Everyone is talking about drones. Also known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or UAVs, remote-piloted aircrafts have become acontroversial centerpiece of the Obama administration’s counter-terrorism strategy. Domestically, their surveillance power is being hyped for everything from fighting crimeto monitoring hurricanes or spawning salmon. Meanwhile, concerns are cropping up about privacy, ethics and safety. We’ve rounded up some of the best coverage of drones to get you oriented. Did we miss anything? Let us know.
A Little History
The idea of unmanned flight had been around for decades, but it was in the 1990s, thanks to advances in GPS and computing, that the possibilities for drones really took off, as the New Yorker recently recounted. While hobbyists and researchers looked for uses for automated, airborne cameras, the military became the driving force behind drone developments. (This history from the Washington Post has more details) According to the Congressional Research Service, the military’s cache of U.A.V.’s has grown from just a handful in 2001 to more than 7,000 today. This New York Times graphic shows the variety of drones currently employed by the military — from the famous missile-launching Predator to tiny prototypes shaped like hummingbirds.
This February, Congress cleared the way for far more widespread use of drones by businesses, scientists, police and still unknown others. The Federal Aviation Administration will release a comprehensive set of rules on drones by 2015.