The rise of the drone

Unmanned aerial vehicles – drones – have been a key technology in America’s wars. But now they are set to invade civilian life. Simon Wilson reports.

What are drones?

In the defence and aeronautical industries drones are known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), unmanned aerial systems (UASs), or remotely piloted air systems (RPASs). But all of these names refer to the same thing: unmanned planes and helicopters that are controlled remotely by pilots on the ground, or by computers.

In one sense, drones are not new. Aeronautical engineers were experimenting with early versions of remote-controlled planes as early [...]

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