The war of machines: how armies use military drones

10 August 2016
The war of machines: how armies use military drones

War has changed. Nowadays the advantage is within the countries that have military drones. The article will tell you about methods of their application, perspectives and problems related with their use.

The first massive attack

Unlike civil drones, military drones are bigger. These are several-tons constructions capable of being in the air more than 24 hours. There are surveillance and attack drones.

Surveillance drones were first developed in 1930s - 1940s of the previous century. The pioneers were the USA, Soviet Union, Great Britain and Nazy Germany. It was then, that the first unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) were brought to action. They were widely used during the period of Cold War: in the heat of Caribbean crisis the US were monitoring the location of Soviet missiles on Cuba with the help of pilotless aircrafts.

The first military drones were tested much later – in 1999, during NATO intervention into Balkan Peninsula. It was the first time when legendary Predator drones with Hellfire missiles were used. These unmanned aerial vehicles are still actively used by the US army. They demonstrated their ability to detect targets in the huge distance and transmit the image of the battle thousands of kilometers away from them - to operators who control them remotely.

Боевой дрон Predator

Achievements and victims

Nowadays, the USA is the leader in using military drones. The main testing area is Middle East. In 2011 drones helped the American government detect the location of Osama bin Laden. Last autumn Jihadi John, the member of ISIL, popular for his YouTube videos where he beheaded hostages, was taken out with the help of drone aircraft.

The precise number of attacks performed by drones remains unknown. According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in London, 1500 people were killed in Afghanistan by drones last year. In Pakistan the CIA program left about 2000-4000 people (965 of them civilians) dead in the period of 2004-2016. Is the price paid for destroying dangerous terrorists reasonable? Would the usual conduct of combat have killed more civilians? Such problems are discussed by governments but it doesn’t stop them from using drones.

Should we be afraid of military drones?

What was aerial reconnaissance like before drones were applied? More often the pilot of an aerial spy detected his enemy only after his aircraft had been attacked. The use of drones changed the situation. The advantages of attacking the target with their help are also out of question. But their use is related to a great number of morality issues.

First of all, such distance attacks create the illusion of permissiveness. We can attack effectively and with no impunity but do we have the moral right?

Secondly, a lot of questions are raised because of the use of artificial intelligence for drone control. Target is detected by a trained neural network. How high is the precision used to detect a figure of a military operation? Will it be able to detect a child who acts in a battle like a soldier? Will a drone be able to cease the attack if an enemy admits his defeat and turns into a prisoner of war? Lots of difficult and instantaneously changed aspects cannot be incorporated in the program.

Another problem is the availability of drones to terrorists. For example, while organizing Euro-2016 in France, specialists were taught how to resist the attack of a drone with poison gas on a crowded stadium. During the summit on nuclear security in Washington, Barack Obama said that we didn’t have enough protection against terrorist attack with drones spreading radioactive materials over cities. That’s why reliable methods of drone deactivation and interception are developed in the US, France, Japan, the Netherlands and other countries.

The war of tomorrow – the war of machines

Of course, armies won’t be disbanded in the near future and people are unlikely to disappear from the battlefields. But the number of troops and subdivisions will probably decrease considerably. Casualties will decline as well. Except for aggressive military actions, drones will ensure the safety of civilians.

Russia is starting to actively use military drones. In 2014, the use of drones by the army increased four times. In general, they spent 13 500 hours in the air surveying the territory. The Russian navy is going to put in place submarine robots. Russia created the first 3D-printed drone which can be activated after being constructed in the field environment in a couple of hours.

Despite a lot of problems, drones’ use has a great amount of technological advantages for the armies. It is a forward-looking field of activity for local companies and developers. The use of military UAVs is an issue to be thoroughly discussed. It can be done in a few days on the conference “Drones and the future: innovative solutions and perspectives”. It will take place on the 13th of August in “Sokolniki”. All the details can be found here:

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