Gen. Norton Schwartz, Air Force chief of staff, said recently that unmanned aircraft system platforms are a critical component for intelligence gathering and surveillance. Additionally Schwartz called UAS operations increasingly important for supporting ground operations, the Air Force reported.
"We've got eyes 24/7 on bad guys," Schwartz said in a statement.
"We're at the point now where (ground forces) say, 'I'm not going in that door or turning that corner if I don't have my top cover.' That is the reality. That's how important what we're doing has become, and I think this is going to continue."
Schwartz acknowledged that there will always be a need for manned aircraft operations but said that the evolving capabilities and responsibilities of UAS operators will only increase.