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Unmanned aerial vehicles. Characteristics of UAVs

In the view of most people unrelated to aviation, unmanned aerial vehicles are somewhat complicated versions of radio-controlled aircraft models. In a sense, this is the case. However, the functions of these devices have recently become so diverse that it is no longer possible to limit oneself to such a look at them.

The beginning of the unmanned era

If we talk about automatic flying and space remotely controlled systems, then this topic is not new. Another thing is that in the last decade a certain fashion arose on them. In essence, the Soviet shuttle "Buran", who made a space flight without a crew and landed safely in the now distant 1988, is also a drone. The surface photo of Venus and many scientific data on this planet (1965) are also obtained in automatic and telemetric mode. And lunar rovers fully correspond to the concept of unmanned equipment. And many other achievements of Soviet science in the space sphere. Where did the aforementioned fashion come from? Apparently, it was the result of the experience of combat use of such equipment, and he was rich.

Initially, unmanned aerial vehicles were most often used either as training targets or as projectiles. It was still in the first third of the XX century, and this situation persisted until the very end of the century (not counting space vehicles). The loss of aviation in the Vietnam War forced the Pentagon leadership to think about ways to reduce human losses. The same considerations prompted the initiation of the development of aircraft-driven aircraft designers from Israeli firms.

Classification of UAVs

At the initial stage of development of this class of aerotechnics, unmanned aerial vehicles were unmanageable. The technological revolution and the development of software have given impetus to the creation of flying robots, working on a given algorithm. In other words, such a device should after the launch make a flight along the specified route at the correct altitude, fix information on the ground situation under the wing to the built-in electronic recording equipment, return to the starting point and land. A variant of real-time data transmission to the receiving monitor via the radio channel is possible, but throughout the raid in the control process the personnel at the tracking point do not interfere. With all the merits of this approach, it has a significant defect. To create a program that could take into account all possible situations is impossible. Then there was a third way to solve the administrative function - telemetric. The pilot is on the ground, observes the situation through the built-in cameras, records the necessary information and makes decisions in the same way as the pilot of an ordinary aircraft. This method was called remotely piloted. By the way, it is also used in toy models with radio control, although quite expensive (they cost hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars).

The experience of the use of new technology was received by the IDF (Tsakhal) during the 1973 war. Unmanned aerial vehicles were used for operational reconnaissance, but the large size and weight of the video equipment of that time severely limited the capabilities of this tool. Nevertheless, it was in this Middle Eastern country that they first understood the promise of remotely controlled aviation, which affected the further successes of Israeli designers.

Stunning diversity

The field of application was not limited to reconnaissance. The engineers of the American military-industrial complex went further. In addition to small size, they considered it quite logical to create shock robotic systems, and even fighters. Of course, these machines must be large to carry armaments weighing hundreds of kilograms. The size range expanded in the opposite direction. A pilotless vehicle with a surveillance camera can be disguised as a bird or even an insect, work in this direction is already underway, and the main obstacle to success is the imperfection of modern power sources that would provide the possibility of three-dimensional sample movement within a few days. In the meantime, "bugs" (in the most direct sense) fly during the time measured by the clock.

When solving peaceful tasks

Not only military but also peaceful unmanned aerial vehicles proved to be in demand. Prices for them are quite high (depending on the equipment and technical capabilities of the UAV can cost from one to tens of thousands of dollars), but economically their use is beneficial. The reconnaissance of the meteorological situation, the search for victims and mountain climbers lost in the mountains, the assessment of the ice situation, the direction of the spread of fire in forest fires, the movement of lava during volcanic eruptions, and many other tasks have always been carried out by means of aviation. Pilots and equipment were at risk, performing dangerous flights, and if we take into account the cost of fuel and depreciation of helicopters and aircraft, it is understandable the desire to use remotely controlled or robotic aerosystems.

Drones are often used to protect borders and control migration. The United States has a long border with Mexico, where illegal workers illegally enter the country at best, and smugglers with a load of drugs at worst. Similar problems exist in Russia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and many other countries. Invaluable aircraft can also provide invaluable help in combating poaching. But their merits, such as low noise, low degree of visibility, small size, still attract more defense departments of countries all over the world.

The properties of unmanned vehicles

Military drones are harder to detect in the sky than conventional aircraft or helicopters. First, they can be made small, and secondly, all technologies that provide low visibility on the radar screen, are applicable for this tactical tool. But that is not all. If necessary, such a flying machine can have quite serious dimensions. The main advantage of an interceptor working in a robotic mode is the ability to perform any maneuvers without fearing that the pilot will lose consciousness due to huge overloads. This circumstance prompted the leadership of the US Air Force to bet on drones. The United States has invested huge amounts of money in the development of this type of weapons, commensurate with the GDP of some states. Today it is difficult to judge the results of efforts in the field of fighter aviation, there is very little information about them, from which two conclusions are possible: either the tests are so successful that they should be kept secret or they are extremely unsuccessful. The second option is more likely. About the own victories, the Pentagon willingly recounts, and even usually they exaggerate a little.

