Key Issues > Unmanned Aerial Systems (Drones)
defense icon, source: [West Covina, California] Progressive Management, 2008

Unmanned Aerial Systems (Drones)

The rapid growth in military and civilian use of unmanned aerial systems (commonly referred to as “drones”) presents opportunities and challenges to agencies across the federal government.

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The U.S. government has determined that drone development and acquisition supports its national security interests. As drones’ capabilities increase (as with armed and miniature drones), the military can find even more uses for them. Selling drone technology to selected allies can help strengthen the U.S. industrial base for drone production and increase their use. For example, the United Kingdom and Italy used drones purchased from the United States to collect data on Taliban activity in Afghanistan.

Figure 1: Examples of Drones

Examples of UAS

From 2005 to 2014, the number of countries that have acquired drones nearly doubled. Some of these countries are of concern because of their weapons proliferation, and they have developed increasingly more sophisticated systems. Terrorist organizations are also seeking to acquire drones that could increase their abilities to gather intelligence on and conduct attacks against U.S. interests.

Figure 2: Map of Countries That Acquired Drones by December 2011

Maps of Countries That Acquired UAVs by December 2011

Aside from military applications, a number of new civilian and commercial applications, such as law enforcement, environmental monitoring, and energy industry surveillance, are available for drones. However, drones’ use for these applications is currently limited by regulatory restrictions on civilian airspace, and many people have raised concerns about privacy issues.

Figure 3: Examples of Current Uses for Drones and their Altitudes of Operation

Examples of Current Uses for UAS and their Altitudes of Operation

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FAA and Unmanned Aerial SystemsMonday, August 17, 2015
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