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The United States’ air force is expected to increase funding for small unmanned aerial systems (S), after its strategic vision will be published later this year. The air force is expected to release its flight plan for small s as soon as this coming winter, where it will state that light-weight aerial vehicles are planned to be operated in even more combat missions, some of which are currently being carried out by larger, more expensive s. Among these missions are reconnaissance, electronic warfare, communication and tactical attacks in highly secured areas.
A U.S. military spokesperson has mentioned that the flight plan represents the first strategic vision meant to incorporate smallinto the air force overall strategy. The air force has experimented with small s technology for decades, including the recent Sand Dragon project, and although larger s such as the RQ-4 Global Hawk, are attracting the majority of this investment, it seems that frozen defense budgets and manpower getting smaller have forced some conceptual changes.
According to the air force, the combination of the increase in demands along with thinner resources and manpower has forced a reconsideration of using smalls more than they are currently being used. Thanks to progress in the mini field and their relative advantage in size, abilities and cost efficiency, alternatives are now available to answer the increase in demands. Furthermore, the air force has already considered in the past requests for small s to be developed for cyber attacks, indoor reconnaissance, intelligence signals and lethal and non-lethal attacks.
Although smalls can be limited in power and payload, air force officials believe these systems are more than fit for more simple tasks like video-surveillance than larger s such as the MQ-1, a multi-task vehicle capable of carrying and launching missiles.
Who knows, maybe these smalls would eventually replace those larger vehicles due to their many benefits and capabilities.