War Or Peace, Drones Market Will Grow, Especially For Infantry
By Richard Whittle
Published: February 22, 2013
TYSON'S CORNER, VA: With the wars that spawned the drone revolution subsiding, if not entirely ending, the U.S. armed services are taking stock of what they've learned and sorting out what to do next to bolster or better the fleets of unmanned aircraft they've accumulated since 2001. One thing is clear: war or peace, the technology is here to stay.
A dozen years ago, a drone was still just a bee with a lousy work ethic. Today, the word isn't just the colloquial expression for unmanned aerial systems (UAS), as most experts call them, or RPAs (remotely piloted aircraft), as the Air Force prefers. Drones are now a military necessity – especially for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR).
"They've changed the way we fight," declared Col. Frank Muth, director of materiel for the Army, speaking at an Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) conference Feb. 13. In 2002, a few months into the war in Afghanistan and a few months prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the Army had a grand total of 76 UAS, Muth noted. Today, he said, the Army has 7,567 and has spent $5.23 billion on unmanned aviation over the past decade.
"Soldiers on the ground like to hear two voices on the (radio), especially troops in contact," he said. One is the voice of either an OH-58D Kiowa Warrior armed scout or AH-64D Apache attack helicopter pilot. The other is a UAS operator, who provides "an ability to see where they cannot, and that makes a huge difference," Muth said.