Drones. Drone is a word you see pretty often in today’s pop culture. But drones seem to be an extremely diverse species. Everything from this to this even flightless vehicles are occasionally referred to as drones. So what exactly is a drone.
Unfortunately there isn’t a simple answer to this because although the word has become very popular it isn’t rigorously defined a term which is more descriptive and is most often what people are referencing when they say the D word is unmanned aerial vehicle. Essentially if it flies in a controlled way and there isn’t anybody on board it’s a drone whether it is controlled entirely by computers and artificial intelligence or on the other end of the spectrum entirely controlled by a remote human makes little difference. But most often when you see a vehicle described as a drone today it is a little bit of both.
Piloted by humans but capable of some degree of navigation on its own if necessary in the future of course.
This is likely to change just as driverless cars loom on the horizon drones of the future will be overwhelmingly automated. The hypothetical UAB that delivers a package to your doorstep won’t be flown by a board pilot on the Internet. So why in pop culture is this a drone. But this usually isn’t culturally fathers. Thirty five year old RC plane. Gets disqualified for appearing insufficiently futuristic. The word today is associated with the technologies of tomorrow even though it seems likely that the word was coined in the early days of aviation in reference to remote controlled target drone airplanes.
The first common target drone design was appropriately enough called a queen bee.
Drone is a fickle word.
Maybe what the future really needs is a little refining of the D word. After all if the person next to you remarks there is a drone overhead it would be good to know if they meant a two pound glorified helicopter or a five thousand pound killing machine. But this reflects a larger question. Will automated vehicles be primarily used as tools of peace and commerce or of war. If history is anything to go by. Probably both.