Unmanned ground attack aircraft "Predator"

But in the center of attention - the impactless drone. This type of weapon was used during the operation against Libya (2011). We used the most common type, Predator, which has quite good characteristics. Possibility to carry missiles for firing at ground targets or guided bombs, high (over 7 thousand meters) ceiling compensate for a relatively small speed. The control is carried out from ground stations, and recently the possibility of remote piloting from bases located in the United States via satellite channels is being studied. Such informational attachment sometimes does not always play into the hands of the interests of countries with impressive technological achievements. During the reconnaissance flight over Iraq in 2008, one of the "Predators" supplied information not only to its armed forces, but also to the rebel forces. It was found out by accident, after the capture of one of the militants, who was found a portable computer with video recording. To read the video stream, software tools developed in Russia were used.

During his military career, "Predators" suffered losses. They knocked them over Yugoslavia, Iraq and Afghanistan. Several pieces were broken due to piloting errors and technical malfunctions. At present, the design of this type of UAV is not secret. Anyone can even buy similar unmanned aerial vehicles. Prices depend on the equipment, but the most modest version of the "toy" will cost seven-figure dollars (about five million).


UAVs of all countries

The US leadership aspires to military-technological superiority, believing that the more complex the combat equipment, the more effective it is. This is not always the case, but when evaluating the potential of a particular technical model, one should also take into account the interests of manufacturing firms. Today, it became clear to many military analysts that the role of UAVs in a real military situation is great, but it is difficult to call it decisive, even with the greatest stretch. They, of course, help the ground forces, but they can not provide complete success, which is indirectly confirmed by the not very victorious results of the US Army's campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. Nevertheless, many countries joined the race, whose goal was to create the most perfect flying robot. The characteristics of drones are different depending on the tasks that they are to solve.

The greatest successes in this field of machine building were achieved by Israel. Here, of course, the features of the Middle East theater of military operations are important. The distances are small, intelligence work is almost in real time. Initially, the high requirements for TTD drones set the pace of development of this class of weapons, and now all countries exposed to the risks of local conflicts are trying to borrow the experience of Israel by purchasing equipment from him or by making their own designs. These include Turkey, India, Britain, virtually all European member countries of NATO and, of course, Russia.

Adventures of UAVs in Russia

It should be noted with regret that the proper assessment of the possibility of this class of weapons in our country was not immediately obtained. Most of the impressive achievements of our military-industrial complex are based on Soviet developments, which, for all their merits, are doomed, like any other technique, to moral aging. During the leadership of the Defense Ministry Serdyukov, Russian drones spent an impressive amount - five billion rubles (about $ 170 million), but the effect was very modest. According to the same minister, domestic developments were not comparable to foreign models. However, the presence of imperfect drones is better than their complete absence. At the same time (2009), a decision was made first about the purchase in Israel, and then the joint production of these reconnaissance devices.

The total amount of the contract with the firm Aeronautics Defense Systems was more than fifty million US dollars (for 12 pieces). The next five Orbiter UAVs differed from the previous ones with an expanded bundle, so they cost more, 600 thousand for each.

What can be done taking into account the experience of the most successful countries should not be confused with other tasks that are solved solely by domestic means. The dual-purpose reconnaissance vehicles produced by the joint venture can give only an initial impetus for Russian production. The firm "Tupolev", which is striving to create a shock-free unmanned Tu-300 system, took up the job. There are other developments, decisions on procurement of which are taken by the Ministry of Defense on a competitive basis.

The amount of budgetary funds allocated for the program and the technological level of the domestic defense complex make it possible to hope that soon Russian drones will become the best in the world. Or, at least, they will not yield in anything to foreign analogs. Of particular interest are the machines designed for electronic warfare.

And how to use it?

The management of unmanned aerial vehicles is the same specialty as the usual profession of a pilot. An expensive and complex machine can easily be broken about the land, making an inept landing. It can be lost as a result of unsuccessful maneuvering or shelling by the enemy. Like an ordinary plane or a helicopter, the UAV must be tried to save and withdraw from the danger zone. The risk, of course, is not the same as in the case of a "live" crew, but it is not worth throwing expensive equipment. Today in most countries, instructors and instructors carry out instructional and training work with experienced pilots who have mastered the control of the UAV. They, as a rule, are not professional teachers and computer specialists, so this approach is unlikely to last for long. Requirements for the "virtual pilot" are different from those that are imposed on the future cadet when enrolling in the flight school. It can be assumed that the contest among applicants for the specialty "operator of UAV" will be considerable.

Bitter Ukrainian experience

Without going into the political background of the armed conflict in the eastern regions of Ukraine, one can note extremely unsuccessful attempts to conduct air reconnaissance by An-30 and An-26 aircraft. If the first of them was developed specifically for aerial photography (mostly peaceful), the second one is exclusively a transport modification of the passenger An-24. Both planes were shot down by the fire of the militiamen. And what about Ukraine's drones? Why were they not used to obtain information about the dislocation of the rebel forces? The answer is simple. They are not here.

Against the backdrop of a permanent financial crisis in the country, the funds needed to create modern weapons were not found. UAVs of Ukraine are at the stage of sketch designs or the simplest self-made devices. Some of them are collected from the radio-controlled model aircraft, purchased at the Pilotage store. In the same way, militiamen also act. Not so long ago on Ukrainian television was allegedly shot down a Russian drone. The photo, which shows a small and not the most expensive model (without any damages) with a hand-crafted camera attached, can hardly serve as an illustration of the aggressive military power of the "northern neighbor".

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