Global Analysis from the European Perspective. Preparing for the world of tomorrow




Drones: The Future’s Normality

The year was 1960. A stealth high flying aircraft was detected in the skies over an empire’s territory. The alarm was duly sounded, the air defence troops were placed on full alert and activated their anti-aircraft system. Soon a missile was fired and hit the target.

The year was 2014. A remotely piloted stealth craft was detected over disputed territory. After the alarm had been sounded and the defence troops put on alert, the flying object was electronically intercepted, its controls were taken over, and the craft was made to touch down.

The 1960 incident involved a piloted mission of an American spy plane that flew over the Soviet Union; the 2014 incident involved an American unmanned combat aerial vehicle that flew over the Crimea. Back in 1960 the USA attempted to tout the incursion into Soviet skies as a meteorological flight; in 2014 Washington attempted to justify the flight by saying it flew over Ukrainian territory having Ukrainian government’s permission to do so. The 1960 downing of an American plane led to an international tension; the 2014 interception of an American remotely piloted aircraft received a total news blackout.1)WOW: US Drones shot down over the Crimea, YouTube 2016-06-14; Russia says it intercepted US drone over Crimea, YouTube 2014-03-14; US-Drones shot down by Russia, in Crimea, YouTube 2014-03-12; Russia Says It Intercepted A US Drone Over Crimea, YouTube 2014-03-14.

UAV a.k.a DRONE

Remotely piloted aircraft or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) popularly known as drones (being an acronym for Dynamic Remotely Operated Navigation Equipment) have been used for years now, both for military and commercial applications. They have no on-board human pilot but are run from a remote terminal (in the case of military drones operating from as far as half a world away). They come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from a small craft to one that can be fitted in a soldier’s backpack, and go by a variety of names. Since they are unmanned, they are not limited by the human factor and so can fly or stay aloft for hours; they burn much less fuel than manned aircraft; they are guided by a satellite control system and are equipped with sensors and high-resolution cameras that can make out people or objects from miles away

NON-MILITARY USE

Drones have multiple known applications and many others that are waiting to be invented. These unmanned craft can carry out real-time surveillance, take aerial or sports photography, help in crop management by identifying crop damage or doing precise spraying of plants; they can deliver packages, help in wildlife and atmospheric research or monitoring, survey the ground for archaeological sites or illegal hunting; they can inspect power lines, supervise ongoing investments and maintenance of existing infrastructure and so on, and so forth. Unmanned aircraft can also be employed in filming movie scenes and just for fun. These are but a few serious civilian uses.

MILITARY USE

It is the military that took utmost interest in the use of UAVs. Since they can do surveillance without risking human life, spy on and hover over targets for hours, they render invaluable assistance to ground troops. They are also tasked with… following and executing HVIs i.e. High Value Individuals.

UAV have been used by the US Military not only for intelligence gathering but also in combat in Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan and Pakistan, where they have killed thousands of individuals (including civilians);2) Obama drone casualty numbers a fraction of those recorded by the Bureau, USA Today 2016-07-01; Get the data: Drone wars, USA Today;it is estimated that up to 70% of Al-Qaeda top leadership has been done away with in this way.3)Things you didn’t know about Military Drone Technology Full Documentary, National Geographic Channel, YouTube 2016-04-05.The Pentagon has 10.000 drones (Predator, Reaper, Global Hawk) at its disposal and the US Army is currently training more remote pilots than fighter and bomb pilots combined.4) Things you didn’t know about Military Drone Technology Full Documentary, National Geographic Channel, YouTube 2016-04-05.Apart from finding and targeting high value individuals, drones engage in electronic warfare as radar decoys, to which countermeasures are being developed. Some of the drones flying over the Crimea, where the Russian Sevastopol Black Sea navy port is located, are claimed to have been disabled electronically and at least and of them electronically intercepted and forced to land in a Simferopol airfield.

Military UAVs are manufactured on a large scale in the USA, Israel, China, Pakistan and Turkey. Other countries, like Russia, which to make up for lost time purchased Israeli drones, are following suit. Even Islamic State fighters make use of them: they avail themselves of commercial quadrotor drones that are available for less than $1,000 online.

Sales of drones for business or private use has skyrocketed, which opens up new problems: one is relative to legal regulations that, granting the ever growing number of unmanned aircraft, are desperately needed, and the other to preventing drones from being used illegally. UAVs, especially in such numbers, are an air traffic hazard. Drones are known to have collided with other ground or air vehicles;5)Plane Collides With ‘Drone’ Near London’s Heathrow Airport, Fortune 2016-04-18.at least one attempt was reported in which a drone was used to smuggle tobacco and drugs into a prison;6)Prison drone dropped heroin, marijuana and tobacco, Mansfield News Journal 2015-08-04.a drone has crashed on the White House.7)Drone That Crashed at White House Was Quadcopter, Time 2015-01-26.Use of drones may pose a threat to nuclear power plants, government facilities or other important objects.

