The term "Drone" is becoming more and more popular in everyday conversations due largely to its increased use in militaries around the world. Hobbyists have also jumped on board with the focus being on multi-rotor aircraft which are able to hover in place and be used for surveillance, but never really to add weapons. There are a variety of different military drones used which range in size from something easily carried in a backpack (small / micro sized) like the Wasp, to high altitude, long-endurance systems like the RQ-170 sentinel.
Although military UAVs have been used since around the Vietnam war, more recent UAVs like the Predator and Global Hawk tend not to be "armed to the teeth". A recent test flight of a converted (old) F16 fighter aircraft may be an attempt to change this - potentially adding a new player to the field. The remotely (human) controlled test flight took place on September 19 over the Gulf of Mexico:
As always, this development fuels the debate as to whether or not it is ethical to arm large unmanned aircraft. The technology used to convert the fighter jet to remote (or even autonomous flight) is not new, especially considering commercial aircraft can fly almost entirely on their own. Keep in mind that although the F16 fighter jet is still used by many militaries (and still looks as attractive as ever), it was first flown over 40 years ago, and with the US army's need for having the absolute best technology (coupled with the fact that as aircraft get older, servicing and expensive maintenance can only do so much to save them) there are many such aircraft sitting in massive graveyards waiting to be sold for scrap (Excess Defense Articles) or dismantled. At this point you might even be curious to know what an ex-military jet sells for.
What is most interesting is if the process of converting an old military aircraft to remote control becomes inexpensive enough, retired military aircraft could be put back into use for "one last flight"; for training / live fire exercises or even using the aircraft itself as a weapon in warfare. Until now, pilots undergoing training gained most of their experience in flight simulators, against small, slow-flying drones and in mock exercises against other pilots. Having the ability to reliably remotely control military (and other) aircraft from the ground can put these older fighter jets to some good use.
As a side note, this is not the largest remotely controlled converted aircraft flown: Discovery's "Curiosity" TV show adapted a Boeing 727 for remote control back in 2012. More recently, back in May 2013, a smaller remotely controlled Jetstream flew across UK airspace.'>
How comfortable would you be knowing large unmanned commercial and/or military aircraft were flying overhead?