Remember When Drones Were Supposed to Be Simple and Cheap?

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Army photo / Sgt. Travis Zielinski

An Army MQ-1C Sky Warrior drone touches down.

The data we keep getting about the Pentagon’s growing fleet of unmanned aircraft don’t suggest they’re going to be the cheap and dirty replacement for their manned counterparts that many once believed.

Take the Army’s fledgling effort (link) to build what it is calling “an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Complex” at Fort Campbell, Ky.

Pentagon 101 tells us

— Anything labeled a “complex” is not cheap.

— Anything labeled using capital letters is not a bargain.

This is what the Army wants to do:

The proposed contract will be to construct an Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Complex to include a standard design company operations facility with covered overhead storage, a tactical equipment maintenance facility, organizational storage, hazardous waste and oil storage, and organizational vehicle parking. Additionally the project shall include the completion of a taxiway and runway extensions on either end of the runway. Work also includes information systems, fire protection and alarm systems, Intrusion Detection System (IDS) installation, and Energy Monitoring Control Systems (EMCS) connection. Sustainable Design and Development (SDD) and Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct05) features will be provided. Supporting facilities include extensive phasing of the site development with on-going contractor for the FY12 Phase IUAS Hangar Complex, utilities and connections, lighting, paving, parking, walks, curbs and gutters, storm drainage, information systems, landscaping and signage. Heating and air conditioning will be provided by self-contained systems. Measures in accordance with the Department of Defense (DoD) Minimum Antiterrorism for Buildings standards will be provided. Special construction includes sustainable construction features complying with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) “Silver” for each facility and site. Access for persons with disabilities will be provided. Comprehensive building and furnishings related interior design and audio visual design services are included.

Cost? Up to $25 million.