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.
Small, cheap drones make appealing cameramen for a variety of tasks -- from a research apparatus to a tourist's plaything. Light, unmanned aircraft, especially those piloted by amateurs, pose a new danger to the environment, however. What happens if a gust of wind or pilot error sends the drone into, say, a beautiful and delicate geothermal hot spring? The bio-drone, developed by researchers at NASA's Ames Research Center in California, is a biodegradable solution to this issue.
If aeronautic engineer Edwin Van Ruymbeke gets his way, you may soon be able to use your smartphone to fly with the birds. Not personally, of course, but in the form of Van Ruymbeke's crowdfunded Bionic Bird project, which the inventor describes as the world's first "furtive civilian drone."
In the not too distant future, swimmers in distress may look up to the sky for help and find, not a lifeguard, but a drone, delivering a life preserver in their moment of need. Designed by Amin Rigi and RTS Labs in Iran, the Pars drone is a robotic lifesaver. First demonstrated in 2013, Rigi is launching an RTS Labs offshoot, RTS London, to mass produce the drones.
Shooting down a small drone is hard. But determining whether people should be allowed to do so may prove more difficult still. A man in New Jersey fired a shotgun at his neighbor's drone, and as the quadcopter crashed to the ground, the incident raised new legal challenges about when and if it’s okay to shoot a robot.