A squadron of six robot planes are now perpetually buzzing visitors to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, performing "reconnaissance, surveillance, target acquisition," and possibly even attacks. Or at least, they would be if they weren't part of the new exhibit celebrating Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). This is one of the most cutting-edge displays you can see at the Smithsonian - some of the planes even have certain parts sealed because they are still classified.
All six planes were developed for the U.S. military, and some of them flew major recon and combat missions in the Middle East.
- Lockheed Martin/Boeing DarkStar, a stealthy recon plane.
- AeroVironment RQ-14A Dragon Eye, a hand-launched camera plane.
- RQ-2A Pioneer, a recon plane that a number of Iraqi soldiers surrendered to in the first Gulf War, the first time anyone ever surrendered to a robot.
- General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. MQ-1L Predator A, a recon plane that has fired missiles in combat situations.
- AAI Corporation Shadow 200, another recon plane. The plane on exhibit is called the Screamin Demon and flew missions in Iraq until 2005.
- Boeing X-45A Joint Unmanned Combat Air System (J-UCAS), one of two scaled down flight test models. This plane is the first built with the intent of using it in a combat role.
Images by: Smithsonian Air and Space and U.S. Air Force.
Exhibitions On View: Military Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV). [Smithsonian]