Unmanned aerial vehicle

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RQ-4B Global Hawk in flight
Russian cargo drone VRT-300

An unmanned aerial vehicle ( English vehicle unmanned aerial, UAV , often part of a larger system, engl. Unmanned aircraft system, UAS ) is an aircraft that without an on-board crew autonomously by a computer or from the ground via a remote control operated and navigates can.

The ICAO , which is responsible for the organization of worldwide aviation, does not count model aircraft as UAVs in its work , the German Air Traffic Control differentiates according to the purpose: model aircraft for recreational purposes or for air sports activities are not " unmanned aircraft".

In the German language, unmanned aerial vehicles are often referred to colloquially as drones ; The term is used for both military and commercial unmanned aerial vehicles as well as for model aircraft such as quadrocopter controlled by first person view . In aviation, the term drone originally referred to an unarmed target for exercise.

The following article describes unmanned aerial vehicles according to the ICAO definition and the definition in Germany; to quadrocopters etc. For leisure and air sports, see the article flight model .

historical development

Unmanned, remote-controlled missiles have been used for a variety of purposes since the early 20th century. While experimental goals were initially pursued, with the beginning of the Cold War, military tasks were soon taken over. Initially and still in the future, the UAs served as “target drones” for target simulation of the air defense, and then came military reconnaissance: With the Lockheed D-21 , a supersonic reconnaissance UA was developed in 1966 on the one hand. On the other hand, a helicopter system flew with the Westland Wisp in 1976. Since 1995, with the General Atomics MQ-1, unmanned aerial vehicles armed with air-to-surface missiles were available to the military for targeted combat against ground targets. As the largest aircraft to date, a commercial aircraft was remote-controlled and crashed as part of the Controlled Impact Demonstration in 1984.

More recently, UAs have initially been the subject of public debate because of their regular use in the controversial “ targeted killing ” of terrorist suspects by the United States , particularly in clandestine operations in Pakistan . With the increasing spread of small, inexpensive UAs among commercial and government operators as well as recordable flight models among private individuals that can be used for surveillance, the topics of informational self-determination and data protection gained new importance.

Range of use

An unmanned aircraft can carry payloads, for example cameras and sensors for control and surveillance tasks and / or weapons for military operations , depending on its performance, purpose and equipment . Depending on the definition, even very small designs fall under the UAS, or only non-flight models. The dimensions can therefore range from a few centimeters ( micro-drone ) to the size of a commercial aircraft with a wingspan of around 60 m ( Boeing Condor ). Unmanned aerial vehicles are also used for secret service , police, civil / commercial or scientific purposes such as in climate research .

There are two types of drones designed for fire services:

  • A scouting drone developed by or with the New York Fire Department has a 61 m (200 ft) pull-back cord.
  • In 2017, Aerones tested an extinguishing drone in Latvia that uses a high lifting force (100 kg) to lift one end of a water-filled extinguishing hose from the ground in order to fight fires in high structures from great heights (designed to be 200–500 m), this is useful a power supply via an equally raised cable.

On May 12, 2017 in Māļi, Amata district, Aerones (transmitter: 57.083256 ° N, 25.590652 ° E) realized the jump of a parachutist - Ingus Augstkalns - from a drone for the first time. To be on the safe side, the jumper was lifted off the drone from a 120 m high transmitter mast and lifted 330 m above the ground before jumping off.

Droneboarding with an oblique pull from an Aerones drone was possible in 2 variants: As wakeboarding on water and snowboarding on snow. Aerones showed the maiden flight of a drone with a 100 kg capacity on September 1, 2016.

In 2016, Aerones showed a drone that takes off from the surface of the water, lifting a person out of the water, putting on a chest lifebelt attached to a rope and being flown close to the shore at a low height above water.

May 2017 the Norwegian manufacturer Griff Aviation presented the type GRIFF 300, a "Giant Heavy Lift Drone" with a dead weight of approx. 75 kg (160 lb) and a lifting capacity of 225 kg, with both the 4 pairs of rotor arms and the rotor blades are foldable.

In 2016 the US Forest Service reported on attempts to drop small firebombs with a diameter of about 3 cm from drones. These are stored on the drone and automatically filled with alcohol immediately before being dropped so that they ignite shortly after being dropped in order to extract food from a forest fire by burning down vegetation .

