The images above are from a recent lead story in the National Geographic Magazine titled, Unmanned Flight. Now that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have more or less come to a close, there is a lot of discussion underway concerning drones’ role in society. Needless to say, they have been used extensively overseas, but whether they can make a smooth transition to civilian life is unknown.
“The U.S. has deployed more than 11,000 military drones… They carry out a wide variety of missions while saving money and American lives. Within a generation they could replace most manned military aircraft, says John Pike, a defense expert at the think tank GlobalSecurity.org. Pike suspects that the F-35 Lightning II, now under development by Lockheed Martin, might be “the last fighter with an ejector seat, and might get converted into a drone itself.”
I think one exciting use for drone technology would be to provide internet to locations in the world without online access. Other possible civilian applications include weather monitoring, traffic control, and package delivery.
“If the FAA relaxes its rules, says Mark Brown, the civilian market for drones—and especially small, low-cost, tactical drones—could soon dwarf military sales, which in 2011 totaled more than three billion dollars.”
Stay tuned, apparently the FAA is expected to integrate drones into American skies by 2015.
Photographer Joe McNally captured the images you see above. You can find more of his work here.