Drones

Narrator: FROM SCIENCE FICTION TO A NICHE TECHNOLOGY Man: WE REALLY DIDN'T KNOW WHAT WE WERE GETTING INTO Narrator: TO THE WAVE OF THE FUTURE Janet Shamlian: AMAZON IS MAKING BIG PROMISES ABOUT EVEN FASTER DELIVERY IN THE FUTURE, USING DRONES Narrator: DRONES CAN BE TRAINED TO DO ANYTHING EVEN KILL Man: THE WEAPON FOLLOWS THAT LASER ENERGY ALL THE WAY TO THE ENEMY Narrator: NOW, WE BRING YOU THE INSIDE STORY OF A REVOLUTION Lester Holt: THE USE OF UNMANNED DRONES IS BECOMING MORE AND MORE COMMON Narrator: THAT FILLS THE SKIES WITH ENDLESS EYES

Man: YOU'RE GOING TO GET THE LANDSCAPE OF EVERYTHING Narrator: THE FUTURE OF FLYING ROBOTS IS HERE Man: WE MANAGED TO CHANGE A LOT OF MINDS ABOUT WHAT A DRONE, UNMANNED AIRCRAFT CAN DO [EXPLOSION] ♪ Narrator: SEPTEMBER 11, 2001 THE UNITED STATES IS UNDER SIEGE

Reporter: A MAJOR DISASTER IS OCCURRING IN NEW YORK CITY THIS MORNING Narrator: AL QAEDA MILITANTS TURN FOUR COMMERCIAL AIRLINERS INTO FLYING BOMBS Tom Brokaw: THOUSANDS LIKELY DEAD DOWNTOWN NEW YORK IN CHAOS SCORES OF POLICE, FIREFIGHTERS WERE IN THE AREA WHEN THE BUILDINGS CAME DOWN

Narrator: SUSPICION QUICKLY FALLS ON AL QAEDA MASTERMIND OSAMA BIN LADEN HE HIDES IN AFGHANISTAN THE US AND ITS ALLIES PUT A WAR PLAN INTO ACTION

THEY CALL IT OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM President Bush: ON MY ORDERS THE UNITED STATES MILITARY HAS BEGUN STRIKES AGAINST AL QAEDA TERRORIST TRAINING CAMPS AND MILITARY INSTALLATIONS OF THE TALIBAN REGIME IN AFGHANISTAN Narrator: IT LOOKS LIKE THE WAR WILL GO BY THE BOOK: AIR STRIKES WITH GROUND TROOPS SOON TO FOLLOW BUT THE AIR FORCE ALSO SENDS A NEW SECRET WEAPON: THE PREDATOR THE PREDATOR– IT'S THE MOST COMBAT-PROVEN REMOTELY PILOTED AIRCRAFT IN THE WORLD

A MACHINE DESIGNED TO PUT FEAR IN THE SKY Jim Cluff: WE ARE STANDING IN FRONT OF THE GENERAL ATOMICS-BUILT MQ-1 PREDATOR, OR WHAT IS COMMONLY REFERRED TO AS THE DRONE BUT WE IN THE AIR FORCE REFER TO THIS AS A REMOTELY PILOTED AIRCRAFT

Narrator: THE PREDATOR IS 27 FEET LONG, 55 FEET WIDE, AND 2,200 POUNDS– SO LIGHT THAT IT ONLY NEEDS A FOUR-CYLINDER ROTAX ENGINE Jim Cluff: IN ADDITION TO PROPELLING PREDATORS, ROTAX ALSO MAKES SNOWMOBILE ENGINES SO MANY OF YOU MAY HAVE ACTUALLY BEEN RIDING ON A MACHINE THAT ALSO POWERS A PREDATOR Narrator: ITS MAX SPEED IS JUST 135 MILES PER HOUR BUT THE PREDATOR DOESN'T NEED TO GET ANYWHERE FAST

WHEN THE AIR FORCE WANTS ONE, THEY JUST SEND IT IN A BOX Cluff: WE CAN PACK IT UP AND TAKE IT WHEREVER WE NEED TO GO THE WINGS COME OFF, AND WE SLIDE IT INTO WHAT WE CALL THE CASKET WE PUT THE TOP ON IT, PUT IT ON A C-130 OR A BIGGER AIRPLANE, AND IT CAN BE FLOWN ANYWHERE AROUND THE WORLD Narrator: OCTOBER 7, 2001

AFGHANISTAN THE FIRST DAY OF THE WAR 20,000 FEET ABOVE THE GROUND, A PREDATOR MAKES ITS WAY ACROSS THE SKY Scott Swanson: WE HAD BEGUN FLYING MISSIONS IN AFGHANISTAN AS EARLY AS THE MIDDLE OF SEPTEMBER IN PREPARATION FOR THE AIR WAR Narrator: MAJOR SCOTT SWANSON WAS THE LEAD PILOT FOR THE PREDATOR PROGRAM

Swanson: WE WERE PROVIDING INTELLIGENCE AND RECONNAISSANCE FOR THOSE STRIKE FORCES COMING IN WE WERE LOOKING AT THINGS LIKE THE ACTIVITY AT THE AIR DEFENSE SITES, THE RADARS, THE MISSILES, TROOP MOVEMENTS, THE FIGHTER ACTIVITY– ALL OF THE PIECES AND PARTS THAT GO TOGETHER FOR A CONVENTIONAL AIR WAR Narrator: THE PREDATOR'S DOING SOMETHING ELSE, TOO: LOOKING FOR TERRORISTS TODAY'S ITS LUCKY DAY Swanson: RELATIVELY LATE IN THE MORNING WE WERE GIVEN A SET OF COORDINATES TO GO CHECK OUT