On April 10, 2017, Micromulticopter Aero Technology , Co. Ltd. (MMC), China, HYDrone 1800 (with a length of 1800 mm), a drone that - for the first time commercially - supplies its electric motors with energy via hydrogen fuel cells . A record hovering time of over 4.5 hours was achieved. In May 2017, MMC speaks of having over 300,000 km of overhead lines drawn over a period of six years with its drones and pilots trained by MMC. Typically, with the “Spider” drone with a lifting capacity of 5 kg, a red pilot line with a thickness of 2 mm is first pulled over the pylons occupied by people and then dropped. Then a white z. B. 8 mm plastic line withdrawn, with which the heavy overhead cable is then pulled in in turn with a powerful winch. They are used to replace manually drawn airships (blimps), ultralight aircraft or helicopters. A tied up drone (with cable or hose?) Has a non-stop flight time of 5 × 24 hours.

With several drones starting autonomously from an opening depot, which fly autonomously and communicate with each other as a swarm, forest fires or disaster areas can be independently researched and reported to an information center, which can be used to appropriately direct emergency workers who are outing.

Classification and terminology


With Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) of new or Unmanned Aircraft (UA), reference is made exclusively on the flying object.


With the Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) a newer general designation followed according to ICAO and replaced the designation UAV. The meaning of unmanned aerial system is also widespread . In addition to the aircraft (UAV / UA), it also includes all parts of the overall system (e.g. control elements, ground stations, etc.).

A classification and labeling of unmanned aviation systems in Germany is not yet available. The German Institute for Standardization e. V. is planning a project to develop a new taxonomy for Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS).

A global UAS classification could not be conclusively developed until 2010. Within Europe, the European Organization for Civil Aviation Equipment (EUROCAE1 Working Group 73) and the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics (RTCA2) responsible in the United States have not yet completed the joint process and have only presented a preliminary group system. The British Civil Aviation Authority adopted the classification system developed in the working group.

The US Department of Defense launched the UAV in 2011 according to the Joint Concept of Operations for Unmanned Aircraft Systems u. a. divided into five groups according to weight.

Weight Civil category Military equivalent Examples
1 up to 20 kg Small Unmanned Aircraft (SUA) or Micro Air Vehicle (MAV) Nano-UAS, Micro-UAS (up to 5 kg),
Mini-UAS or Miniature-UAS (up to 30 kg) and Close UAS (close range) (up to 1500 m altitude and a range of 10 km)
RQ-11 Raven , RQ-14 Dragon Eye , RQ-16 T-Hawk , Switchblade , Aladin , AR 100-B Mikado , Fancopter
2 20 to 150 kg Light UAV some NATO UAS (up to 1100 m altitude) ScanEagle , Harop
3 over 150 kg to 600 kg UAV some NATO UAS (up to 5000 m altitude and a range of over 50 km) RQ-7 Shadow , Luna , KZO , CL-289
4th over 600 kg and flight altitude below 5500 m UAV Tactical UAS (range of 160 km) MQ-1 Predator , MQ-8 Fire Scout
5 over 600 kg and flight altitude over 5500 m UAV Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) (up to 9000 m altitude and a range of 200 km),
High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) (over 9000 m altitude),
and UAS with hypersonic speed (up to 15000 m altitude and a range of over 200 km)
MQ-9 Reaper , RQ-4 Global Hawk , Avenger (Predator C) , Heron , Taranis , MQ-5B Hunter


As Unmanned Reconnaissance Aerial Vehicle vehicles (URAV) reconnaissance drones or UAV enlightening be called. The range of large drones is comparable to that of commercial aircraft. Depending on the design, the flight characteristics correspond to those of reconnaissance aircraft or airships . They can stay in the air for a day or two.

Especially with the reconnaissance drones, there is also a separate classification according to the deployment altitude over 10,000 m:


  • Medium altitude long endurance ( MALE ) fly at an altitude of 10–15 km


  • High altitude long endurance ( HALE ) of more than 20 km.


Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV) or Unmanned Combat Aerial System (UCAS) are names for unmanned, armed aircraft. In general, these aircraft are also known as combat drones. These weapon systems are increasingly used in military conflicts to combat targets. For the first time in 2012, the US Air Force trained more pilots for drones than for fighter jets and bombers combined.

