The latest unmanned drone is a version of an existing manned one

IN THE future, the skies of cities may belong to aerial drones. These are spiderlike devices with four or more propellers (thus often known as quadcopters, hexacopters, octocopters and so on) that provide both lift and thrust. The hope is that autonomous, self-guided versions of these will deliver anything from pizzas to passengers from door to door without being held up by terrestrial traffic jams.

Delivering goods, and particularly people, to and from a battlefield is, though, a bit different. Aircraft have to be hardened against enemy action, and also need the capacity to transport large payloads. A flying spider is unlikely to cut the mustard. Instead, Lockheed Martin, the maker of one of the world’s best-known military helicopters, the Black Hawk, is working on a drone with those specifications—made from a Black Hawk helicopter.

Turning existing helicopters into drones is not a new idea. Northrop Grumman’s RQ-8 Fire…Continue reading

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