From blimps to bugs, an explosion in aerial drones is transforming the way America fights and thinks about its wars. ... far less widely known are the sheer size, variety and audaciousness of a rapidly expanding drone universe, along with the dilemmas that come with it.The roles and uses of drones will continue to expand, on land, sea, air and in space. The Times article looks at miniaturization and efforts to copy the flight of insects, but there are numerous other applications and possibilities for drone technology.
The Pentagon now has some 7,000 aerial drones, compared with fewer than 50 a decade ago. Within the next decade the Air Force anticipates a decrease in manned aircraft but expects its number of “multirole” aerial drones like the Reaper — the ones that spy as well as strike — to nearly quadruple, to 536. Already the Air Force is training more remote pilots, 350 this year alone, than fighter and bomber pilots combined.
One thing is rarely mentioned in the many articles I've read about drones: defense against them. At the moment we are the leading user of drones and at the forefront of drone technology. Our opponents are non-state forces that are relatively low-tech in comparison. But at some point we might face an adversary with a sophisticated drone arsenal of its own, especially as drone technology not only becomes more advanced, but more widespread. With our extensive research efforts in developing drones, I hope we are also devoting some resources to defensive measures against enemy systems.