Over the past decade, enormous improvements have been made in the capabilities, performance, and applications of unmanned autonomous vehicle (UAV) systems (airborne, marine, and terrestrial). Although unmanned underwater vehicle systems are used extensively in the oil and gas industry and have been around for decades, the advent of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), popularly referred to as drones, is relatively new. Previously the exclusive purview of military and high-tech civilian agencies, small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) are widely available today and are used increasingly in the public and commercial sectors. The price tag for a capable UAS system now ranges from less than US$5000 to more than US$1 million, with sustained flight times (endurance) ranging from about 20 minutes to five hours.

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