EYE IN THE SKY

A remote-controlled, pilotless aircraft or small flying device is formally called a UAV, short for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. But most people refer to these flying robots as drones.

Drones are common in the 21st century, but they seem futuristic as ever, like secret bots that can photograph, record, or maybe even attack us from above. But drones are for entertainment, too. A drone can be a toy, part of a hobby, or a tool for professional photographers and cinematographers. Many YouTube videos feature overhead shots of landscapes and events taken with drones that have been outfitted with small cameras or video recorders.

It is widely considered that the first modern drone was developed almost 90 years ago, in 1935. That drone was a radio-controlled flying machine used for target practice. Although it was small, it had a long name: De Havilland DH.82B Queen Bee. The name makes sense since another type of “drone” in the natural world is the worker bee collecting honey for the Queen. Drones are always “buzzing” around, aren’t they? Yowch.

All over the world, countries use drones in the military. However, Israel was the first country to develop drone technology in the 1970s after losing many planes in its air force during the Arab-Israeli war. Since that time, drones have been used for many official purposes.  

Of course, there are some crazy drones, too. For example, there is a 2-pound drone made entirely of Styrofoam. It is piloted by a remote that is a lot like a Gameboy Advance.

Drones do more than fly up in the air.  Boston Engineering created a drone that moves underwater. This fish robot swims like tuna, moving silently through the water. The underwater drone can carry sonar, too, which it uses to find mines and submarines. Infrared cameras locate human bodies, and high-tech listening devices detect voices and signals. Drones are like having eyes and ears in the sky.

In Frankenbots, Stu helps the bots to escape from danger by making themselves into Megabot. What would a Frankenbot drone look like? Where would it go?