Inside the wild kingdom of the world’s newest and most spectacular species of unmanned aircraft, from swarming insect ’bots that can storm a burning building to a seven-ton weaponized spyplane invisible to radar
New breeds of winged beasts are lurking in the skies. Bearing names like Reaper, Vulture and Demon, they look nothing like their feathered brethren. Better known as unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, these strange and wily birds are quietly infiltrating vast swaths of airspace, from battlefields to backyards.
With hundreds of different species, from spy craft to airborne sheepherders, UAVs have in the past decade morphed into a full-blown kingdom of creatures deserving of its own taxonomy. Here is our complete guide.
By Eric AdamsPosted 06.02.2005 at 2:00 am 0 Comments
When it lifted off the runway at Edwards Air Force Base on May 22, 2002, Boeing's X-45A unmanned combat air vehicle became the first dedicated robotic fighter to begin flight testing. The first flight lasted only 14 minutes, but subsequent testing later saw the airplane, and its twin, conduct substantially longer missions, proving their ability to fly in formation, drop warheads on simulated missile sites, and attack newly identified targets completely autonomously.
X-45A prototypes snap smartly onto the runway centerline after attacks on simulated mobile missile launchers. Although the two programs are not yet competing for dollars, they are certainly jockeying for position as military planners grapple with the ever changing nature of armed conflict.