Britain announced its plans to spend more than $6.5 billion to purchase 657 military drones, the Sunday People reports. It includes 10 Reaper MQ-9s, which are armed with Hellfire ¬≠missiles plus laser-guided 500lb bombs and can hover 20,000ft above targets for more than 20 hours.
According to the publication, Reapers could be operated 3,500 miles away from Afghanistan’s warzones by a two-man crew. Yet, most of the drones will be unarmed and constructed for spy or fly recce missions.
A Freedom of Information request found the biggest number of UK drones are the 324 Black Hornet Nano micro-helicopters, ¬≠only four inches long and an inch wide (100x25mm). They fly over insurgent ¬≠strongholds to film and take pictures. Then there are 222 Desert Hawks, plastic spy-drones with a 4ft 3in ¬≠wingspan (1.3m).
For tougher operations, 54 Watchkeepers can stay aloft for 17 hours. Nine more are due in service soon to ¬≠replace ¬≠ageing Hermes 450s. By ¬≠contrast 30 Tarantula Hawks weigh just 20lbs apiece and are used as recce aides by bomb-disposal teams in Afghanistan.
Lastly there are eight ScanEagles, a specialist drone being used in the ¬≠campaign against Somali pirates.
Drones are likely to make up a third of all RAF working aircraft by 2030 but human rights groups fear they could be used to spy on the innocent public.
Although using unmanned aircraft in military operations is criticized by many people all over the world, the UK keeps on saying that drones are an effective weapon and should be used more in the foreseeable future.
Despite critics‚Äô claims that drones often kill civilians, the UK says that only one civilian was killed as a result of 459 missile strikes from its unmanned Reaper aircraft in Afghanistan.