Predator, Reaper, Snipe, Switchblade, Wasp and Shadow are military grade drones with names that speak well to their purpose. Do you want one of these coming after you? I think not.
A drone is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), essentially a flying robot. The military refers to them as remotely piloted aircraft (RPA). Regardless of what they are called, these puppies are boy toys on steroids.
Like most cool things, drone development has been military-driven. We have military minds to thank for other important technological breakthroughs such as the Internet, GPS, virtual reality, night vision, weather radar, digital cameras and much more.
There has been a lot of focus on the use of drones in the Russo-Ukrainian War. What are they using drones for? Surveillance, reconnaissance and counter-offensive measures designed to disrupt and destroy targets.
Taking the pilot out of the cockpit, military drones offer important advantages:
- Drones are much less expensive than fighter jets, even though some cost millions of dollars. Size, capabilities and range affect the price
- It’s much faster and easier to train a drone operator than a fighter jet pilot
- Increasingly, drones can operate non-stop for many more hours than any human
- Powered by computer technology, drones are capable of reacting more quickly and accurately than humans
- Drones can go almost anywhere, jet planes can’t
- No pilot lives are put at risk
We have come a long way since the first radio-controlled aircraft designed by Dr. Archibald Low was tested in 1917, yet there is still much work to be done in this developing field more than 100 years later.
What is clear, however, is that drones are here to stay, better today than ever, and will have a growing presence in many facets of our lives, both on Earth and in Space.
In addition to defense and aerospace, commercial, public safety, law enforcement and logistics are market segments that are already benefitting from drone use. For example, monitoring utilities infrastructure, search and rescue operations, tracking down criminals and mapping out crime scenes, weather and traffic reporting, disaster management, crop and wildlife monitoring, time-sensitive and/or remote deliveries, site inspections … and perhaps less important but also thrilling, coverage of sports and entertainment by drones is bringing a whole new perspective to thrill-seeking audiences.
The potential application of drones is endless. Many are already well-advanced and on their way to becoming mainstream.
Innovation must never come at the expense of safety, which means that patience remains a virtue in this field. Case in point: Amazon has just unveiled its next generation MK30 delivery drone, a smaller, lighter, more weather resistant and quieter version of the MK27-2 (2013). The Company still believes it will deliver 500 million packages via drone before the end of this decade, just 8 years from now. As Amazon says: “It sounds like science fiction, but it’s happening.”
Much change has already occurred in the drone arena. Key safety concerns and technological limitations will be overcome one step at a time, as they have so far. This new addition to our lives will become a new normal – after all, most of what William Hanna and Joseph Barbera imagined in their classic 1960’s animated sitcom (“The Jetsons”) has already come true.
Now it’s just a matter of time. Build it and they will come.
Now take what you’ve learned and play today’s Drone Magic Quiz of the Day:
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