Drones are everywhere! They’re used in television,
movies, toys, military, construction, sports, manufacturing, and more. And the newest technology
is even more advanced than you know. The official name for the remote controlled
“drones” we know and love/hate is UAVs or unmanned aerial vehicles, though the military
calls them Unmanned Aerial Systems or UASs. The word “drone” implies something which operates
on its own, though most military drones or UAVs are simply remote controlled — but for
the sake of simplicity we’ll call them drones anyway… The first weaponized drone was flown in 1994
— the Predator MQ-1; but advances in the last 20 years have been incredible. Take,
for example, the largest drone around today: a 757-sized UAV called Triton operated by
the U.S. Navy. Its 130-foot wingspan and fuel efficiency allows it to fly 2,000 nautical
miles in a mission, identify ships, de-ice its wings, and navigate turbulence — ALL
without human interaction. The thing can even be struck by lightning and still operate. Most flying drones operate for 20 hours and
are pre-programmed to fly to a specific area and look around, or piloted to a mission by
a person in a ground station. The military controls these giant aircraft from hundreds
of miles away via satellite communications, GPS and the aircraft’s onboard computers.
This combination of ground and space-based systems can affect how long information takes
to get to the pilot — Predators took a long as five minutes to get detailed information,
making the UAV system extra important, but today, the newest drones can provide 360 degree
video, infrared, and radar data: all live. Most UASs include line-of-site control for
take-off and landing, and satellite control during long flights and missions which would
go out of range of a tower or antenna. Obviously direct control is faster, satellites have
a 1-second delay… but if somehow the signal is lost from the human pilot, the drone can
be programmed to fly in circles, or return to its take-off point. It can even land on
its own if it has to. Drones aren’t only airborne. The drone boat
is a true autonomous and artificially intelligent helper boat. These drone boats are programmed
to swarm targets without human instruction — they can network with each other, and though
they’re unarmed, are supposed to isolate a craft or intercept enemy fire without putting
people in harms way. Another naval drone uses biomimicry technology to look like sharks
or fish! These drones can operate in 10 inches of water or dive to 300 feet either tethered
to a ship, or autonomously; only surfacing to communicate. They’re unarmed, but key for
intelligence gathering. The future of drones is getting crazy. Virtual
Reality is coming, where pilots can “look” through cameras and pilot aircraft or boats
like a video game. It’s already come to commercial drones used for Star Wars pod-racing-style
games. But the U.S. Air Force is pulling out all the stops with their “secret” space shuttle.
The X-37B launched in 2012 and orbited the earth for 500 days autonomously, returning
and landing on its own in 2014. No one knows what it’s for… but it’s technically a drone.
And people allegedly spotted Northrop-Grumman’s flying wings over texas, a type of aircraft
rumored for a long while, even tested by NASA, but still classified, if it exists at all. Drones have advanced so much in 20 years…
will another 20 have them delivering pizzas, filming football games, going to asteroids
and flying us around the globe. Who knows, but one things for sure, they’re here to stay.
There is something that could dampen drones in our time, if the people put their foot
down and stop their use in the military, but it doesn’t seem like that’s going to happen.
For more check out TestTube for the Pros and Cons of Drones in War here. That being said,
drones are machines, they’re not just for attacking, plenty of drones are used for good!
Seeker has a whole episode about how drones are making the world a better place. Which
you can see here!