5 Types of Unmanned Aircraft Systems for Military Applications

5 Types of Unmanned Aircraft Systems for Military Applications

‍Unmanned aircraft systems (UASs) have become a hot topic in today’s military and civilian security fields. They are also known as drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). UASes can be seen as a boon or a bane for the military and security personnel, and it often depends on training and safe operation.

A UAS is the most common type of machinery used by the military today to carry out reconnaissance missions safely from distant locations without putting human lives at risk. There are many different types of UAS that fall into this category, so it’s important to understand which ones are right for your needs before making any purchases or investing in any research and development projects.

In this article, we will discuss the main advantages and disadvantages of five different UAS categories: Airborne Vs. Maritime Unmanned Aerial Systems; Vertical Take-Off and Land Micro Air Vehicles; Hybrid VTOL Unmanned Aerial Vehicles; and All-Environment Unmanned Aerial Systems. Keep reading to learn about each and discover which AeroVironment UAS is right for your mission.

What Is an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS)?

An unmanned aircraft system or UAS is an aircraft without a human pilot on board. They can be launched from a ground-based control station and controlled remotely.

This type of aircraft is mainly used for military surveillance and reconnaissance missions. However, they can also be equipped with sensors and used for related purposes like electronic warfare, autonomous surveillance, and communications relays.

UAS are classified based on their use.

General Use Unmanned Aircraft Systems

General use UAVs are also known as medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) UAVs. These drones are used for surveillance and reconnaissance missions.

General UAVs are also leveraged for mapping and geospatial analysis. They can be operated from a carrier at any location that has a control or operator station.

Depending on the type of control system used, the manufacturer's specifications, and the desired application, general use UAVs can fly autonomously or be controlled via a remote pilot station.


Airborne Vs. Maritime Unmanned Aerial Systems

Airborne UASs can be operated from a remote control station on the ground and can be controlled via GPS. The majority of airborne UAVs are used for mapping and surveying purposes. They’re frequently used in environments where it’s too dangerous to put a person in a helicopter or airplane.

Two leading examples of high-performance UASes are AeroVironment’s Raven and Puma 3 AE. The Raven can fly 10 kilometers on a 90-minute battery, weighs less than five pounds, and is the most widely deployed UAS in the world. It also offers fully autonomous or manual navigation depending on the circumstances you’re facing.

The Puma 3 AE comes with mission-ready features like a Mantis i45 EO/IR gimbal sensor for low-light and nighttime operations. Whether you’re observing enemy movements by sea or land, the 3 AE can handle it all.

Another good application for both airborne and maritime UASes is in dense jungles where the terrain is too high and varied to be traversed by humans. Hostile forces often utilize uninhabited regions to gain a foothold against enemies, but with UASes, such enemy encampments can be located and planned for.

Vertical Take-Off and Land Micro Air Vehicles

Vertical take-off-and-land micro air vehicles, or VTOL MAVs, are another portable, ruggedized type of UAS. These UAVs can be launched from a ground-based platform or maritime ship.

They can be operated from a remote control station on the ground and can be controlled via GPS. The majority of VTOL MAVs are used for surveying purposes, similarly to other UASes. They can also be used for mapping and geospatial analysis.

AeroVironment’s Shrike VTOL has everything small unit commanders need to execute swiftly and confidently. Effortlessly use the Shrike’s payload with two fixed EO cameras, a 40+ minute battery life, and a three-mile line of sight.

Other examples of VOTL MAVs are Performance Drone Works’ (PDW) Sparo 20and Sparo 50. Both devices are compact, lightweight, and rapidly deployable UASes designed for military stealth and reconnaissance operations.

The primary differences between the Sparo 20 and 50 are size and weight. Where the Sparo 20 can fit within the palm of a soldier’s hand and weighs only two pounds, the 50 is larger, weighs about five pounds, and has a longer battery life. Both UASes are useful in limited visibility environments or where soldiers must collect intelligence from rapidly evolving enemy territory.

Hybrid VTOL Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

Hybrid VTOL UAVs like the Quantix Recon are a combination of a VTOL UAS and a fixed-wing UAV. They can be deployed from a land-based launcher or a ship and are operated through a remote control station on the ground via GPS.

The AeroVironment Quantix Recon is a case study in power and stealth. It’s capable of radio frequency silent mode, making it virtually undetectable at 360 feet. Soldiers can capture multispectral imagery with the Recon’s dual 18 megapixel cameras for up to 45 minutes of flight time.


All-Environment Unmanned Aerial Systems

All-Environment UASes are a combination of all the different types of UAVs mentioned above. They can be deployed from land-based launchers, ships, or from a soldier’s hand. The majority of all-environment UAVs are used for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) purposes, just like other UASes.

AeroVironment’s Wasp AE is the perfect example of a high-performance all-environment UAS. At less than three pounds, the Wasp can fly for 50 minutes with a three-mile line of sight. Its Mantis i22 gimbaled EO/IR sensor offers incredible results for encrypted video capture.

The Bottom Line

Unmanned aircraft systems have become a central part of reconnaissance and special military operations. AeroVironment produces UAS solutions that military units both large and small can count on.

Request an AeroVironment quote now or send us a message with any other questions.

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