Mantis UAV from Ronen Nadir/Bluebird Aero Systems
Habitat: Up to 40,000 feet above any battlefield, disaster site or border, relaying intelligence data back to controllers on the ground
Behavior: All a soldier will have to do to send the self-piloted Mantis on a mission is push a button. From there, it can calculate flight plans, fly around obstacles, and check in with ground controllers when it spots something interesting, like smoke or troop movement. At the end of the mission, it flies home and lands itself. Mantis’s maiden flight went off without a hitch in Australia last October, an astoundingly fast development—it didn’t even exist in 2007. BAE Systems expects it to be ready for sale within two years and hopes to use it as a proving ground for systems in its forthcoming automated stealth bomber, the Taranis.
Notable Feature: Mantis is the first in a new breed of smart drones. A craft that can hone its searches requires less bandwidth than those that constantly stream images. Mantis can also monitor itself for damage—a sputtering engine, for example—and adjust its electronics to complete a mission. It can fly up to 345 miles an hour and operate for up to 36 hours.