Other names

  • Micro Air Vehicles (MAV) are small drones that have sufficient load capacity to transport image recording devices or other sensors. They have an action radius of a few kilometers and can reach an altitude of several hundred meters.
  • Organic Aerial Vehicle (OAV): Organic aerial vehicle (in the sense of expanding human senses ), for example the Class I UAV
  • Remotely Piloted Vehicle (RPV): Remotely piloted vehicle
  • Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (TUAV) are medium-sized drones with a weight of up to 300 kg and a range of 200–300 km. Most of the time, they do not start independently, but with the help of catapults or booster missiles. One example is the German LUNA drone .
  • Vertical Take-Off and Landing Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (VTOL UAV, sometimes also VTUAV): UAV taking off and landing vertically , for example Bell Eagle Eye or Kaman K-Max Unmanned Multi-Mission Helicopter. Thanks to the VTOL capability, neither a runway nor special take-off or landing devices are required. At the same time there is often the opportunity to hover or even land in between to watch ( hover and stare ).
  • Vertical Take-off and Landing Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (VTUAV or VTOL Tactical UAV): Vertical take-off and landing UAV especially for tactical (military) use. Many of the VTUAVs are also supposed to be outside the military, e.g. This can be used, for example, by the coast guard , general border surveillance or civil protection in some countries.
  • In 2013, Quadcruiser Airbus developed a quadrocopter with five rotors, a take-off weight of 12 kg and one hour of flight time in cooperation with SFL-GmbH in order to participate in unmanned aviation systems.

Military operation

Ground control station for drone operations

As early as 1931, the British Royal Air Force equipped three machines of the type Fairey III F under the name Fairey Queen with radio control and used them as target drones and training targets for fighter pilots.

Unmanned aerial vehicles are increasingly used for military purposes, whereby they can be equipped with weapons as so-called English unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAV) and used for close air support (“combat drone”). On the other hand, there are experimental aircraft for testing unmanned use as combat aircraft for combating air targets. A third military area of ​​application is reconnaissance and surveillance. In addition, they serve, among other things, logistics and transport purposes. Currently (as of 2014) between 55 and 78 countries use UAVs for military purposes.


  • The costs for the acquisition (apart from the RQ-4 Global Hawk ), the operation and the maintenance of drones are significantly lower than for modern manned military aircraft with the same purpose.
  • The training of drone pilots is less demanding and therefore shorter and cheaper than that of pilots manned aircraft.
  • Since drone pilots can take turns in shift work, the maximum duration of use of drones is significantly longer than that of manned aircraft.
  • Since drones are unmanned, there are no personnel who can die, injure or be captured in the event of a crash.


In the US, various locations with are research and development of UCAVs employed, such as the Joint Unmanned Combat Air Systems Program of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) of the United States Air Force and the US Navy ., According to a report by the British The Guardian In 2009 the United States Air Force planned to significantly expand its UAV fleet by 2047. As early as 2009, the Air Force was training more soldiers in the operation of UCAVs than aircraft pilots. The technology developed in such a way that in 2006 12 aircraft could be controlled simultaneously, in August 2009 50. The American military wanted to develop drones that could organize themselves independently as a "swarm" using algorithms in combat units ( Low Cost Autonomous Attack Systems , Locaas ). DARPA and NASA research and develop beyond unmanned systems with morphing Adaptable Structures (MAS) , which, thanks to so-called Intelligent materials ( smart materials ) their shape, texture and aerodynamic can change properties and adapt to different phases of flight such as the Cormorant . According to the author, Ronen Bergman, most of the unmanned missile technology used by the Americans was developed in Israel . Israel ranks first in the world for the production of such drones; further producers are the USA, France, Germany and Great Britain

UCAVs are also being researched and developed in Europe: see e.g. B. Dassault Neuron and as part of the European Technology Acquisition Program (ETAP).

After an order in 2011, Russia developed the heavy Su-70 and in 2014 the OKB Kazan commissioned the development of a 6-ton long-range drone .

Another development stage is the construction of so-called micro drones ( Micro Air Vehicle or Micro Aerial Vehicle (MAV)).

Known missions

In 1998/1999 the German Armed Forces used CL 289 reconnaissance drones in the Kosovo war . Furthermore, the Bundeswehr has had the LUNA drone in operational use since 2000. The UN weapons inspectors' inspections in Iraq in 2003 were also supported by unmanned aerial vehicles. By 2008, six complete systems of all-weather reconnaissance drones of the KZO type ("small aircraft target location") were introduced. For telecommunications and electronic reconnaissance ( SIGINT ), the German Armed Forces have ordered the five EuroHawks , the prototype of which should fly in 2010.

