Written by Dabney B. on Tuesday, April 17th, 2012
In World War I, the airplane proved its effectiveness in combat scenarios, and since then the militaries of the world have been striving to improve aircraft technology. In World War II, atomic bombs ended the combat in the Pacific theater, sparking the Cold War nuclear arms race. Now, unmanned aerial vehicles are on a rising trend of innovative research due to overwhelming success in the Middle East.
Here are the top 5 reasons why drones represent the next step in aviation warfare.
The old saying “form follows function” is particularly true in the world of aviation. Conventional aircraft need to accommodate a pilot, so they have a minimum size and weight requirement. An aircraft must be at least large enough for a pilot to fit inside, and it must at least be powerful enough to put a grown man into the air.
Once you cut out the need for a cockpit, you free up the size, shape, and weight of an aircraft. This freedom allows engineers to design drones specifically to fit the criteria of a mission. Some drones are even as small as insects, allowing for unprecedented levels of infiltration and surveillance.
Conventional aircraft are limited by the pilot. Unless an aircraft has several trained pilots on board, expecting an aircraft to stay in the sky for more than a day is unreasonable.
Drones are not limited by the biological needs. A set of pilots working in shifts could theoretically pilot a drone indefinitely, and with nuclear-powered drones in the works, this means that drones could literally be aloft for months.
Perhaps the most striking advantage of drone technology is that it can be adapted to fit any piece of existing technology. Drone jets are common, Russia is working on drone helicopters, and most satellite and spacecraft already use some sort of rudimentary drone technology. No matter what device the USAF puts into the sky, we can probably outfit that device so that ground-based specialists could operate it nearly as well as any pilot.
Removing the pilot from the equation has its advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, you lose the experience and judgement of a trained professional. On the other, you gain instant-speed processing power. Drones, much like computers, can process levels of information that no human could ever dream of sorting through. In the future, a drone equipped with facial recognition software could spot a target within a crowd of thousands of faces, or respond to threats with lightning-fast reflexes.
Without doubt, the number one reason why drones will become a large part of the future of aviation technology is because of commercial interests. The drone industry has already become a heavy hitter and has pushed the White House to open up drone technology to the public. Additionally, most drones can be manufactured or operated at a fraction of the cost of conventional aircraft. The more the US invests in drones, the more money the Department of Defense will free up to invest in other interests.
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