Billy's Blog

On the battlefield, you need to know as much as possible.

One technology increasingly providing the essential functions of surveillance and reconnaissance is the unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV.

Equipped with sensors and infrared imaging systems, the military drone provides warfighters with the ability to see over the next hill and to keep pilots out of harm’s way by identifying enemy targets.

But what else is possible for these defending unmanned aircraft?

In a live presentation this month titled Eyes in the Sky: Military Drone Technology, a Tech Briefs reader had the following question for an imaging expert from infrared camera maker FLIR Systems:

"What do you see as a new mission for military UAVs?"

Read the edited response below.

Jen Richardson, Director of Business Development, FLIR Systems (Wilsonville, OR): From a “new” perspective, one mission is the deploying of smaller UAVs from larger UAVs – what is now described as an “aircraft carrier in the sky.”

The next mission is logistic support, delivering supplies to troops. Classically, we’ve had airdrops from all sorts of manned platforms. We are starting to get serious about delivering those supplies using UAV platforms. To do that, you continue to need imaging systems to target the supply area and provide situational awareness.

an image of the Black Hornet 3 from FLIR
This Black Hornet 3 from FLIR, released in June 2018, transmits live video and still images back to their operators.

Range and duration is always improving to support penetration in denied areas.

A really big area of growth is for counter-UAS [unmanned aircraft systems]. We know about it in the national airspace — a pest or a hobbyist not paying attention to the rules, getting into areas around airports and such.

In the military sense, a UAV with a bad intent is a missile. We need to get counter UAS, which may employ all sorts of things, including UAS to counter other UAS.

What do you think? What kinds of new missions do you see for military UAVs? Share your comments and questions below.

Watch the full presentation: Eyes in the Sky: Military Drone Technology.