Defense Drone: Streamlining Military Operations

Drones have become an integral part of modern military operations, providing valuable intelligence and effective target acquisition from a safe distance. And they’re not just for the military; police drones have proven versatile and effective tools for search and rescue and tactical situations.

Over the past decade, the utilization of defense drones has surged, as highlighted by Dan Gettinger in The Drone Databook, with a 58% increase in the number of countries adopting these advanced technologies. This article explores the wide-ranging applications and considerable benefits that arise from integrating drones into the defense sector.

Defense Drones in a Nutshell

Defense drones, or combat drones, are unmanned motorized flying machines used by armed forces to surveil specific areas, such as hostile environments or border patrols, and to monitor enemy activity to deter potential conflict.

Military surveillance drones  are also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), remotely piloted vehicles (RPVs), or unmanned aerial systems (UAS).

Chula Vista Police Department: A pioneer in the field
The Chula Vista PD in California, USA, is a trailblazer in DFR implementation. As reported by DJI, in 2019 they became the first law enforcement agency to successfully implement this type of drone program, setting a precedent for other agencies to adopt DFRs as an essential public safety tool.

Tactical and Strategic Drones

Combat drones differ in terms of weight, range, and navigation method (the bigger the drone, the higher and longer it can fly). There are two categories of UAVs.

#1 Tactical Drones

These drones typically weigh between 16 grams and 150 kilograms. An example of a tactical drone  is the FLIR Black Hornet, which is considered the world’s smallest combat drone. It weighs only 16 grams and is designed to fly at lower altitudes and over shorter distances.

#2 Strategic Drones

Strategic drones are larger and weigh more than 150 kilograms. Notable examples of strategic drones include the MQ9-REAPER and MQ-1 Predator, which are designed to resemble real aircraft.

Both tactical and strategic drones can be armed with varying degrees of heavy payload.

How Defense Drones Enhance the Effectiveness of Military Operations

Increased Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Reconnaissance (ISTAR)

One of the most important ways in which defense drones contribute to the success of military operations is by increasing ISTAR.

By providing a continuous aerial view, they significantly improve observation performance and decision-making for ISTAR or Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) operations.

“Defense drones can increase the effectiveness of combat units by conducting reconnaissance in a given area of operations, such as identifying roadside explosives.”

Damien Bajard - Key Account Sales Manager, Elistair

Technological Advantages

Military drones offer several technological advantages that make them valuable for various operations.

  • Endurance: Tethered drones have remarkable flight persistence, with the ability to monitor a specific area for up to 50 hours. This feature is especially valuable for border patrol and search and rescue missions.
  • Versatility: Defense drones are not limited to following predictable, defined paths like satellites. They can be used for specific purposes, providing the flexibility to adapt to different operational requirements.
  • Long or short range: These drones can operate effectively both at long ranges, covering vast distances, or in close proximity when tethered or confined to a specific area.
  • Safety: Being unmanned air systems, they significantly reduce risks by performing critical tasks without endangering the lives of soldiers.
  • Multi-sensors: Equipped with advanced AI software, defense drones have multi-sensor capabilities, including optical zoom. This allows them to detect and identify enemy targets faster and from greater distances.
  • Discretion: Designed for low noise emissions and radar trails, they operate stealthily without being detected by enemies.

Limits and Dangers of Defense Drones for Military Operations

While military and police drones offer significant advantages, it’s important to understand their limitations and associated risks. Here are some key considerations.

  • Weather conditions: Defense drones can be affected by adverse weather conditions, such as high winds and heavy rain, which can limit their capabilities and operational effectiveness.
  • Free drone autonomy: While tethered drones can fly for up to 50 hours, free drones have a more limited flight time, ranging from a few minutes to 4-5 hours for the best-performing models.
  • Range capacity: A drone’s range is affected by its size. Smaller drones generally have a shorter flying distance compared to their larger counterparts.

Military surveillance drones play an important role in conducting military operations while minimizing risk to troops. With advanced on-board technology, including sensors and high-definition cameras, these drones provide valuable intelligence and situational awareness without endangering the lives of personnel.

Considering increasing security concerns and military modernization programs, the defense drone market is expected to witness significant growth, reaching $16.233 billion by 2028.

As the Defense Drone Global Market Report 2024 points out, it’s crucial for military institutions to prioritize developing and adopting such innovative technologies to stay ahead of emerging threats.