November 9, 2005:
The sky over Iraq is becoming safer to fly through, at least as far as not getting shot at with assault rifles and RPGs goes. But another danger is growing larger each month. And that is the ever increasing number of UAVs (over 500 are in use in Iraq) and electronic jammers (thousands in use to counter IEDs). While most of the UAVs are little guys (weighing less than ten pounds), hitting one can do a lot of damage to a helicopter or low flying aircraft, especially if the collision damages a vital component (like the pilot). There have been a few collisions, and a lot more close calls. No fatalities yet, but the danger is there. Perhaps a larger threat is all the electronic noise being put out by the IED jammers, and other types of jammers used. These are having unexpected effects on electronic equipment. This is a known phenomenon, and no one has yet developed a way to prevent this in advance.
Your average Iraqi now knows to halt a cell phone conversation if he sees an American convoy approaching. The U.S. IED jammers usually blot out cell phone signals for several hundred meters in every direction. UAV controllers try to keep their birds out of range of friendly jammers. Otherwise the UAVs can go out of control. The United States Air Force is calling for transponders on all UAVs, but that may not be possible with the smallest ones, which barely have room for the camera and radio equipment they carry just to perform basic functions.