The drone that could. Where and how drones will be used

Table of contents:

The drone that could. Where and how drones will be used
The drone that could. Where and how drones will be used

The revolution of unmanned aerial vehicles cannot be stopped; every year they will be used more and more actively to solve a variety of and sometimes incredibly difficult tasks. Let's take a look at what new directions the UAV will master.


Autonomous and dangerous

It just so happened that unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are associated primarily with war. As early as August 22, 1849, the Austrians used wire-guided balloons to bombard Venice. Modern armed forces cannot exist without UAVs at all. They are used both for reconnaissance and for destroying targets on the ground. Here is just one telling figure: as of 2017, 10 thousand small UAVs "served" in the ranks of the US Armed Forces.

What military tasks will drones take on in the future? And can they even become a full-fledged replacement for high-speed controlled aircraft? The first swallow here is the Northrop Grumman X-47B. It is part of the US Navy's UCAS-D program aimed at developing an unmanned aircraft that can take off and land on an aircraft carrier. The drone has already proven its ability to take off and land on the deck of a ship, as well as perform a number of other tasks autonomously, without operator intervention. In the spring of 2015, the X-47B performed its first aerial refueling, operating autonomously. This can be considered a mini-revolution: refueling in the air, like landing on the deck of an aircraft carrier, are among the most difficult operations that require considerable skill from the pilot.

The Russian analogue of the X-47B could be the Skat unmanned aerial vehicle, which is being developed by the MiG company. The full-size model of the UAV could be seen at the MAKS-2007 air show. With a length of 10, 25 m "Skat" has a wingspan of 11, 5 m. The declared combat load is very "immodest" 6000 kg. As weapons are called guided bombs and missiles. According to reports, work on the UAV continues now, although there has been almost no new information on the Skat in recent years.


X-47B is an experimental device, not intended for serial production. Now the project is closed, which, however, does not mean at all that this concept is abandoned. On the contrary, the Americans want to apply the invaluable experience to the development of a UAV, which will become the first fully-fledged autonomous multipurpose drone in history. The range of tasks it will solve will differ little from that of, for example, the F / A-18E / F Super Hornet carrier-based fighter-bomber. This is reconnaissance, and the fight against ground, surface and air targets, and electronic warfare, and the role of a tanker aircraft. Most likely, at a certain stage, such UAVs will become the basis of the tactical strike potential of the fleets of the leading world powers.

Jeep helicopter

Specialists from the United States are actively considering other, completely new areas of BLPA application, where they were not previously involved in principle. One of the most interesting developments of this kind was the Black Knight Transformer presented by Advanced Tactics in 2014. It is an unmanned flying SUV with eight propellers and four wheels. In the air, the Black Knight Transformer will be able to reach speeds of up to 370 km / h, and on the ground - up to 112 km / h. According to the creators, it will be able to stay in the sky until 19:00. The machine is capable of lifting loads up to 1.6 tons. It is noteworthy that the creators, among other things, provided their offspring with the ability to move on water, although against the background of other declared abilities this does not seem like something incredible.


The prototype machine has already proven its ability to lift off the ground and hover under operator control.Judging by the images presented, the production version will be very different from the prototype and will receive something that resembles a cockpit. So it cannot be ruled out that the serial version of the Black Knight Transformer will be optionally piloted.

A new era for UAVs began in the 90s. During Operation Desert Storm (1990-1991), unmanned aerial vehicles of the Anti-Husein coalition performed 522 sorties, their total combat flight time was 1641 hours. At every moment of the operation, at least one UAV was in the sky: the main task of the drone operators was target designation for the allied artillery and aviation. There are known incidents when Iraqi soldiers surrendered at the sight of a UAV. According to a number of experts, this is the first time in history when a person surrendered to a robot.

The first customer of such a device could be the US Department of Defense: the device would be useful for evacuating the wounded. In addition, the jeep helicopter can be used in areas of natural disasters. In general, the "knight" can prove himself both in the military and in the civilian field, although the former looks more real.

