This document presents the Department of Defense's (DoD) roadmap for developing and employing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) over the next 25 years (2000 to 2025). It describes the missions identified by theater warfighters to which UAVs could be applied, and couples them to emerging capabilities to conduct these missions. A series of Moore's Law-style trends are developed to forecast technological growth over this period in the key areas of propulsion, sensor, data link, and information processing capabilities. The result is a roadmap of capability-enhancing opportunities plotted against the life spans of current and projected UAVs. It is a map of opportunities, not point designs — a Descriptive, not a prescriptive, future for UAVs.
This study does not necessarily imply future officially sanctioned programs, planning, or policy. Further, the conclusions at the end of this study are not currently funded or programmed within the military Services' plans. This section is not direction to any DoD organization to pursue any specific course of action. It is merely intended to highlight opportunities in the broad areas of technology, operations, and organizations, that the Services, industry, or other UAV-related organizations may wish to consider when developing plans and budgets for future UAV activity.
The U.S. military has a long and continuous history of involvement with UAVs, stretching back to the Sperry/Curtiss N-9 of 1917. UAVs have had active roles in the Vietnam conflict (3435 sorties), Persian Gulf War (over 520 sorties), and in the ongoing Balkan operations, providing critical reconnaissance in each. With recent technologies allowing more capability per pound, today's UAVs are more sophisticated than ever. As the military's recent operational tempo has increased, so too has the employment of UAVs. Over the past decade, the Department of Defense has invested over $3 billion in UAV development, procurement, and operations, and will likely invest over $4 billion in the coming decade. Today, the DoD has 90 UAVs in the field. By 2010, this inventory is programmed to grow to 290, with UAVs performing a wider variety of missions than just reconnaissance.