Dec 12 2014
Thousands of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) will be deployed in the next few years for both civil and military missions. Early adoption of new technologies will be employed: from smart skin to structural components and intelligent motors with integral gearing.
Electric power makes the use of wheel power for take-off possible because electric motors can give maximum torque from stationary. It gives us near silent operation, in the air and on the ground, with virtually no noise or gaseous emissions, something valued in both military and civil applications. For long range UAVs where batteries are inadequate and hybrid powertrains are necessary, there can still be silent take-off and landing.
Only electrics can give us new forms of UAV; intelligently swarming robot flies being just one example of new missions made possible by electric power in UAVs.
There is work on unmanned aircraft harvesting power from winds at altitude using kites and beaming it to earth. No, this does not break the laws of physics. Other UAVs are held aloft by lasers and one other project will result in upper atmosphere UAVs that stay aloft for five years just on sunshine.
There is a concept of a military UAV, maybe hybrid electric, which performs its mission then dives like a gannet and hides underwater. Vertical take-off and landing UAVs are now commonplace, the best known being toys that can be programmed in a desired pattern of flight but there are also military and professional civil versions being deployed.