by enabling unique missions or by providing significant cost savings. The following steps are recommended for establishing a research program for UAV technologies:

  • the establishment of requirements for a range of missions and system attributes, with a focus on key air vehicle concepts

  • the identification of technologies that could meet requirements

  • the development of technology forecasts and trends for relevant technology areas

  • the initiation of research that could provide the necessary technologies

Both fundamental research and technology development will be required to improve available technologies and develop military UAVs with significantly lower system development costs.

Because of the wide variety of possible configurations and missions, the committee used “notional vehicle types” to identify technical areas of need. Three notional vehicle types were identified as indicative of the range of technologies that would improve the USAF’s capability of designing, producing, and fielding generation-after-next UAVs. The notional vehicle types represent classes of vehicles, not conceptual aircraft designs suited to any particular mission. The three vehicle types were:

  • high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) vehicles, to provide a focus on long-term technical advances for reconnaissance and surveillance aircraft

  • high-speed, maneuverable (HSM) vehicles, to emphasize the potential for a highly survivable, second-generation combat UAV

  • very low-cost vehicles, to highlight performance-cost trade-offs

Based on analyses of the notional vehicle types, the committee identified technical needs and opportunities in research and development for major UAV subsystem technologies. The committee considered the following five technology areas: aerodynamics (and vehicle configuration); airframes (especially materials and structures); propulsion systems; power and related technologies; and controls.


Two issues related to system design—(1) human-machine science and (2) manufacturing and design processes—will strongly influence the design of future UAVs. Both issues should be considered in the selection and prioritization of research opportunities. Human-machine science includes (1) integration of human-machine systems (e.g., allocation of functions and tasks and the determination of the effects of automation on situational awareness), (2) human performance (e.g., human decision-making processes and methods for defining and

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