Micro Air Vehicles From The U.S. Air Force Will Perform Attack Missions
Some years ago only two groups cared much about drones: hobbyists who flew radio-controlled planes for fun and the military, which performed surveillance missions with unmanned aircraft. After the 9/11, followed by the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, drones rapidly became an essential tool of the U.S. armed forces, carrying out a wide variety of missions while saving money and American lives. Experts claim that within a generation drones could replace most manned military aircraft. At least 50 other countries have drones, and some, in particular China, Israel, and Iran, have their own manufacturers. Predators already help Customs and Border Protection agents spot smugglers and illegal immigrants sneaking into the U.S. NASA-operated Global Hawks record atmospheric data and peer into hurricanes. The current Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules restrict drone flights by private companies and government agencies, though a law signed by President Barack Obama in February 2012 directs the FAA to throw American airspace wide open to drones by September 30, 2015. In the meantime, the Air Force, based in Dayton, cradle of American aviation, has recently released a computer-animated video featuring the future capabilities of Micro Air Vehicles (MAVs). The drones, looking like winged, multi-legged bugs, swarm through alleys, crawl across windowsills, and perch on power lines. High frequency flapping wings allow them to hover and maneuver in tight spaces; advanced sensors enable optic flow, which will allow remote pilots to fly by ‘sight’ – rather than flying by GPS. The drones will work together to build up a detailed view of the battlefield – singling out individual targets without losing sight of the broader scene. Individual MAVs may carry out direct attack missions and can be equipped with incapacitating chemicals, combustible payloads or even explosives for precision targeting capability. FAA is concerned that safety record of military drones is not reassuring; even when controlled by skilled operators, drones can pose a hazard. Moreover drones endanger privacy as well, cause infrared and radio-band sensors used by the military can even detect people inside buildings.