Need To Maximize RPV Use Where Suited To Save Lives and Dollars]

Gao ID: 115901 July 22, 1981

A GAO survey showed that the state-of-the-art was not a major barrier to using remotely piloted vehicles (RPV's) as an alternative to manned aircraft in many situations. Recovery technology was found to be the most significant technical barrier. Non-technical matters, such as airspace safety and Government regulations on RPV operations, were also viewed as moderately severe barriers. The technical limitations which now exist could be solved if a real interest in RPV's was to develop. Most experts ranked user apathy as the most important reason for the lack of widespread use of RPV technology. The technology also suffers from user unawareness and weak market forecasts. The most important factors behind the limited use of RPV's by the military services are user reluctance and lack of funding support. RPV's have the greatest advantage over manned systems where the mission entails great risk to the pilot. The smaller size and less visible silhouette of an RPV allow it to have greater survivability than larger aircraft. The RVP's also perform better under boring, fatiguing, and hazardous conditions. Cost savings are also a major advantage. These include lower initial systems acquisition cost, lower operating costs, fuel savings, and lower costs of personnel training. The greatest disadvantages to military RPV systems are their performance under emergency or unforeseen conditions, and recovery difficulties. Civil use of RPV's will depend on military development efforts. RPV technologies are currently being applied to several military systems now in development. The Department of Defense (DOD) will continue to consider the application of RPV technology and support RPV acquisition programs when appropriate. GAO feels strongly that there should be a close scrutiny of proposed manned aircraft developments by Congress and DOD top management to assure that adequate consideration is given to the use of RPV technology.

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