In the next 25 years, drones will be hunting the skies in groups and will make autonomous decisions without input from humans and carry even smarter bombs than they use today, according to the U.S. Department of Defense Unmanned Systems Integrated Roadmap Report.
The report is designed to be a snapshot of the future technical capability of maritime, land and air drones in the coming 25 years. It predicts, among many incredible capabilities, that drones will be able able to offload swarms of drone-bombs that will have ranges of up to 250 miles. These advanced munitions will remain in the air until a target is selected, at which point the whole drone-bomb collides into the target, similar to a kamikaze pilot.
Currently researchers are working on special ammunition made using energetic nanoparticles that have a larger surface area than standard components. This means that the chemicals inside the ammunition react quicker and create far more powerful explosions on impact.
"By working at the nanoscale," the report's authors explained, "weapons designers can also control the rate at which energy is released by changing the size of the nanoparticles; in other words, the designers could customize the explosive for each application."
"An example of this technology is the use of aluminum nanoparticles in explosives that the Air Force is developing. When nano-aluminum powder is added to explosives, weapons can be made smaller and more powerful. These weapons are useful in aircraft with limited space, such as remote control drones. Researchers are developing techniques that allow weapons manufacturers to add a greater amount of nano-aluminum powder to an explosive using a solvent," the report concluded.
And while current drones are manpower-intensive, with teams on the ground in both the home base country and in the combat country, the military is looking to offload as many tasks to drones as possible to cut costs, but as the report states, this could be dangerous, because as human commands are replaced with set mission directives, there are dangers that drones could deviate from the assigned mission.
To achieve the overall goal, other technologies have to be advanced first, especially in the fields of navigation and sensors. Furthermore, careful programming will have to be created that ensure the drone follows certain laws that govern their behavior and that they can learn from.
While the DOD expect this technology to be expensive, they believe it will save money in the long term and make the drones smarter and more efficient.