RAND report. Armed and Dangerous? UAVs and U.S. Security

Drones—or as they are also known, armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)—are in the headlines and provoking debates, especially for their use in U.S. targeted killings. They are spreading across the globe and others are beginning to use them. How dangerous is the
proliferation of armed UAVs and what effect will they have on U.S. security?

What are the characterist and capacibilities of UAVS?

A UAV has these characteristics:

• It is a powered, aerial vehicle that does not carry a human operator.
• It uses aerodynamic forces to provide vehicle lift.
• It can fly autonomously or be piloted remotely.
• It is designed to be recoverable.
• It can carry a lethal or nonlethal payload.
• It includes those components (necessary equipment, network, and personnel) to control the vehicle.

It is important to distinguish UAVs from cruise missiles designed for one-time use. The distinction can be subtle,since almost anything that flies could be fitted with some sort of explosive and crashed into a target; but generally speaking, it is more challenging to build a UAV that can deliver a munition and return to be reused.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and  decision making through research and analysis.

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