One of the more successful UAVs in use these days spends most of its
time deliberately getting shot at. The Mirach 100/5 target drone is the latest
generation of such aircraft. Radio controlled aerial targets became practical, and
popular, about half a century ago. The Mirach is typical of those in use today.
It is a jet aircraft, weighing 700 pounds, and with a wingspan of about seven
feet. It is launched via two small rockets, and can stay aloft for about 100
minutes, before it returns to earth via a parachute. While you can use towed
targets for gunnery practice, for air-to-air missiles, you need a jet aircraft.
The missiles are modified to not actually hit the drone, so that one drone
sortie can provide training opportunities for several aircraft. The Mirach can
be programmed to fly a certain course (using GPS), or can be controlled by an
operator on the ground, or a nearby aircraft. The Mirach can be up to 65
kilometers from the operator. Some of the technology developed for target
drones, helped in the emergence of modern UAVs, which became extremely useful
mainly because cheaper, more powerful video cameras appeared, along with
relatively cheap satellite communications.