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A UAS is just not the vehicle that flies. An Unmanned Aircraft or Aerial System can be divided into three succinct elements:
These three elements can be further subdivided:
The Vehicle or Platform
The vehicle is the means to deliver the payload to its optimal position. UAS operate at all altitudes and the propulsion system has to be tailored to the mission. Electric engines are used for silent operations whereas UAS operating over long distances and at high altitude need jet engines.
The flight control system ensures the UAS follows the pre-programmed or Ground Control Station-updated mission flight path in the most economical way avoiding obstacles and other air users.
One or more can be carried on a UAS at any one time. It should be noted that munitions will never legally be permitted to be carried on a UAV operating in European and American civil airspace.
The purpose of a UAS is deliver or collect data usually in a dull, dirty or dangerous environment. The payload is the most important element of the whole UAS as this determines the payback or the economic or other gains. The vehicle itself does not deliver the message or the data: it merely gets the payload to the best location.
The Ground Control System or Station
The Ground Control Station (GCS) in tomorrow’s UAS environment will be part of an integral part of managed airspace. It will house the UAS pilot and the UAS commander and will appear to the outside world as if both people are actually on board the air vehicle.
To achieve all this, the GCS must have secure communications with both the air vehicle and the international, national, regional and local air traffic management infrastructure.
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