When the war in Afghanistan kicked off, the U.S. military only had a handful of drones or unmanned weapons on the battlefield. Now it’s one of the military’s main concerns as they race to outdo the competition developing innovative robots that do the dirty work. Technology is always changing and here’s a look at some of the recent developments in unmanned warfare that’s making its way to a war zone.
- 1. Micro aerial vehicles. Measuring just 13 inches, micro air vehicles are small, but not too small, allowing them to photograph large areas and bring back the footage. The first version created by Honeywell is a bit noisier than military would like and they’re creating a second generation model that will bring back better images and even less detectable sometime next year.2. The X-47B. This is an amazing unmanned aerial vehicle that seems to be straight from the movies. The X-47B is more along the lines of what the future of unmanned warfare will look like, with unmanned vehicles able to carry out missions because they’re equipped with weapons. This one carries up to 4,500 pounds of weapons, making it a deadly weapon that will float around and strike (hopefully) at the right time.
3. Robosoldiers. While the U.S. focuses on unmanned planes, Israel is fixated on the robosolider. They’re combining what they already know about UAVs and implementing “see-shoot” robotic soldiers that are actually trained by military officials in closed quarters. Israel’s ultimate plan is to have the Israel-Gaza border be the first border manned by these robosoldiers.
4. Flying saucers. The Department of Defense claims these smaller UAVs will be optimal during warfare in urban areas. They’re smaller than most aerial UAVs and cost less to produce. It’s battery powered and there are versions being made all over the world, but only prototypes have been tested. Will flying saucers ever make it to actual battle? Maybe, but it seems other models are outdoing the progress made with saucers.
5. MQ-9 Reaper. Here’s another UAV that seems to be plucked from a sci-fi novel. Operated from a satellite link in Vegas, the MQ-9 Reaper is a certifiable bad boy in the world of UAVs. It can pack up to 3,000 pounds of weapons at an altitude of 60,000 feet. The drones on board can carry out missions on their own, but so far the Air Force hasn’t used that feature.
6. S-100 Camcopter. With the help of Schiebel Industries, Boeing has created this compact helicopter for surveillance purposes. It can also carry up to 110 pounds and while it’s suitable for personal use, it was developed with the military in mind. Still, it’s only a matter of time until this technology trickles down to a spy shop near you.
7. Forrester Radar System. This innovative system allows UAVs to gather data when there’s obstruction, such as forests. The Forrester works exclusively with the Boeing A16OT Hummingbird and allows the UAV to detect the enemy no matter how slowly they’re moving, even when masked by trees. For wars had in the jungle, the Forrester will become an invaluable tool and further generations of the system may detect targets under similar hidden circumstances.
8. ISIS Blimp. This is a spy blimp created by Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) that flies up six miles in the air, allowing it to avoid combat missiles. The idea DARPA has is to have the ISIS blimp launch and stay in the air for weeks at a time, gathering data. Unlike UAVs that have to be fueled every so often and can only make short trips, the ISIS blimp can be launched and hover over a space virtually unnoticed.
9. UXV Combatant. The UXV Combatant takes warfare out to the high seas. This unmanned ship holds a fleet of drones that can be sent off to battle at any given moment. It’s powered by diesel accelerators and gas turbine, keeping the cost of powering the UXV Combatant low. Created by BAE Systems, this ship is still underway, so feel safe floating in the ocean (for now).
10. The ScanEagle. Created by Boeing, the ScanEagle is intended for unsafe areas. The ScanEagle goes in, surveys the area and brings back data and pictures. The beauty of the ScanEagle is not only the size (about 4×10), but the fact that it can stay in the air working for over 20 hours. It also transmits data back to its base, which can be located a little over 60 miles away from where the ScanEagle travels.
Unmanned warfare is the way of the future. Robots are used in small quantities right now, but nations like the U.S. and Israel are investing big in developing super drones that can outrun and outwit other robots and even humans. Other countries like Austria and Canada are quickly snapping up the unmanned machines that are created. As technology improves, there’s a higher chance of having unmanned warfare fighting our battles and collecting data without sending soldiers into dangerous territories.