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The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) and the Center of Disease Control both estimate that the death toll due to Ebola might exceed 1.4 million by the beginning of 2015. Experts say deploying Unmanned and Autonomous Aerial Systems could help combating the spread of this highly lethal disease.
The United States is already moving more of its military drone assets into Africa, where the U.S. successfully hit Ahmed Godane, one of the co-founders of the militant group al-Shabab during the first week of September.
General Frank Gorenc, commander of U.S. Air Forces Africa, recently told Defense One that the force reductions in Afghanistan was opening the possibility of better drone-based intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance [ISR] across Africa. “The possibility is there,” he said. “The request and the approval process has to go through the Pentagon but the persistent ISR will not be available until combat ops become available.”
Drones, accompanied with satellite images and models, have already proven an extremely effective surveillance tool in the fight against terror on the one hand and poaching on the other. Deploying UAS could be effective in tracking people who exhibit signs of having been infected with Ebola.
The possibility also exists to equip African partner nations with drones to allow them to do more of the intelligence gathering on their own. But Gorenc sought to manage expectations on this point. “The business of remotely piloted aircraft is very complex,” he said.