Although military conflicts across the globe have brough surveillance government aircraft in general to the attention of the public these versatile pieces of equipment have a variety of uses aside from being weapons of war. However, no discussion of the multifunctional role that these ‘eyes in the sky’ fulfill would be complete without at least a passing mention of their role as lethal weapons of war.

Although surveillance aircraft started off their life as way to remotely gather information on enemy forces – and convey important information on the deployment of friendly forces they have become increasingly lethal over the years Especially those that are unmanned and there are many variants that baost crews to make their operation more effective). Today these small (and larger variants) of aircraft and their drone cousins can not only spot enemy movement, but can act to disrupt the activities of those forces thorugh lethal action. For instance the U.S. MQ-9 Reaper, which is sometimes called the Predator B is invaluable as a resource for gathering intelligence, its payloads can include Hellfire missiles and a variety of sub-munitions which have used with lethal effect in warzones across the globe.

However, it must be said that not all uses of umanned aerial vehicles lead to death and destruction – on the contrary they play an important part in many industries and business sectors when it comes to gathering data.

For instance, marine resources are among the most important assets any country with an extensive coastline can possess – those resources are increasingly under threat from nations that not only use them to feed their domestic popualtion, but also to earn foreign exchange. Unfortunately the fishing practices of many of these countries (and China must be mentioned) cause immense damage not only to the sustainability of fish stocks – but also to the ecosystems within which they reproduce. Surveillance aircraft can help countries spot illegal fishiing activity and take steps to drive off those commercial operators who are fishing within their territorial waters – an increasingly prevalent problem.

Surveillance aircraft can also be used to monitor cross border traffic, especially where that has happeningon an illegal basis. This not only protects the citizens of the country towards which the migration is happening, but at the same time can help to allocate resources to those migrants that are in need of assistance. The surveillance can assist in financial and strategic planning for the country where the migrants are entering. Surveillance aircraft are also important for law enforcement – especially when it comes to identifying the routes and procedures used by those who are intent on smuggling drugs across borders.

Given the increasing urbanization of the world’s population urban planning has become increasngly important. Monitoring traffic flow and even pedestrain traffic patterns has become increasingly autimated – and the use of ground based systems more prevelant. However, sometimes there is a need for a bird’s eye view of these movements – and this is where surveillance aircraft remain important. This is also incredibly important when it comes to disaster management planning. Given the fact that environmental disasters are becoming more and more prevelant across the globe the use of surveillance aircraft is going to be key to allowing governments to manage the movements of their citizens and mobilizing resources when the almost inevitable natural disaster does strike.

The equipment both manned and umanned that are used for aerial surveillance will remain indspensible tools for governments across the globe. However – there is aanother side to the technology. It is increasingly easy to use off the shelf components to sow terror among a popualtion – and to launch cross border attacks with umanned aerial vehicles whichhave been repurposed for use by non-state players who may wish to use terror to achieve these ends. It has become increasingly clear that finding methods of controlling this use of drones that were once designed for recreational use has become a strategic imperative for governments across the globe.