How Can Unmanned Aerial Vehicles be Best Integrated into Homeland Security?   [open pdf - 89KB]

"Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are evolving into a preferred method of accomplishing overhead military intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. Capable of carrying a variety of sensors and electronic tools, they can provide real-time still and video imagery, collect signal intelligence, support communications links, conduct electronic jamming, and even deliver munitions on targets. Their long loiter time, low detectability, relative inexpensiveness, and low-risk due to their unmanned nature have caused a revolution in battlefield surveillance. There is little wonder that they are now gaining attention in the nation's rush to increase homeland security and defense. Decision makers see them as force multipliers and perfect for patrolling borders, coasts, ports and critical infrastructure. As UAV technology continues to evolve, the types and capabilities of these vehicles will proliferate to meet individual customer requirements. Without an integration plan, applications across the homeland security and defense community will be pursued individually by each of the agencies involved. Each will have to grow its own UAV expertise and, in their rush to acquire this technology, will likely end up with incompatible systems, further complicating integrated homeland security and defense command and control. This very scenario played-out in the DoD as the services rushed UAVs still in development into the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq. In April 2005, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force commented that the U.S. military is now operating 750 UAVs in Iraq, jamming each other's radio frequencies and confusing command and control. There have been two mid-air collisions between UAVs and other airplanes in theater. This same scenario should not be allowed to evolve in the crowded skies over North America. The thesis of this paper is that the most efficient process for integrating UAVs into homeland security operations is to centralize responsibility under NORTHCOM."

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