UAV cost scissors watch

I’ve long been sceptical of the UAV future. Basically, back in 2005, I reckoned that as the things get more complicated their advantages over manned aircraft disappear; the biggest advantage is that they are meant to be expendable, and things that are expendable get expended. Therefore the loss rate is much higher, both from enemy action and from accidents. As they get more expensive (the RAF’s new ones actually cost more than the list price of a Tornado), this must mean that their advantages will be eroded. Another issue is the satcomms requirement; therefore, I thought, the successful ones would be the cheapest and most basic, as far as possible controlled directly by ground forces rather than people at Nellis Air Force Base.

Now, looky here. Yes, it’s Lewis “The navy only needs two ships” Page, but the story checks out. The British Army, and also the RAF, have been buying twin-engine light aircraft to fit out as advanced tactical reconnaissance platforms. Specifically, we’re dealing with a Canadian plane called a Twin Star, prized for its highly efficient diesel engines which give it a very long endurance. This is also likely to be used for the missions flown by Army Islanders over the UK at the moment from Northolt.

  1. Couple of things.

    Not all UAVs are created equal; one of the advantages they have for surveillance is very long dwell time; there are plans knocking around for solar-powered UAVs that could linger over an area for months.

    The other point is mentioned right at the end of the article; there are, using second vehicles, alternatives to SATCOMs when there’s no line of sight available; eventually, I’m sure that some clever designer will come up with a cheap UAV that is, essentially, just a retransmitter that can stay reasonably high and avoid a lot of threats and so on.


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