Uncrewed Aircraft

The new drone war

By Keith Button

April 1, 2024

There was a time when “drone war” conjured images of Cessna-sized aircraft flying over enemy lands while their controllers monitored them from half a world away in a trailer. Ukraine has shown U.S. planners that a more visceral, fast-paced, innovate-or-die drone scenario could lie ahead. Keith Button spoke to researchers who want the U.S. to be ready.

The human question

By Sarah Wells

May 1, 2021

Startups are testing the coming breed of urban air mobility aircraft in their back lots and hangars. The harder part could be convincing potential passengers that these aircraft, with their whirling rotors, electric power and control algorithms, can safely deliver them to the airport or home from work. Sarah Wells tells the story.

Weather alert

November 1, 2020

If consumers are going to receive packages by air to their doorsteps or hop onto aircraft to zip across town, engineers must figure out how to make these coming aircraft more resilient to bad weather than today’s early versions. Dennis Bushnell of NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia explains.

Taking the fight to the night

By Jan Tegler

August 23, 2020

The devastating wildfires that ended earlier this year in Australia have energized those in the United States who have long believed that optionally piloted helicopters should be the next great weapon against wildfires. Jan Tegler tells the story.

Patience will be key to urban air mobility

July 1, 2020

Startups and their government allies are in the midst of birthing an entire new mode of commuting. It won’t be easy, despite some very optimistic timelines, but it will be worth it. Aviation attorney Erin I. Rivera predicts the path ahead for urban air mobility.

Pie from the sky

By Daniel Dubno

February 1, 2020

The fact that the skies aren’t yet filled with delivery drones is deceiving. The revolution has been slow in coming, but in a few places, it’s beginning to happen. Daniel Dubno explores the path ahead for delivery entrepreneurs.

The Farmer’s Air Force

By Jan Tegler

June 1, 2019

Crop dusting with conventionally piloted aircraft is approaching its centennial. Now, with the challenge posed by drones, Jan Tegler looks at what could be in store for the next 100 years.

Counterdrone challenges

By Marc Selinger

May 1, 2019

Airport authorities know that they can’t let wayward consumer drones paralyze airports. Companies in the U.S. and abroad have demonstrated a range of technologies for detecting and neutralizing drones, but a consensus has yet to emerge on the best solutions, writes Marc Selinger.

Waiting in the wings

By David Hughes

April 1, 2019

Thousands of commercial drones could someday whisk packages to our doorsteps, spot dangerous pipeline leaks, and inspect bridges and crops. A revolution of that scale would require accepting that drones must fly out of visual range of their operators. That can’t happen unless the FAA approves a scheme for safely managing thousands of drone flights. David Hughes, formerly an FAA writer and editor, gauges progress on UTM, or unmanned aircraft system traffic management.