In the far Western corner of Texas, where the state almost spills over into New Mexico, the U.S. Army is building an airport for drones. Located within Fort Bliss, the new 150 acre complex will have a 50,000 square-foot hangar, a 5,000-foot runway for Gray Eagle drones, and a 1,000-foot runway for Shadow drones.
With a flick of a videogame-like controller, the sailor locks the laser onto the drone in mid-air. Within seconds, there's a flash of light and sparks, and the drone nosedives straight into the ocean, the latest victim of the U.S. Navy's new Laser Weapon System (or LaWS). The laser, mounted on the USS Ponce, has been stationed in the Persian Gulf for months, and today the Office of Naval Research released video of the first successful, live-fire tests there.
We've seen evolution enacted with early-Earth chemicals, with hermaphroditic robots, and even entirely virtually, using mathematical models. In each, scientists or engineers give the experiment some starting conditions, let it run… then see what happens dozens or hundreds of generations later. There's something appealing about such experiments. Who wouldn't want to play evolution?
In early 2016, the Imperial College of London will begin construction on a school for the future. The academy's attending students? Drones. After careful assembly by engineers, the school's robots will fly and swim while 16 high speed 3-D cameras track their movements in the air and a further eight watch their actions underwater.
As costs go down and ease of use goes up, more and more drones are going to enter American skies. Last month, the Federal Aviation Authority reported an increase in drones spotted near other aircraft, raising fears that an errant drone may imperil a manned airplane. But drones don't just pose a risk to human-made aircraft. They can also threaten birds.