In 2003, Hamas tried to acquire possession of an Israeli drone in the Gaza Strip . Israel had prepared them with explosives, detonated them during the assembly on February 16, 2003, killing three high-ranking leaders of the Qassam Brigades .

In 2004 it became known that the Swiss Army was filming randomly selected private cars and civilians during training flights with the Ranger ADS 95 reconnaissance drone.

In 2006, Iran delivered Ababil- type UAVs to Hezbollah , which uses them under the name Mirsad 1 for reconnaissance or like cruise missiles . The UAV Ababil weighs 83 kg, has a warhead of no more than 40 kg and a maximum speed of 290 km / h. On August 7, 2006, an Israeli F-16 fighter jet shot down a Hezbollah Ababil UAV with a Python 5 air-to-air missile 10 kilometers off the coast of Haifa .

On August 5, 2009, the Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud was killed in an attack by a US UCAV ( → see also the main article on drone attacks in Pakistan ). At the end of January 2012, US President Obama officially admitted for the first time that the US military was carrying out attacks with UCAVs over Pakistani territory. These attacks became publicly known some time before and were not denied or confirmed by the United States Department of Defense until Obama's statement . Obama's portrayal that the attacks would pose a "minimal risk" to civilians is doubted by experts. By August 2011, over 300 attacks had killed over 2,400 people, including over 400 civilians. Former US Air Force drone pilot Brandon Bryant , who was certified to have been involved in 1,626 targeted killings when he was released in April 2011, stated in an interview published in April 2014 that the data was transferred to all US military drone missions the US military base Ramstein in Germany.

In June 2012, Abu Yahya al-Libi , “number two” of the al-Qaeda terrorist network , died in a UCAV attack. According to US reports, the death of the Libyan is the worst blow against al-Qaida since the killing of Osama bin Laden in May 2011.

In June 2013 it became known that Syrian government troops and militia loyal to the regime were increasingly using unmanned Iranian-type aircraft in the Syrian Civil War for reconnaissance and artillery observation in the fight against rebels.

On January 5, 2017, the Syrian military airfield Hmeimim , which was used by the Russian air forces, was attacked by a total of 13 drones, according to Russian military information, which tried to get onto the base's premises with small explosive devices as cargo. The Russian air defense shot down seven of the drones, the rest were brought down by electronic warfare.

In 2019 there were several drone attacks by the Yemeni Houthis against oil plants in Saudi Arabia :

  • In May 2019 on two pumping stations in an oil pipeline
  • On August 17, 2019 the Shaybah oil field with allegedly 10 drones.
  • On September 14, 2019, oil plants in Abqaiq and Churais with allegedly 10 Qasef 2K drones.

The Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani , who commanded the Quds Brigades of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and was considered the second most powerful military-political leader in the country after revolutionary leader Ali Khamenei , was attacked by a rocket with a drone on January 2, 2020 on the orders of US President Donald Trump killed by the MQ-9 Reaper .

In the civil war in Libya , both sides relied heavily on the use of drones. Initially, the LNA fighters started using Chinese long-range drones of the Chengdu Wing Loong type from 2016 , which were controlled by pilots from the United Arab Emirates . After the GNA troops had been pushed back into the capital Tripoli, they supplied Turkey with TB2 drones , with the help of which they succeeded in driving the LNA troops from all of western Libya within a few months. The UN special envoy Ghassan Salamé described the conflict as the largest drone war in history to date.


The Washington Post examined 50,000 pages of US military accident reports for a year and reported 418 US military UA crashes since 2001. No people were harmed in the crashes; most - 67 - crashed in Afghanistan , followed by the USA (47) - including one in Pennsylvania in the immediate vicinity of a primary school - and in Iraq (41). Others near Djibouti , in Pakistan and Mali .

Stress for pilots

Military UA pilots complain of various types of stress. Studies have found drone pilots to experience higher levels of combat stress than other units in Afghanistan. In addition, there are high signs of fatigue, emotional exhaustion and burnout. Despite the great distance to the actual war events, post-traumatic stress disorders are also found in drone pilots . According to a report in the New York Times, the reasons for this are the working environment, which is isolated from the fighting, and inflexible shift working hours. In addition, the lack of spatial and temporal distance between family life and combat missions leads to psychological stress. The study also reports stress due to staff shortages. Drone operators also have a direct overview of the battlefield over longer periods of time - sometimes with high-resolution cameras - without always being able to intervene. This fact is also assumed to be the cause of the psychological distress of drone operators.

