Do UAVs strike your fancy?

Nick Wakeman

When I was in high school, my brother George tried to get me to read a series of books called "Bolo." The premise was that an army of unmanned tanks fought our wars for us and then turned against us. I never picked them up; the idea just didn't appeal to me.

Maybe if they flew, and I had read Doug Beizer's cover story on unmanned aerial vehicles, I might have given in to George's lobbying.

Frankly, UAVs, from the small ones a soldier can carry in a backpack to ones as large as manned aircraft, are very cool. Just look at the one on our cover.

But they are also a hot business opportunity for systems integrators. These aircraft handle everything from close-range reconnaissance to serving as communications platforms to firing weapons. Work is under way on one model that can stay airborne for a week.

UAVs have become such a critical link in network-centric warfare that it's difficult to imagine going to war without them. Wider civilian uses -- border security for one -- can't be far behind.

No one knows where the next step in the evolution will lead, but one thing is for certain: It will mean plenty of work for integrators building the systems and networks that manage these self-flying birds.

Although the "Bolo" scenario and the story line for the new movie "Stealth," in which UAVs develop minds of their own, are still far-fetched, the IT-rich capabilities of UAVs continue to expand toward a seemingly limitless and unknown horizon.

Unknown. Hmm, I wonder what George did with his old science fiction books?

About the Author

Nick Wakeman is the editor-in-chief of Washington Technology. Follow him on Twitter: @nick_wakeman.

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