Now that we are beginning to understand what they can do for us, unmanned vehicles, such as this Pioneer remotely piloted vehicle being catapulted into the air from the Saudi Arabian desert, are here to stay. It is critical that we develop a commensurate understanding of the impact of this resource-particularly on operational warfare.
It is fascinating to watch battlespace events unfold from the latest generation of unmanned vehicles (UVs). This ability has created rapid acceptance of the role of unmanned systems in a transformed military-so rapid that acquisition of this advanced capability has outstripped attempts at clearly defining operational roles.
Perhaps the greatest contribution UVs can make is to be an extension of operational reach, as an adjunct to rather than a replacement for human decision making. The rules of the game are changing, and UVs offer both convenient solutions and complex challenges. Unmanned systems allow an operational commander to extend his or her reach in terms of space, time, and force. Nevertheless, UVs are tools, and how we use them is more relevant than the technologies they proffer.