Former US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta proposed a new Medal of Honor to honor soldiers for special achievements in drone and computer warfare when he left in 2013. His successor in office, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel , withdrew from this plan just a few weeks after his inauguration.

Military action and international law

Unmanned warfare has come under fire because it can violate the sovereignty of states and the rule of law , and UCAV attacks often kill uninvolved civilians . It is not yet known how many civilians were mistakenly killed.

The legal situation is controversial, in particular the US administration - also under President Obama - refers to the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive strike .

However, not every use of drones is legally problematic. Without a prohibition convention, it is generally not possible to derive a ban on a specific weapon system from international humanitarian law .

According to international law, a distinction must be made between combat operations within an armed conflict and outside an armed conflict. The former are legally measured against international humanitarian law and not against the human rights pact, the latter are subject to the regime of general human rights.

Humanitarian law distinguishes between international armed conflicts between states to which the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and Additional Protocol I of 1977 apply, and internal (armed) conflicts to which only Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and Additional Protocol II apply from 1977 apply.

In non-international armed conflicts, insurgents are generally denied the "combatant privilege" , i. H. criminal prosecution according to national legal systems is possible. As long as they take part directly in combat, attacks on them may be carried out lawfully. Terrorists who take part in combat operations - such as B. Al-Qaeda terrorists in Afghanistan, despite their status as civilians, lose the protection of international humanitarian law for the duration of their direct participation in hostilities.

Special case Pakistan The use of US-American unmanned aerial vehicles in the area of ​​Pakistan does not constitute a violation of Art. 2 Para. 4 of the Charter of the United Nations , since this took place with the approval of the Pakistani state and the drones were in some cases even stationed there. The USA and Pakistan signed a treaty shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 , the content of which is not publicly known (as of 2012).

However, the US UCAV attacks in Pakistan were carried out by the CIA (i.e. by civilians), but they are not considered combatants and therefore do not have a “combatant privilege”. Your actions may be punishable under national law (e.g. Pakistani or US law).

Since a US government memorandum became public in 2012, moral issues related to the use of UCAVs have been discussed in the US. One issue is that US citizens abroad can also become victims (be it as collateral damage or as a target) of a UCAV attack. When John O. Brennan was appointed to the Senate as nominee CIA director in January , he had to take a stand on the matter.

Under US law (as of 2012), the CIA's killing of terrorists abroad is still legal.

In May 2013, a Pakistani court in Peshawar declared the US UCAV attacks in Pakistani tribal areas a war crime . It demands compensation from the USA and a UN tribunal. Victims of air strikes had complained.


Iraqi scouts intercepted the unencrypted video data transmitted by a US military drone in 2009 and were thus able to follow the deployment of the UA.

The crime scene: Vom Himmel hoch (2018) addresses the suffering of the victims and the suffering of the perpetrators.

Civilian use

The increasing commercial use of drones and recordable model airplanes by private individuals raises new legal questions in connection with the use of airspace and the protection and preservation of privacy .

November 2017 - For the first time in the history of aviation, the Federal Aviation Administration of the United States ( FAA ) has the FAA airworthiness certification for the unmanned helicopter drone Camcopter S-100 for integration at the request of the US company Flightscan Corporation issued in the national airspace.

Assessment and documentation

In March 2011, USAF Global Hawks were used as part of Operation Tomodachi to assess the damage caused by the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami , particularly at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant . In June 2011, a T-Hawk , which was used for radiation measurements on the reactor site, made an emergency landing on a reactor building.

When assessing damage caused by storm, fire or water, drones are used because they can fly over the damage location at a low altitude and their built-in camera can provide an overview from a bird's eye view. The Technical University of Dortmund , the Universities of Paderborn and Siegen and various companies have jointly developed a drone that is equipped with gas detection devices and that is to be used by fire departments or the THW in the event of disasters. The project funded by the BMBF is called Airshield (" Ai rborne R emote S ensing for H azard I nspection by Network E nabled L ightweight D rones", in German: air-supported remote-controlled search for dangerous substances by network-supported lightweight drones)

In December 2011, the environmental organization Sea Shepherd Conservation Society used a drone to locate the Nisshin Maru , the flagship of the Japanese whaling fleet , on the high seas.

