Unmanned aircraft are deployed everywhere. For example, the army uses drones as espionage and combat devices, but science and the police also embrace the robot aircraft.
An unmanned jet plane takes off from an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean and goes to the Afghan front 2,000 kilometers away. In the meantime, a biologist is sending a drone with an HD camera over a part of the rainforest in New Guinea. In London, a robot helicopter provides an overview of the local traffic bottlenecks.
This is what the tasks of the upcoming drones look like in the short term. The increasingly intelligent robots can carry out assignments for the army, science and society in general.
Drones have microchip as a brain
The 'brains' of drones consist of powerful microchips and therefore contain a variety of mini sensors. The advanced content of the drones is the result of competition between producers of smartphones and tablets, as they develop ever smaller, more powerful microchips with various functions. Even the smallest drones have GPS, magnetometer, gyroscopes, accelerometer and compass.
Read more: View the overview of all articles about drones.
Drones are armed to the teeth
Many of us only know drones as unmanned army planes that enable as fast as effective air strikes without jeopardizing the lives of pilots.
The first drone attack took place in Afghanistan in November 2001, when an American aircraft killed an al-Qaeda chief. A lot has happened since then. Unmanned American bombers attacked Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and Yemen. In Pakistan alone, around 300 drone air strikes have been carried out. The drones have also realized a huge number of surveillance missions.
The largest drones are most similar to traditional combat aircraft, but without a cockpit or pilot. In the future, manned and unmanned combat aircraft will operate side by side.
Ten years ago, America still had a monopoly on military drones. But that has changed. They already have more than 70 countries, and military analysts think that a new arms race has quietly emerged. With 7500 drones, the US is still ahead, but worldwide scientists and technicians are developing new military drones. Various European countries are working together on the drone nEUROn. This drone is the same size as an F-16 and must have stealing properties.
However, more drones are being developed than large, unmanned aircraft. The army uses the drones for a variety of purposes and wants both drones that move like an airplane and robot helicopters that take off and land vertically.
The smallest military drones, nanodrones, weigh only 16 grams. For example, these flying binoculars can inspect a building for snipers. Extremely high flying drones are also on the military wish list. A high altitude gives a great overview, and unlike satellites, which are constantly moving, a drone can hang above the same place for a long time. Experiments are therefore also being carried out with drones that can refuel while flying.
No more expensive pilot in drones
The popularity of the drones also depends on their price. Drones are much cheaper to purchase and use than fighter planes and helicopters. It is expensive to train pilots and to keep their knowledge up to date. Drones are also favorable from a political point of view. If one is ever shot, no pilot will die.
On the other hand, the drone has led to many protests in the countries that have been attacked. In October 2012, for example, there were protest marches in Pakistan, which had been attacked 300 times with drones.
Although drones are rarely shot, they are not infallible. That became apparent when Texan students took over control of a drone in 2011. With simple, cheap equipment, they confused the aircraft's computer in such a way that it lost its sense of direction.
Read more: drones look like birds of prey
Science has also embraced drones. In the article 'The drones come' from Science in Image you read, among other things, about researchers from Utah in the US who use the bird of prey AggieAir drone to collect scientific data on large areas.
Read the article about drones via the button below.
Drones with telephone chips
Competition in the smartphone market led to the development of small, highly advanced electronic chips. Some of them are directly usable in drones. An aircraft operates in three dimensions - x-axis, y-axis and z-axis - and therefore requires several types of sensors.
A GPS chip checks the position, while a magnetometer detects the course in relation to the earth's magnetic field. Other electronic chips register the acceleration or act as a gyroscope. Almost all of these functions have their origin in modern smartphones.