Tim Mahon on UAVs
The major trends in UAS development in the short-term will include a switch to real production quantities and autonomous vehicles (e.g. the BAE Systems series of UAVs). More rotary-wing vehicles are also likely, especially for maritime roles and an increasing multi-role capability is also expected.
Operator training will also increase rapidly as more UAVs enter service. More ISTAR payloads are being carried and developed for UAVs and increasing low observable characteristics will also be incorporated. Enhanced endurance capabilities will increase persistence.
The principal barrier to further utilisation of UAVs is public perception–reliability issues still remain, e.g. the Barracuda crash.
Integration into controlled airspace has still to be fully resolved.
There are many potential civil applications, but platform unit cost needs to fall to exploit the civil market, which is likely to eventually be larger than the military market.
In the long-term, contracting issues may decide whether platforms or services are procured. Many new roles for UAVs are likely, e.g. CASEVAC.