On the Solomon Islands in April 2014 , the devastation caused by heavy rainfall was the first to determine with the help of a multicopter . Satellite images could not be used because of the dense cloud cover.


The use of helicopter drones for biological pest control has been tested in the Freiburg administrative region since 2013. The parasitic wasp eggs wrapped in cornstarch capsules were dropped over the corn fields by remote control. This is where the wasp larvae hatched and then eat the eggs of the European corn borer . The coordinates of the field are entered and the capsules are distributed using GPS .

In 2015 field tests, the International Water Management Institute found that drones with the appropriate cameras can detect the temperature fluctuations that plants develop in the event of a lack of water, pest infestation or lack of fertilizer, up to ten days before the problems can be seen with the naked eye are. Such controls could keep crop failures to a minimum.

In July 2016, a further application in the field of pest control was tested in Austria, in which the vintner falcon , a flying wing drone that is modeled on a falcon in terms of contour and flight movements , and also simulates falcon cries, is used to protect vines. Its job is to drive away starlings that attack wine cultures. It should fly 14 hours a day until the end of the harvest. The pilot project is financed by the city of Rust, the winegrowing community and the state of Burgenland.

A study by an industry association in 2016 showed that so far 4% of farms in Germany have used drones.

May 2017 the use of a drone with a thermal imaging camera for the detection of fawns shortly before the mowing in Baden-Württemberg . The fawns, who still lack the flight instinct in the first four weeks of life, are 25 ° C outside and can best be portrayed in the morning.


On December 2, 2013 ( Cyber ​​Monday ), Amazon boss Jeff Bezos announced in a CBS interview that Amazon is planning to ship orders with rotor drones for 2014 under the Prime Air label . The planned drones have eight small rotors and can transport a maximum payload of 2.5 kilograms. The range is 16 kilometers. Their use for delivering food ordered on the Internet is not being considered for the time being, given their low payload.

In 2013, Deutsche Post AG also researched the use of parcel copters for particularly urgent shipments.

On October 18, 2019, the logistics service provider FedEx received an air carrier certificate for the commissioned company Wings, the first delivery of a parcel by drone. Various companies such as UPS, Swiss Post and others had previously tested their own systems.


Drones are increasingly being used as photo or video drones for taking photos and videos from the air.

In 2015, the FAA approved the test use of drones from the news broadcaster CNN .


The Austrian animal rights activist NGO Verein gegen Tierfabriken (VgT) used a film drone for a gate hunt. This was shot at by hunters.

Advertising / propaganda

On October 14, 2014, a Greater Albania flag was flown over the field during a football match in Albania . In 2015, a suspect was arrested in connection with the operation.

Security and precaution


In emergency service are police drones used.

Since 2009, within the framework of INDECT , an EU project for crime prevention in public spaces by means of video surveillance, u. a. researches how people with “ abnormal behavior ” can be automatically identified and tracked by autonomous camera drones.

Ministries of Education

Government agencies of the People's Republic of China first used drones in the summer of 2015 to monitor students taking exams for university admissions. A hexacopter circled over the test site looking for signals from prohibited communication devices.


In August 2013 was Defikopter presented a helicopter drone, which when activated by a mobile app automatically GPS -controlled a mobile automated external defibrillator (AED) lands or field yields by parachute.

Rescue services

In April 2019, the Swiss Air Rescue Rega presented a new, self-developed drone. The two-meter-long mini helicopter is to be used from 2020 to search for people in difficult-to-access terrain or in poor visibility. The drone is u. a. equipped with a thermal imaging camera and mobile phone tracking.


Atmospheric and space research

Since April 2010, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have been running an atmospheric research project in which Global Hawk UAS with additional sensors are used for scientific purposes. In August and September 2010, a drone collected information on Hurricanes Earl and Frank . In aerial archeology and aerial photography , drones are used for data collection, as well as in wind farms to research the wind farm effect.

A drone developed by NASA since the early 2000s called the Aerial Regional-scale Environmental Survey (ARES) was originally intended to explore the planet Mars in 2008 . After the project was not implemented in 2013 either, the plan is to use ARES as part of one of the next Mars Scout programs .

