Un-manned, but under control

Do you ever look skyward when you hear the sound of an aircraft high up and wonder who is at the controls?


I have an open mind to the theory that inside twenty years, it will be normal that the aircraft you see cruising above may well be flying without a qualified pilot anywhere near the controls.


Drone Technology is advancing at an increasingly rapid rate and even today Drones are performing a myriad of varied tasks, both military and commercial. Their only restriction is that, today, they are not allowed to fly in ‘unsegregated’ airspace, meaning that when operating they are in their own controlled airspace with no other aircraft allowed in the vicinity.

There are airfields in the UK where Drones regularly do flight training, research and development missions. There are two in Wales, which both have ‘turn on, turn off’ corridors of segregated airspace that allow Drones to take off and access the segregated military ranges nearby over sea and land, then return safely to their original take off point.


Some of the uses of these aircraft are well known. Surveillance in areas of military conflict and the ability to attack targets that would place a normal aircraft and its pilot in jeopardy are the uses we hear about in the news, but there are many other commercial and humanitarian tasks that can and are being undertaken.


The patrolling of oil pipelines in areas such as deserts where constant monitoring against oil leaks and terrorist threats is vital.

Drones are used extensively by building surveyors in the UK to examine large buildings for wear and tear. The giant chimney stacks at power stations are another area for the surveyors to be able to stay on the ground and collect important data from the high-quality cameras carried by the Drone.

In Switzerland, Drones are employed to deliver defibrillators and medical packs to climbers and skiers who have medical emergencies while in inaccessible places.


Drones have proved able at surveying for coastal erosion, taking 1 hour to do the job normally carried out by 4 men over 2 days. The data collected by the Drone is quickly converted into 3D mapping by a software programme, showing clearly where sea defences have to be improved.


Fire Brigades regularly use sophisticated Drones to hover above and near to serious fires. The images relayed back to the Fire Control Officers enable them to take decisions on where to fight the fire and what equipment is needed.


In the Irish Sea, patrols by Drones are a quick and inexpensive way of protecting our sea life from illegal fishing fleets during the breeding season. Drones can fly for many hours without needing the toilet and rest breaks that a normal aircraft crew do.

So, these are only a small number of constantly growing uses for Drones. Who knows where the technology will lead us? The company Amazon plans to have 10,000 Drones flying out of a base in Hertfordshire delivering 1kg parcels to customers in a 10-mile radius within the next 5 years!


My question to you is, will you ever be happy boarding an aircraft to travel on your holiday knowing that there won’t be a human pilot in control at the front end??

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