Murphy's Law: May 30, 2004


The enthusiasm for UAVs by combat troops is causing an unexpected problem. Many companies, with new UAVs in development, are reluctant to let them be sent off to Iraq or Afghanistan, even when army and marine officers come by and ask. There is a big need for UAVs on the battlefield, but many aircraft developers are reluctant to send prototype systems off the combat zones. Part of the reason is obvious; these UAVs are still in development and they are more prone to failure under the stress of combat. Too many failures, especially if a journalist picks up on it, could be bad for business (that is, getting more contracts from the Pentagon.) And then theres the problem of supporting a prototype UAV over in Iraq or Afghanistan. It would probably mean sending some of your research people to provide the maintenance, which means slowing down development work. But another reason is that most of the companies developing the new UAVs are dependent on Department of Defense contracts and grants to pay for developing new UAV technology. If too much of their new stuff goes to war, and works well (even if a lot of maintenance is required), Congress and the Department of Defense bean counters may decide that they can safely cut back on money for UAV research and development.


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