The Int-Ball camera drone has been tested in the Kibō module of the International Space Station ISS since mid-2017 . It is intended to relieve the astronauts of photography work and, in cooperation with ground staff, improve the implementation of experiments.


A drone (then also called an archaeo drone ) can e.g. B. considerably reduce the cost of surveying in connection with archaeological issues and make the corresponding exploration more efficient. This makes aerial archeology in particular much cheaper.


Australian scientists use small drones to count bird colonies more precisely, more easily and with less interference for the birds, so far (2016) for twelve colonies of penguins , swallows and frigate birds .

A study by the Shark Lab at California State University uses drones, among other things, for aerial surveillance of great white sharks along the coast of Southern California in order to also assess the risks for human beach goers. This will replace the previous helicopters and airplanes and save costs.

Use by private individuals

Model airplanes, in particular quadrocopters - “drones”, are not regarded as “unmanned aircraft” according to the ICAO definition as well as according to German jurisprudence, as long as they are used for private leisure and / or air sports activities; these are also covered in the article flight model .

Legal situation


The "International Civil Aviation Organization" coordinates the classification and specification of aircraft internationally; However, this does not include model aircraft for recreational use ("model aircraft, intended for recreational purposes only").


The relevant legal regulations for the use of unnamed aviation systems and flight models are predominantly standardized in Sections 21a to 21f of the Air Traffic Regulations .

For the production of aerial photos / videos from such aircraft or for non-recreational purposes, a permit from the respective federal state is required.

In Germany, the use of aircraft with video or photo opportunities over private land is viewed as an impairment of property and privacy and therefore the owner's permission is required - even if the recordings are not to be passed on. If people can be identified on recordings, they may only be published or passed on with their consent; Recordings that are not shared / published (and do not compromise privacy) do not require permission in this regard. Furthermore, photos and videos that were made from aircraft of certain buildings often do not fall under the freedom of panorama and affect, for example, the existing copyright of an architect - they may then only be published with his approval.

In December 2011, the Bundestag passed an amendment to the Aviation Act without discussion in the committees. It came into force and put “unmanned aviation systems” on an equal footing with the other eleven classes of aircraft . Only unmanned aviation systems outside of leisure activities were recorded here - model aircraft that are used for leisure activities have not been regulated here and there was no political debate about these models, for example with regard to the protection of privacy.

In the public perception, drone operations are often directly related to the strategy of targeted killing - the targeted killing of high-ranking terrorists. In this regard, the then Federal Minister of Defense Thomas de Maizière in 2012, when he campaigned for the purchase and use of armed drones, took the view that Germany would never take part in “extrajudicial killings”.

In Germany, 455,000 consumer drones are privately owned. The number of aircraft in commercial use in Germany is 19,000 (as of February 2019).


In Austria, the amendment to the Aviation Act  (LFG) of January 1, 2014 regulates the use of unmanned aircraft by § 24c to l. According to aviation law, a distinction is made between the following classes:

  • Toys - For unmanned devices (which can fly) "with a maximum kinetic energy" of up to 79 joules, which are used at a maximum height of 30 m above ground, the only thing that has to be ensured according to the Aviation Act is "that no persons or property are endangered by operation ". The general, independent assessment of hazards applies as with any other everyday act, including negligence or gross negligence in the event of damage. These toys do not require a permit (but must meet other product safety criteria) and can be used without a specific age limit. There is still no legal certainty as to whether the energy limit is to be applied to regular operation or the highest possible speed - possibly even in the event of a crash.
  • Flight models - Exclusively privately and only used for the purpose of the flight itself. With the exception of designated model airfields , they may only be flown within a radius of 500 m around the pilot and a maximum altitude of 150 m above ground. Aircraft models do not require approval up to 25 kg. In addition, a permit from the Austrian Aeroclub  (ÖAeC) or as an authority that carries out an assessment of the airworthiness requirements with included liability insurance is required for operation . The first-person-view flight  (FPV, via an onboard camera) is permitted according to the Austrian Aero Club if an additional observer maintains constant visual contact with the flight model and advises the FPV pilot of any dangers. The FPV pilot remains responsible, however.
  • Unmanned aerial vehicles  (uLFZ) in particular within the meaning of the LFG - For aircraft used outside of private areas (commercially used), in particular for work flights, photo flights, surveillance flights, etc., a permit from Austro Control is mandatory.
    • Class 1 uLFZ (with an existing line of sight to the pilot) are divided into hazard classes A – D depending on the location and weight of the aircraft, which results in various requirements with regard to airworthiness and technical equipment.
    • uLFZ class 2 (without line of sight to the pilot) require an approval process that corresponds to that of a manned aircraft.

