings.”4 Unlike the northern border, however, over10, 000 border patrol agents are typically stationed on the CRS-2 (Greta W 2003).

Despite the large number of the patrol agents, significant drug smuggling activities and illegal border crossings are a frequent occurrence. Ground sensors, video cameras, physical barriers, manned aircraft, land vehicles and border patrol agents monitor and protect the border

The diverse nature of U.S. border defense however is challenged by an equally diverse array of threats ranging from drug smugglers, terrorists, human traffickers and, arms dealers. Previous  difficulties in securing the borders in addition to  fears that terrorists could take advantage of  existing security weaknesses by crossing the borders has prompted Congress to call on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to examine the potential use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).

Historically, UAVs have found use in various setting of the military outside the borders of the United States where they provided surveillance, reconnaissance, acquisition of target, search and rescue as well as in assessment of damages resulting from battles. In the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, UAVs have been involved in surveillance, and attack.  For instance the Predator UAV was loaded with anti-tank weapons and used to attack members of Al Qaeda and Taliban. UAVs have more so been used in domestically. Terrorism Prevention and intelligence reform Act of 2004 Congress gave directions to the Department of Homeland Security to perform a pilot program to test various advanced technologies that can help   improve border security between entry ports along the northern border of the U.S .A key feature of this pilot program involved unmanned aerial vehicles, for border surveillance among others

There many reasons why the homeland security should follow this directive and allow the use of UAVs. One reason is that the   UAVs is can fill a gap in current border

Surveillance. This is because the technical capabilities of UAVs can enhance coverage on remote sections of the U.S. borders. Electro-Optical (EO) cameras or sensors is capable of identify a small object to the size of a milk carton from an altitude as high as 60,000 feet. In addition the UAV’s can  also provide precise and real-time images  to a  control operator on the ground , who would then disseminate this important  information for  informed decisions regarding the deployment of border patrol agents to be  quickly made .

Another reason to support the adoption of the UAV system is its loiter abilities. The Predator B for instance used in Operation Safeguard can fly for more than 30 hours without the need of refueling. The ability of the UAVs to loiter for prolonged periods of time gives it an operational advantage over manned aircraft because the longer times of flight for the UAVs means sustained coverage over a previously exposed area and therefore improvement of border security.

UAVs are cheap compared to manned aircraft which are used for border security with the unit cost varying widely. The Predator for instance costs $4.5 million while the shadow UAV goes for $350,000 compared to the equivalent cost  per a unit of a P-3 manned aircraft used by U.S.  Customs and immigration Enforcement which cost $36 million and Blackhawk helicopters used frequently on the borders whose unit costs $8.6 million (but with less endurance than UAVs). The range  covered by  UAVs is a significant  when compared to stationery surveillance equipment or even  border  patrol agents and therefore  the UAVs have greater chances of tracking  an illegal border entrant  who attempt to transit through  mountainous terrain or dense woods  using thermal detection sensors as compared to the   stationary video equipment often used on the  borders. The extensive range and endurance of UAVs may reduce the burdens faced by human resources at the borders. UAVs therefore can eliminate the concerns faced by helicopter pilots on patrol (Greta W 2003).

References

CRS Report RL31872, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles: Background and Issues for Congress.

Clarence E. Patricia A. $ Sharon D. (2006).Manning Human Factors in U.S. Military Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Accidents. West Yorkshire: Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

Greta W., “Firms to showcase unmanned planes for Border Patrol,” National Journal’sTechnology Daily, Aug. 11, 2003.

Hugh M. (1997).Smart Weapons. New York: Barnes and Nobles Books.

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