DRONE MARKET

Unmanned air vehicles are manufactured by already existing companies as well as startups.8)Former Alaska Airlines CEO Joins Board Of This Hot Drone Startup, Fortune 2016-06-29.The potential market is huge and growing. It is not only drones that come into play but all the supporting tech and software for air traffic control systems, especially systems for making vehicles autonomously aware of each other so they can avid collision, and hard- or software that intercepts, downs or disables rogue drones i.e. spying ones are those posing a threat. No wonder then that sales of drones have more than tripled over the last year to about $200 million. At present the average drone is sold for over $550. Sales are expected to grow from 2.5 million drones in 2016 to 7 million in 2020—a 180% increase.9)Drone Sales Have Tripled in the Last Year, Fortune 2016-05-25.Hobbyist sales will more than double from 1.9 million drones in 2016 to 4.3 million in 2020. Emerging companies can turn into big businesses. Since each industry has diverse needs, and as a consequence requires different types of drone-powered solutions, there seems to be no limit to entrepreneurs. The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) believes that 2017 will be the big turning point in drone adoption by businesses. Commercial sales are expected to reach 2.5 million, after which sales will increase only slightly for the next few years.10)Drone Sales Are About To Go Crazy, Fortune 2016-03-25.PricewaterhouseCoopers said the global market for commercial drone work could be worth $127 billion.11)Here’s Why the Drone Industry Just Had A Milestone Moment, Fortune 2016-06-21.

MANUFACTURERS AND INVESTMENT

Top consumer drone manufacturers or manufacturers of related hard- and software include such Chinese companies as DJI Innovations, Hubsan, JJRC Toy Co. Ltd, Cheerson Hobby Technology, Yuneec; the French Parrot, American 3D Robotics, Blade, and Hobbico.12)Popular Quadcopter Drone Manufacturers 2016, Air Drone Craze.

Drone stocks to invest in are those of GoPro (manufacturer of drones for consumer use), InvenSense (producer of important supporting tech), Google (which has acquired Titan Aerospace, which makes drones that can fly up to the edge of the earth’s atmosphere; Google is planning to employ such to bring the internet to the most remote corners of the globe), Lockheed Martin (for military applications), Boeing, Ambarella (manufacturer of chipsets and software that record and transmit high definition videos), Skycatch (produces small drones for keeping track of large areas), Amazon (which is planning to use drones to deliver packages), Northrop Grumman (drones for military use like the famed Global Hawk), and IXYS Corp. (provides the power controllers and power chipsets for drones).13)Top 10 Drone Stocks to Invest in 2016 and Beyond, Personal Income.

References   [ + ]

1. WOW: US Drones shot down over the Crimea, YouTube 2016-06-14; Russia says it intercepted US drone over Crimea, YouTube 2014-03-14; US-Drones shot down by Russia, in Crimea, YouTube 2014-03-12; Russia Says It Intercepted A US Drone Over Crimea, YouTube 2014-03-14.
2. Obama drone casualty numbers a fraction of those recorded by the Bureau, USA Today 2016-07-01; Get the data: Drone wars, USA Today;
3. Things you didn’t know about Military Drone Technology Full Documentary, National Geographic Channel, YouTube 2016-04-05.
4. Things you didn’t know about Military Drone Technology Full Documentary, National Geographic Channel, YouTube 2016-04-05.
5. Plane Collides With ‘Drone’ Near London’s Heathrow Airport, Fortune 2016-04-18.
6. Prison drone dropped heroin, marijuana and tobacco, Mansfield News Journal 2015-08-04.
7. Drone That Crashed at White House Was Quadcopter, Time 2015-01-26.
8. Former Alaska Airlines CEO Joins Board Of This Hot Drone Startup, Fortune 2016-06-29.
9. Drone Sales Have Tripled in the Last Year, Fortune 2016-05-25.
10. Drone Sales Are About To Go Crazy, Fortune 2016-03-25.
11. Here’s Why the Drone Industry Just Had A Milestone Moment, Fortune 2016-06-21.
12. Popular Quadcopter Drone Manufacturers 2016, Air Drone Craze.
13. Top 10 Drone Stocks to Invest in 2016 and Beyond, Personal Income.

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