Although drone technology has been in use since the early 1900s, it has only recently become popular because of its widespread military use. Drones had previously been used for surveillance, agriculture, filmmaking, search and rescue operations and many other applications.
Military use of drones, however, which involve arming them with weaponry, has caused some to be wary of the technology. Most people are worried that UAVs pose the potential for abuse and are worried that they may be used for unsanctioned or illegal purposes. While there is some reasonable caution surrounding this specific use of drone technology, there are also many pros to using them militarily that we will address.
How Do UAVs Work?
There are two types of UAVs, the first one is completely autonomous and the other is remotely controlled by a pilot on the ground. In the former, software is installed into the UAV that contains an embedded flight path for the drone. Once launched, it will follow this flight path according to the software and in conjunction with GPS in order to maintain the route. No further assistance is needed from the ground and the drone will land either when the mission is complete or when it runs out of power.
The more common variation, however, is the latter, and requires a pilot on the ground to control all the aircraft’s activities. Although somewhat manned, the drone usually has a bit of automation to handle basic tasks such as balancing the aircraft. The rest is controlled from the base.
Uses of Drones
The main and obvious application of UAVs is in military activities. Their use is preferred in dangerous missions because it reduces the risk of human injuries or casualties. Also, in the event that the drone is shot down, the country operating the drone doesn’t have to worry about diplomatic issues if the aircrafts are captured.
Because of their military use, some drones are outfitted with hellfire missiles which can be fired from the drone. While this could certainly provide an offensive military boost for the United States, there is some concern that they may not be fully prepared for such attacks from other countries.
Nevertheless, the military still insists they use drones primarily for surveillance rather than armed attacks, and have even been used to track criminal activity.
Apart from monitoring crime, they have always been used in agriculture and wildlife, monitoring livestock and wildlife. They can also be used to monitor pipelines and electricity lines for signs of tampering.
Journalism and Filmmaking
In order to capture unique aerial shots, filmmakers may use drones with mounted cameras to assist them. These drones are usually smaller in size compared to those used in the military, and can even be controlled from smartphones. They are cheaper to operate compared to helicopters and their size allows them to access difficult angles and areas.
Search and Rescue
During disasters, UAVs may be sent to take pictures of the affected area, helping rescue teams determine the extent of the damage.
Because drones are unmanned, they can more freely be sent out on space explorations. They can even carry cargo into the International Space Station. An example of this is the X-37B which was just sent into space this year.