The future will change the swarm

One of the main trends of our time is the miniaturization of various devices: from personal computers to guided bombs and missiles. Not spared the "fashion" side and the UAV. Experts from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are working on a miniature drone with the name Perdix (from the Latin "partridge"), which is not too euphonious for the Russian ear. Its length is 16, 51 cm, width - 29, 9 cm. Perdix weighs 290 g. It can reach speeds of up to 112 km / h and operate for 20 minutes.


Outwardly, the drone looks like a cheap toy airplane, but the tasks before it are not at all childish. Earlier than all, the capabilities of miniature UAVs were appreciated by the military. The logic is simple: if it is not difficult to shoot down a single low-speed drone, then it is much more difficult to destroy a whole swarm of small aircraft. UAVs Perdix have already been launched from the F-16 and F / A-18 fighters. Moreover, the drones were launched not from special suspended containers, but from devices designed to eject heat traps. This is possible due to the special folding wings of the UAV.

Specialists from Michigan Technological University HIRoLab have created a "cannibal drone". To be more precise, we are talking about an unmanned aerial vehicle that can hunt its relatives using a net, like Spider-Man. Earlier, by the way, Japanese policemen armed themselves with something similar. Recently, they received a detachment of antidrones at their disposal, using a large network to catch intruder UAVs.

Perdix devices will give the military a fundamentally new opportunity. Due to their equipment, they can collect information and transmit it to the aircraft carrier, which will allow pilots to hit ground targets much more accurately. Such a drone will be very cheap: for this, the Perdix body is printed from plastic on a 3D printer. The device flies thanks to a small electric motor with a pushing propeller.

In the air and under water

One of the most unusual developments in the world of drones in recent years has become the Naviator, created by specialists from Rutgers University (USA). It looks like an ordinary, unremarkable quadcopter. However, the device received an amazing ability to fly and swim equally well under water. It is important that a mode change can be made without making any design changes or adding new modules. After an underwater "voyage" he can easily soar into the skies.


Why is this needed? With the help of Naviator, it will be possible to carry out search and rescue operations more efficiently or, for example, to check the condition of infrastructure facilities, in particular, bridge piers. I was interested in the development of Rutgers University and the military, who saw additional opportunities in the drone to combat underwater mines.

After testing the prototype, the creators set themselves the goal of improving maneuverability and increasing the payload of their brainchild.They also want to understand how deep the Naviator can dive. Well, besides this, the drone, as the engineers assume, will be able to perform tasks on its own, without operator intervention. Incidentally, it cannot be ruled out that the ability to move under water in the future will become the “norm” for UAVs, just like they have, for example, a built-in camera.

Heavyweight from the Middle Kingdom

If earlier the USA and Israel were considered the leaders in the development of UAVs, now the PRC made their company. Chinese creations are technologically advanced, of relatively high quality and, importantly, are not very expensive. That is why, for example, the Chinese company DJI is the leader in the production of drones for the civilian market.


Sometimes the engineers of the Celestial Empire offer very original and unexpected ideas. One of them was presented to the world by, which is one of the largest Chinese companies that are engaged in Internet commerce and e-commerce. In May 2017, the company announced the start of testing an unmanned aerial vehicle capable of lifting loads of up to one ton. For a civilian UAV, this is a lot. For comparison, the carrying capacity of the quadcopters used for surveys is 5–6 kg. Drones used for solving narrow-profile tasks (various octa and hexacopters) can lift loads up to 15 kg, which is also incomparable with the capabilities of's creation. engineers are not the only ones to boast of a "heavyweight" UAV. Not so long ago, Griff Aviation from Norway created a large drone that is capable of carrying cargo weighing more than 225 kg. The novelty was named Griff 300: it is an octocopter weighing 75 kg and capable of transporting cargo weighing up to 225 kg. Depending on the load being carried, the drone's battery can provide a 30-45 minute flight. Griff Aviation offers various add-on kits that optimize the UAV for law enforcement, military, and search and rescue applications. The UAV can be controlled from the first person.


The company itself says that courier delivery using drones in rural areas is about 70% cheaper than the cost of road freight. First of all, a one-color UAV will be useful for the delivery of agricultural products from agricultural regions of the PRC to cities. Then it can be applied in other directions.

The work on the drone, as the Chinese experts hope, will be completed in 2-3 years. The UAV itself is only one part of a large-scale plan of the management aimed at conquering the market. The Chinese, for example, also want to create fully self-contained warehouses that can store ten times more goods than they currently do.


