“The role of the living pilot is steadily declining”


The aggravation in Nagorno-Karabakh has already been dubbed the drone war. And so far only one side of the conflict uses them – the army of Azerbaijan. There is just a heap of video footage on the Internet, where Azerbaijani unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) either fiercely fire or turn into a bomb themselves. At the same time, there are also a lot of unmanned aircraft in Armenia. Together with experts, we analyzed the actions of Azerbaijan’s drones in Karabakh and suggested what the future holds for aerial drones.

They thought about aviation without a pilot as soon as a person first took to the sky. It seemed that there were no difficulties: wings, an engine, it remained to deal with stable radio communication. But this is what delayed the appearance of the first drones until the end of World War II. The first drone was raised by the Americans – they were still able to establish radio control of the aircraft. It is noteworthy: the first drone was not a reconnaissance, but a strike board. A radio-controlled American in February 1944 destroyed a Japanese ship with a torpedo.

the first drone was not a reconnaissance, but a strike board.

After that, there was the Cold War and the heyday of spy drones. But drones became a full-fledged weapon and not an expensive toy as a means of support at the beginning of the 2000s. The development of computer technology made it possible to supply them with sane electronic “brains”. The UAV arsenal began to grow rapidly.

Today, a drone is both a striking element and an almost ideal scout. So, in the same Nagorno-Karabakh, two representatives were noted: the Turkish drummer Bayraktar 2 and the Israeli Orbiter.

Drummer Bayraktar 2 Turkish Drone in Nagorno-Karabakh war
Drummer Bayraktar 2 Turkish Drone in Nagorno-Karabakh war

The duration of such a radio-controlled “eye” from heaven is from several hours to a day. In fact, the drone is controlled from the operator’s console, but theoretically, it can be coordinated from any command center at a distance of 50 km.

Another curious sample is being supplied from the Promised Land to Azerbaijan – the Harop kamikaze drone. The very same footage that filled telegram channels and YouTube with confirmation of strikes from UAVs is the work of Harop.

Harop kamikaze drone- Israeli in Nagorno-Karabakh war
Israel’s Harop kamikaze drone

Its power is quite enough to cause irreparable damage to an unarmored target. Moreover, he is a cunning drone – he is almost not seen by radars, because he manages to go below their action. Often only direct visual contact can save you from such an air destroyer, if, of course, you have time – the speed can reach up to 300 km per hour.

But, as The Eastern Herald experts assure, reconnaissance drones are more dangerous. They “highlight” the target, after which you can inflict a crushing blow with anything. For example, rocket launchers “Grad” or large-caliber guns “Hyacinth”, as happened in Nagorno-Karabakh.

As for the future, experts almost unanimously say that drones will occupy the most prominent place there.

“Moreover, the role of a living pilot will be steadily decreasing,” military expert Mahmood Fani assures The Eastern Herald – In this case, artificial intelligence, on the contrary, will be a priority. Therefore, I think, a complete unification of control and guidance of manned and unmanned aircraft will gradually take place.

Others predict a more radical option. Drones will generally replace classic aviation.

“For example, a 6th generation aircraft will pretend to be a womb, which will release different drones from itself, depending on the tasks,” said Vladimir Shvarev, deputy director of the World Arms Trade Analysis Center (TSAMTO). – So, the UAV, together with the main vehicle under human control, will turn into a powerful striking force.

By the way, Vladimir Shvarev and a number of other experts do not exclude that such an aircraft itself will be radio-controlled. Why can this be so, the military doctors are trying to explain. The fact is that overloads during modern air combat are already reaching the limit of human capabilities. Further, the human body will no longer withstand.

Another reason is psychological. In June 2018, the University of Cincinnati conducted an experiment: they launched a head-to-head collision between a real pilot and an artificially controlled plane. And the man lost! The electronic “brains” turned out to be more rational and faster – there was no delay in thinking “must-do not”, “it will work, it will not work.”

The vulnerability of the human psyche is even more convincing to specialists that it is advisable to use unmanned aircraft instead of the usual one. Studies have shown that even an operator outside the cockpit of an aircraft experiences extreme stress if he needs to direct an attack drone to a living target. An assumption was made – even the most notorious thug behind the drone’s control panel will not be able to endlessly kill people, will break loose. Artificial intelligence, of course, does not face such a question in principle – if you set the appropriate settings, there will be no refusal of the order to kill.

Meanwhile, Armenia also has at its disposal a good example of unmanned aircraft, comparable to world analogs. This drone “Krunk” or “Crane”. It is the so-called middle-class UAV, autonomy – up to 5 hours in the air. This is not much, but the same Nagorno-Karabakh during this time can be flown up and down dozens of times. By the way, according to some information, there are some Armenian unmanned “cranes” in Stepanakert. True, no one has yet seen them in the sky over Karabakh.

© The Eastern Herald
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Amanda Graham
News staff at The Eastern Herald. Writing and publishing news on the economy, politics, business, and current affairs from around the world.