If you thought flying drones were exclusively American, think again. After a series of mishaps, the British and Russian unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) programs are back on track, Aviation Week reports -- part of a worldwide trend towards the pilotless planes.During the Cold War, the Soviets were among the planet's leaders in drone development. According to the magazine, in the mid-60's -- decades before the U.S. deployed its high-flying Global Hawk unmanned eye in the sky -- the U.S.S.R. had a high-altitude, supersonic spy drone, the Yastreb ("Hawk").But UAV efforts collapsed in the 90's, after the meltdown of the Soviet system. Only very recently did a recovery begin. The low, fast-flying Tu-300 Korshun may become Russia's first armed drone. And Russia's premier fighter-maker, Sukhoi, is working on a number of UAVs similar to the American Predator and Global Hawk.The U.K.'s drone program never reached the heights of the Soviet effort."If not quite the nadir of system development in the 1980s, then the only reason the Phoenix reconnaissance (UAV) program did not garner this most unwelcome of accolades was the fierce competition," Aviation Week sniffs.But now, the Brits are getting back on track. The Watchkeeper tactical UAV is meant to be in place by 2007, maybe earlier.THERE'S MORE: "The Soviets weren't the only ones" doing drones in the 60's, notes Defense Tech reader JA. He provides a link to a Lockheed UAV from '64.
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