Drones in national security
Areport from Stimson Center has examined three key issue sets in the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) debate: defence utility, national security, and economics; ethics and law; and export controls and regulatory challenges. The Stimson report concludes that UAV technologies are here to stay. Used recklessly, UAVs can endanger US interests and diminish regional and global stability. Used wisely, they can help advance US national security interests in the midst of a more robust global commitment to the rule of law.
The debate on the Stimson report identified misconceptions about drones, areas of concern, and also recommended a few ways to advance the drone debate.
The most common drone misconceptions is the belief that most UAVs are weaponised when in reality less than one per cent of the Pentagon’s 8,000 drones carry operational weapons at any given time. The majority of US drone missions has been for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) purposes.
UAVs are often thought to be cheaper alternatives to manned aircrafts, but some UAVs “carry more sensors than their manned counterparts,” which may translate to higher cost for personnel to monitor and process data feeds that do not exist on manned aircrafts.
The Stimson report notes that at times, the higher cost of manned aircrafts reflects greater capability. A manned F-16 fighter jet may have higher costs because it consumes fuel more quickly than an MQ-1 Predator drone, but the F-16’s greater speed gives it air-to-air combat abilities that current drones lack.
MQ-1 Predator drone