In the case of a camera flight - whether commercial or private - data protection law is also relevant: recordings in public spaces are permitted as long as no individuals can be identified (without their consent); Any recording is permitted on one's own private property, but none at all on someone else's private property. The same applies analogously to microphones and other sensors.


In Switzerland, civil drone flights are allowed, provided the drone does not weigh more than 30 kilograms and does not come closer than 100 meters to large crowds (24 people in a confined space). Liability coverage of at least one million Swiss francs must also be taken out for drones weighing over 500 grams. Furthermore, the drone must be seen by the pilot at all times (eye contact, no video glasses!) And must not fly within 5 km of military or civil airports. Any exceptions must be agreed with Swiss air traffic control (Skyguide) or the groundskeeper.

A special regulation by the city of Zurich, which banned drone flights, was lifted on April 1, 2015.

From June 2020, Switzerland will take on the EU's registration obligation.

Other states

The first restrictions were enacted in the United States by the FAA with a directive in June 2014. According to this, model aircraft are allowed for private purposes, but the definition of a model aircraft is strict: A model must weigh less than 25 kg and must be visible to the pilot during use without the use of aids. Control using " first person view ", for example using goggles or a mobile phone, is therefore severely restricted because the pilot's field of vision with such devices is too limited and the authorities believe the risk of an accident is too great. Drones that are considered models are not allowed to fly commercial missions. When approaching an airport within 5 miles, the pilot must inform the tower concerned. Under pressure from the steadily increasing number of recreational drones in restricted airspace, government officials announced in October 2015 a future registration requirement for all drones of this type in the USA.

In the UK , the CAA requires flights only within sight of the pilot, but not higher than 122 meters or further than 500 meters. Drones equipped with cameras should keep a distance of at least 50 meters from buildings, vehicles and people. Unmanned aerial vehicles only need to be registered if they weigh more than 20 kg or if they are used commercially.

Defense Techniques

Russian soldier with a REX-1 in September 2018

Now that criminals have also used logistics drones to smuggle drugs in prisons , for example , the states of Bremen and Lower Saxony are considering the use of GPS whining . Lower Saxony presented another technology for drone detection: the so-called "drone tracker". The devices monitor the airspace using sound, thermal images, day-night cameras and, in later editions, also via radar. After the successful completion of the technical development, it would be possible to equip prisons with it, said the Lower Saxony Ministry of Justice. Systems such as “Drone Tracker” should be able to assign the signals from the remote control of a radio-controlled drone to the type via a database, if known, and warn the system user of the object.

In 2016, the Dutch police successfully tested eagles that see drones as prey, seize them in the air and land with them.

Deutsche Telekom plans to soon offer drone defense systems to companies and authorities.

The Russian company Kalashnikov manufactures the portable anti-drone handgun REX-1, which is used by the Russian armed forces. With the help of different attachable modules, interference can be effected in the frequency range from 800 MHz to 5.8 GHz.


Important manufacturers of unmanned military aircraft are the US companies Northrop Grumman , Lockheed Martin and Boeing, as well as smaller companies such as General Atomics , Sikorsky and AAI . Non-American manufacturers such as Airbus Group (EADS), Elbit Systems , Dassault Aviation , Baykar Technologies , TAI , IAI , Saab , Safran and BAE Systems also develop and build unmanned aerial vehicles.

Other manufacturers of unmanned aircraft are z. B .:


See also


Web links

Commons : Drone (Airplane)  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

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  2. a b International Civil Aviation Organization : Cir 328 AN / 190 “Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)” , p. 3, Section 2.4 “MODEL AIRCRAFT”.
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  131. The energy of a crash, especially after uncontrolled high rise, could be even higher: E kin  = mv 2 /2 <79 J would result in a maximum of 10 m / s speed 1.58 kg or 100 m / s at 15, 8 g flight weight. E pot = m g h <79 J is fulfilled if a missile at a height of 30 m does not have more than about 14  kg of mass; If you take into account the air resistance acting during a crash, more mass might be possible. Bill after 79 joules Toys - Which drone can you fly? Marcus Irsigler, on losmuchachos.at. Retrieved July 22, 2014.
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