Rise of the Drones: Photos of Unmanned Aircraft


QF-4 drone

(Image credit: U.S. Air Force photo | Senior Airman Matthew C. Simpson | af.mil)

Photographed flying over the Gulf of Mexico on Jul. 17, 1998, this QF-4 drone is a former fighter jet that has been converted into a remote-controlled drone. They act as realistic moving target for pilots to aim at during training missions where live missiles are launched.

Soaring Raven

Raven-A small unmanned aircraft

(Image credit: U.S. Geological Survey | usgs.gov)

Drones aren't just used for military weapon tests and exercises — they can also be used to conduct natural resources research, such as recording and monitoring wildlife. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has been testing the Raven A, a small, camera-equipped aircraft that is about 3 feet long, to see if it can be used to conduct aerial counts of migrating sandhill cranes. The above Raven A was filmed during training exercises at the U.S. Army’s Dugway Proving Grounds in Utah.

Drone Launch

Drone Launch

(Image credit: U.S. Navy | Airman Paul Polach)

In this photo, a BQM-74E drone launches from the flight deck of the USS Boxer, an amphibious assault ship of the U. S. Navy. The exercise, conducted by United States Pacific Fleet in the South China Sea, took place on July 13, 2005. The drone was used to simulate a live-fire aerial threat situation.

Global Hawk

Global Hawk

(Image credit: NASA)

Another drone that is used to conduct environmental research, the Global Hawk drone is used to provide scientists with more insight on hurricane forecasting by observing how storms strengthen. By flying close to storms while filming footage and recording weather conditions, the Global Hawk is capable of taking closer and longer looks at storms' eyewalls. Flying at 400 miles per hour, the Global Hawk can reach heights of 65,000 feet while carrying 2,000 pounds of weather instrument.

Tested the Target

BQM-167A aerial target drone

(Image credit: U.S. Air Force | Bruce Hoffman)

Photographed at the Tyndall Air Force Base in Tyndall, Fla., U.S. Air Force Technician Sgt. Ed Stanfill of the 82nd Aerial Targeting Recovery Squadron inspects a BQM-167A aerial target drone on Dec. 22, 2004. The BQM-167A was then used for aerial targeting practice.

Launch Time

BQM-167A aerial target drone

(Image credit: 12. Credit: U.S. Air Force | Bruce Hoffman)

The previously inspected BQM-167A aerial target drone was good to go on Dec. 22, 2004, when it was launched at Florida's Tyndall Air Force Base for aerial targeting practice.

Recovery Mission

BQM-167A aerial target drone

(Image credit: U.S. Air Force | Bruce Hoffman)

Following its launch, the BQM-167A aerial target drone is recovered at the Tyndall Air Force Base in Tyndall, Fla., on Dec. 22, 2004.

Remy Melina was a staff writer for Live Science from 2010 to 2012. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Communication from Hofstra University where she graduated with honors.