The changing ways of drone technology

Drone technology has greatly expanded over the last few years, and it’s no longer only being used for conventional military purposes. Many people have heard of drones but have no idea what they are or how they work. The answers to those questions might surprise you.

Drones are also known as “unmanned aerial vehicles” which are controlled by either a remote control or by automatic computers inside the drone. Autonomous control of drones used to be rare, but with increases in technology, it’s becoming much more common to have drones fly themselves.

Drones were typically used for special military missions that were deemed too dangerous for soldiers. But now they’re being used for more civil purposes, such as immigration, firefighting and policing. Drones can also be

Drones are becoming more useful and prominent in society. Graphic by Katie Sickman.
Drones are becoming more useful and prominent in society. Graphic by Katie Sickman.

used to transport goods in extreme situations, although the weight and aerodynamics of the drone must be taken into consideration before and after adding cargo.

Titan Aerospace, a New Mexico aircraft design start-up, just released two drones that may be able to fly for weeks, months and eventually years without having to land. The Solara 60 and Solara 50 unmanned aircrafts are massive unmanned drones that use solar power to stay in the air for long periods of time.

Although Titan doesn’t like to refer to them as “drones,” they prefer the name “atmospheric satellites” because of the aircraft’s ability to stay in the air for long periods of time. It’s even possible that in the near future, these crafts could be a cheaper, more energy-efficient alternative to space satellites.

The issue holding back Titan right now concerns the batteries that hold the solar energy and their requisite to be changed out every few years. Within the next year, battery technology will improve so much that they’ll be able to release a full functioning model by the end of 2014.

Aside from replacing space satellites, drones may have other uses more close to home.

“It’s possible that the weapons of choice to combat illegal immigration will turn out to be drones and robots,” says Peter Funt of the Daily Democrat News.

The idea here isn’t to catch illegal workers running across the Mexican border. It’s actually to replace these workers with robots that can do their jobs more cheaply and more efficiently.

Funt writes, “According to a report by the Pew Hispanic Center, the number of people leaving Mexico to work in the US has dropped by roughly 65 percent during the last decade.” Farming is changing because it has to, not because of political litigation.

What do drones have to do with this? Drones are being researched to take over farming tasks such as picking crops, distributing pesticides or fertilizing, (which can be done inches away with a drone as opposed to from about 10-15 feet away with a manned spraying craft), and surveying weeds and crops in need of water.

Drone technology is vastly increasing and changing, often in ways that we would not expect. The next time you encounter an article about drone technology, don’t knock it off as some far-out space craft or military toy that you’ll never come in contact with. Who knows what drones will be doing next?