Humans have fooled around with robot vehicles for years, and much of the drone’s roots are planted in the military. The grandfather to the modern drone was a radio-guided bomb used by the Germans to inflict heavy British casualties in World War II. Israel pioneered drone tech in the 1990s–one of their birds was used by battleships in the Gulf War to pinpoint Iraqi targets. Unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, never complain about assignments. They can stay airborne for extended periods. Some of the newer prototypes may stay aloft for days or weeks. Pilots can remotely operate these devices in a combat zone, or from an air-conditioned control room thousands of miles away. Simply put, the drone has taken the human element out of war-fighting.
The 64 bases on American soil make a fair point about the widespread use of drone technology. The machines are busier than we are. They shoot terrorists, watch for smugglers, photograph nuclear plants and launch pads, and all the other sneaky things that you don’t want to know about. We can worry less about a bad guy shooting down a drone instead of a manned aircraft. Sure, we can give up our technology to the enemy, but we don’t have to recover a downed pilot or worry about his capture. Unless the enemy can grab an intact machine–which Iran has done before–we can probably negate the drone with a neat and tidy self-destruct package.
Drones will perform other feats in the near future. They’ll haul gear up the side of a mountain like a pack mule or pull wounded infantry to safety. Some drones will swim deep underwater to hunt enemy subs or tap undersea cables. The U.S. Air Force has already lobbed a UAV into space, a vehicle no larger than a Silverado, but tough enough to function in the most dangerous environment.
New innovations are typically enjoyed by the military before they move to civilian use, which is why we should still be excited. Drones can sort out commuter traffic, orbit a city as a WiFi hub, search for stranded hikers, tow a disabled boat, and monitor volcanoes. Dream of friendly machines made to make our day a little bit easier. This is only the beginning. . . the sky is the limit for the Asimov age of robots!