Drones, or RPV/As, or UAV/Ss, or UAs???

Words have meanings…

Drone- n.

1. A male bee, especially a honeybee, that is characteristically stingless, performs no work, and produces no honey. Its only function is to mate with the queen bee.
2. An idle person who lives off others; a loafer.
3. A person who does tedious or menial work; a drudge: “undervalued drones who labored in obscurity” (Caroline Bates).
4. A pilotless aircraft operated by remote control.
Historically, these were small units, used for target practice, or older airframes modified with a remote control system and flown from an adjacent aircraft to provide target services for either other aircraft, or missles for testing/training.

UAV/UAS- unmanned aerial vehicle/unmanned aircraft system, is an aircraft without a human pilot on board. Its flight is controlled either autonomously by computers in the vehicle, or under the remote control of a pilot on the ground or in another vehicle.

More and more of these autonomously controlled units are coming into existence in the military and are not weaponized. They are programmable to fly specific missions/patterns without intervention.

RPV/A- Remotely piloted vehicle/aircraft,  is an aircraft first envisioned by Nicola Tesla in 1915, later utilized by the Army/Air Force in WWII and still in use today with Predator/Reaper/Global Hawk.

These systems are not autonomous, requiring both a pilot and a sensor/weapons operator (depending on the variant). Per USAF documents (so figure the CIA units in the covert ops are similar), it requires roughly 200 people to actually conduct 24 hour operations and perform a strike (includes pilots/sensors, maintenance personnel, command chain, overwatch chain, approval chain for strikes and intel support.

The word “Drones” draws immediate fire from both the left and the right, with images of Predator aircraft firing Hellfire missiles with controllers in some far away location (like Creech).

Depending on which side of the equation one falls on, they may be FOR or AGAINST use of any of the three types depending on what level of privacy/freedom they care about.

For example, what if a UAV is operated by the Fire Department or a volunteer group and not a police organization.  Does this get it away from the spying on your neighbor fears that the law enforcement mission seems to conjure up? Or does it bring up even MORE issues of spying???  Think about the PETA types that are flying quadrotors (UAS) to ‘spy’ on bird hunters…

The other question is who will develop a list of policies and procedures for when and how the information collected- audio, video files, internet, IR, other; and how will be stored and who will have access to them and when or IF they be destroyed.

This is what the FAA says…

In the United States, the United States Navy and shortly after the Federal Aviation Administration have adopted the name unmanned aircraft (UA) to describe aircraft systems without a flight crew on board. More common names include UAVdroneremotely piloted vehicle (RPV), remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), remotely operated aircraft (ROA). These “limited-size” (as defined by the FAI) unmanned aircraft flown in the USA’s National Airspace System, flown solely for recreation and sport purposes such as models, are generally flown under the voluntary safety standards of the Academy of Model Aeronautics,[22] the United States’ national aeromodeling organization. To operate a UA for non-recreational purposes in the United States, users must obtain a Certificate of Authorization (COA) to operate in national airspace. At the moment, COAs require a public entity as a sponsor. For example, when BP needed to observe oil spills, they operated the Aeryon Scout UAVs under a COA granted to the University of Alaska Fairbanks. COAs have been granted for both land and shipborne operations.

The term unmanned aircraft system (UAS) emphasizes the importance of other elements beyond an aircraft itself. A typical UAS consists of the:

  • unmanned aircraft (UA)
  • control system, such as Ground Control Station (GCS)
  • control link, a specialized datalink
  • other related support equipment.

For example, the RQ-7 Shadow UAS consists of four UAs, two GCSs, one portable GCS, one Launcher, two Ground Data Terminals (GDTs), one portable GDT, and one Remote Video Terminal. Certain military units are also fielded with a maintenance support vehicle.

Because of this systemic approach, unmanned aircraft systems have not been included in the United States Munitions List Category VIII – Aircraft and Associated Equipment. Vice versa, the “Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Systems” are clearly mentioned at paragraph 121-16 Missile Technology Control Regime Annex of the United States Munitions List. More precisely, the Missile Technology Control Regime Annex levels rocket and unmanned aerial vehicle systems together.

The term UAS was since adopted by the United States Department of Defense (DOD) and the British Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

The term used previously for unmanned aircraft system was unmanned-aircraft vehicle system (UAVS).

Now having read all that, there is still the question of where the government and companies will actually be ‘allowed’ to fly these systems over the US for ‘testing’…

Note- The FAA say NOTHING about data collection!

Meanwhile, folks are flying the hell out of them basically illegally (like the guys out of Germany. Team Black Sheep or something like that) and some agencies are flying them for any number of reasons…

So people are now spinning up over privacy issues with these flying systems, but what about wearable camera systems or the new Google Glasses that are coming on line, the license plate readers that can be see in most metro areas on patrol cars, security cameras, street surveillance cameras, and other handheld video collection methods (can we say cell phones).

Where/how do you draw the line?  Or do you just go with the flow and try to limit your exposure??? Or move the hell out in the country???

At least we still HAVE choices, and I guess we should be thankful for that…

Remember, words have meanings, and KNOWING those different meanings give you dramatically different perceptions of what may be/is going on under the ‘guise’ of “it’s no biggie, they’re just drones…


Drones, or RPV/As, or UAV/Ss, or UAs??? — 5 Comments

  1. In one of Asimov’s later additions to the Foundation Series, a character opines to the effect that the advance of civilization is nothing more than increasing losses of privacy.


  2. The future is here. We are now seeing the hovering aircraft we used to see in Si Fi movies of twenty years ago. Who would a think it?

    My concern is not in the safety these flying mo-shenes can provide us, but the information gathering capability the government can use to monitor our lives.

    Big Brother has a name and it is Democrats (though I am sure the Conservatives would use the technology just as readily as anyone else.)

    I like the idea of using them in combat situations that can save lives of our troops, and take out bookoo enemy on demand. And I can see using it in the US to search for lost kids, hikers and such. But there must be strict rules and laws to safeguard our privacy.


  3. I’m not opposed to drones or sensors. From a military point of view pilotless vehicles have been the future for the past 40 years because everyone knew that machines could outperform the NFO …sorry… aviator, flying them because of the G-load or endurance involved. The US went from unmanned spaceflight to manned spaceflight and we’re back to unmanned space flight (mostly near Earth) with the exception of the space station which we can’t get to on our own.

    The problem with these new systems in my estimation is directly proportional to the increase in control that the central government wants over my life and my liberty. The Obama Administration has assaulted the Bill of Rights since it took office, completely ignoring the 10th Amendment. THAT is my problem.

  4. Rev- Good point!

    CP- Yep, makes sense, UNTIL… and it’s the until that scares me…

    LL/WSF- Concur!