We have mastered drones and very original directions. A new DJI S1000 + drone armed with a flamethrower was tested in Sanyang, China. The device will not burn enemy troops: it will be used exclusively for peaceful purposes, namely, cleaning power lines (power lines) from various debris.


The fact is that debris accumulates quickly and in large quantities on the power lines. Its cleaning lies on the shoulders of the employees of the energy companies. Workers remove garbage using a telescopic aerial platform cradle. And to install it, you need about 5-10 minutes. And they remove the garbage by hand, which is very long and tedious. Employees of the Sanyang energy service came up with the idea of ​​using drones for these purposes. We do not know if the wires were energized at the time of cleaning. And apparently, the flamethrower drone will be used only on high-voltage lines, where cables are used without insulation. It is also not yet clear how exactly the drone wants to be protected from electromagnetic radiation. Perhaps we will learn the details of the bold idea a little later.

Taxis will replace UAVs

Believe it or not, unmanned aerial vehicles could replace public transport in the future. Or at least a taxi.The first ever passenger drone was presented back in 2016 at the CES exhibition in Las Vegas. In the winter of 2017, the Chinese company EHang published a video of tests of the passenger unmanned taxi EHang 164. As part of the tests, maneuverability, handling and the ability to fly at night were tested.


With the help of eight propellers, which are driven by electric motors, the drone is capable of lifting one person into the air. Unfortunately, it is not yet necessary to count on more, since the second passenger simply will not fit into the cockpit. The total weight of the load is up to 100 kg. The aircraft will be able to reach a speed of 100 km / h and will be in the air for up to 23 minutes, during which it will be able to cover 16 km.

Most importantly, the passenger on board does not need to do anything at all. Takeoff, en-route and landing will be handled by the UAV system. It will be possible to pre-set the arrival and designate the route using the application on the smartphone. If any abnormal situation nevertheless occurs, the operator from the support service will take over the piloting.

Now the world is already holding competitions in the so-called. drone racing. Most often they are competitions of small quadcopters controlled by operators, which take place on specially equipped tracks. Sometimes these are closed stadiums or, for example, parking lots. Throughout the race, UAVs face all sorts of obstacles: reaching the finish line can be very difficult. The image from the drone's camera is displayed on the operator's screen, which allows achieving a "presence effect".

The EHang engineers' cockpit is made of composite materials and carbon fiber. For the manufacture of the frame and supporting elements, aluminum-based alloys were used.

The EHang idea looks revolutionary. Just isn't it ahead of its time? What about, for example, the reliability of the UAV? Will she be able to meet the high requirements? And how will the operation of an unmanned taxi look like from the legal point of view? Obviously, all these issues, as well as the creation of the appropriate infrastructure, have yet to be thought out. The mass introduction of UAVs like the EHang 164 is definitely not a question for the coming years.

Internet to everyone and everyone

One of the most promising areas for the use of UAVs is the distribution of the Internet. Facebook is currently developing the Aquila drone based on Ascenta's technology. The body of the aircraft is made of durable and lightweight carbon fiber. The wingspan of the Aquila exceeds that of the Boeing 737, but the aircraft weighs only 400 kg. The device is powered by solar panels, which, according to the idea, will allow it to hover over a given area for months.


The task of such drones is to circle over areas with a diameter of 100 kilometers and provide their residents with a wireless signal. Thus, even the inhabitants of the most inaccessible areas of the Earth will be able to connect to the Internet. As part of the provision of web access, the UAV equipment will provide a range of 30 to 50 km. At the same time, Facebook experts expect the bandwidth of the communication channel to be at least 30 Gbps.

So far, Aquila's tests have not always been successful: during one of them, the drone collapsed during landing. But Facebook does not consider this a problem and does not intend to abandon the implementation of the plan.

Summarize.As you can see, one can expect active use of BLPA in various new directions. First of all, as:

- multifunctional combat systems capable of replacing fighter-bombers;

- military and civilian transport;

- search and rescue vehicles capable of operating in any conditions;

- devices designed for teaching control of more complex UAVs;

- devices for distributing the Internet.

Popular by topic