Long imagined as a science fiction scenario, robotic warfare is very much today’s reality. As Randall Munroe of the web comic XKCD put it, “We live in a world where there are actual fleets of robot assassins patrolling the skies. At some point there, we left the present and entered the future.”
Much has been discussed of the U.S. military’s increasing reliance on unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, in modern-day warfare. While the Department of Defense has enthusiastically embraced the technology, arguing that it amounts to safer, cheaper and more effective warfare in the U.S.’s fight against terrorism, other reports have focused on the number of civilian casualties – particularly in Pakistan – that have resulted from drone strikes. Iran’s recent capture of a downed American UAV has also prompted security concerns as the world careens toward a global drone arms race.
Whether we’re comfortable with this trend in warfare, the robotics revolution looks to alter society’s relationship with war in some profound ways. Here are five things to know about the drones of today and tomorrow: