The military has five groups of UAS. The largest, Group 5, incorporates the RQ-4 Global Hawk and MQ-9 Reaper, both of which are roughly the size of a small manned plane and are designed to fly great distances. There are only 101 Reapers and 34 Global Hawks.
On the other end of the spectrum in Group 1 are the smaller UAS, such as the RQ-11 Raven and the Puma. These are designed to be lightweight and easily transportable, often used at the troop level for surveillance and reconnaissance. There are 1,137 Pumas and 7,680 Ravens, with which U.S. troops train foreign militaries.
In between are the mid-sized UAS such as the much-discussed Predator and RQ-7 Shadow.
No matter their size or use, drones continue to catch national attention, which King attributes largely to that very word, particularly when used in media reports such as this one.
It creates "a very specific picture," he says: "The big killer airplanes that have absolutely no mind or thought process. They're spying on anything and everyone and before you know it fury is going to rain down from the skies."
From a military perspective, that couldn't be further from the truth, he says. "They're a platform. They're a piece of equipment just like any other airplane."
King points to other aircraft, like the F-16 Falcon, which carries surveillance technology comparable to a drone, but does not elicit the same kind of instinctive call for Fourth Amendment rights, he says.