SURE ENOUGH, WHEN WE GOT THERE, WE WERE ABLE TO LOCATE A CONVOY THAT ENDED UP BEING MULLAH OMAR, THE LEADER OF THE TALIBAN WE KNEW THAT WE HAD A HIGH-VALUE TARGET Narrator: MULLAH MOHAMMAD OMAR IS ONE OF OSAMA BIN LADEN'S TOP ALLIES THERE'S A $10 MILLION BOUNTY ON HIS HEAD Swanson: WE SAW SECURITY DETAILS, VEHICLES, ARMED GUARDS– EVERYTHING THAT TOLD US THAT THIS WAS SOMEBODY IMPORTANT

Narrator: FOR SWANSON, FINDING OMAR IS A CASE OF DEJA VU HE'S HAD A TERRORIST LEADER IN HIS SIGHTS BEFORE Swanson: IT WAS THE FALL OF 2000, AND WE'D BEEN FLYING PREDATOR MISSIONS DEEP INTO AFGHANISTAN AND SAW A GROUP OF PEOPLE GATHERING AND A VERY TALL MAN IN WHITE EXIT ONE OF THE BUILDINGS IT WAS REALLY OBVIOUS TO THOSE OF US WATCHING THAT IT HAD TO BE OSAMA BIN LADEN Narrator: BIN LADEN IS ONE OF AMERICA'S TEN MOST-WANTED TERRORISTS

FINDING HIM SHOULD BE A MOMENT OF TRIUMPH BUT ALL SWANSON CAN DO IS WATCH Swanson: UNFORTUNATELY, WE WERE NOT ARMED, SO NOTHING HAPPENED Narrator: IT'S A MISTAKE THAT THE PENTAGON IS DETERMINED NOT TO MAKE AGAIN Swanson: THE PROGRAM TO ARM THE PREDATOR WAS ALREADY IN PROGRESS, BUT IT WAS ROLLING ALONG VERY SLOWLY

THE ABILITY TO PUT EYES ON TARGET AND NOT BEING ABLE TO DO ANYTHING WAS A REAL IMPETUS TO FAST-TRACK THE ARMING OF THE PREDATOR Narrator: THE PREDATOR WAS INVENTED FOR SURVEILLANCE BUT THE UPDATED VERSION IS DESIGNED TO LIVE UP TO ITS NAME IT HUNTS AND KILLS Cluff: IT'S A MULTI-ROLE AIRCRAFT

IN SOME CASES MULTI-ROLE MEANS USING IT FOR INTELLIGENCE, SURVEILLANCE, AND RECONNAISSANCE BUT IN OTHER CASES IT MEANS USING WEAPONS TO SUPPORT MEN AND WOMEN ON THE GROUND OVERSEAS Narrator: ITS WEAPON OF CHOICE: HELLFIRE [POP] Man: ITEM AWAY, ITEM AWAY Cluff: THE MQ-1B PREDATOR HAS TWO WEAPONS STATIONS AND CAN CARRY TWO AGM-114 HELLFIRE MISSILES

♪ THESE MISSILES ARE LOADED ON AN M-299 LAUNCHER, AND THE MISSILES EASILY SLIDE ONTO THE LAUNCHER Narrator: TWO PEOPLE CONTROL THE PREDATOR: A PILOT AND A SENSOR OPERATOR IN CHARGE OF TARGETING Cluff: THE PILOT IS ALSO CONSIDERED THE MISSION COMMANDER HE IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE OVERALL EFFECTIVE CONDUCT OF THE MISSION, TO INCLUDE THE RELEASE OF WEAPONS THE SENSOR OPERATOR CONTROLS THE VARIOUS SENSOR PACKAGES ON THE AIRPLANE TO INCLUDE THE MULTI-SPECTRAL TARGETING SYSTEM, OR MTS BALL

Narrator: THIS MULTI-SPECTRAL TARGETING SYSTEM IS AT THE HEART OF ALL THE PREDATOR'S OPERATIONS HERE'S HOW IT WORKS THE PREDATOR AIMS A LASER OR INFRARED BEAM FROM THE MTS BALL LOCATED NEAR THE NOSE OF THE PLANE THIS BEAM LANDS ON THE TARGET AND PULSES TO ATTRACT THE LASER SEEKERS AT THE END OF EACH HELLFIRE MISSILE THE PREDATOR USES THE BEAM TO CALCULATE TRAJECTORY AND DISTANCE

Cluff: WE CALL THAT LASING THE TARGET THAT LASING INFORMATION IS VERY ACCURATE, DOWN TO FEET THAT INFORMATION IS PUMPED BACK TO THE WEAPON, THE WEAPON IS RELEASED OFF THE AIRPLANE, AND THEN THE WEAPON FOLLOWS THAT LASER ENERGY ALL THE WAY TO THE ENEMY [EXPLOSIONS] Narrator: IN 2001, CAPTAIN SWANSON AND HIS SENSOR OPERATOR MONITOR THEIR PREDATOR FROM A NORTHERN VIRGINIA BUNKER 7,000 MILES AWAY IN AFGHANISTAN, THE DRONE HOVERS OVER TALIBAN LEADER MULLAH OMAR'S COMPOUND

ON BOARD: TWO HELLFIRE MISSILES IT'S A TWO-PUNCH SYSTEM NEVER BEFORE TESTED IN BATTLE Swanson: WE WERE OPERATING A SYSTEM THAT STILL HAD ROUGH EDGES WE WERE ESSENTIALLY TEST PILOTS FLYING IN COMBAT Narrator: SUDDENLY, OMAR AND HIS BODYGUARDS STEP OUT OF THE BUILDING

THEY CLIMB INTO A CAR AND HEAD TOWARD TOWN Swanson: THE SENSOR OPERATOR WORKED VERY HARD TO KEEP THE VEHICLES IN FOCUS AND ON THE SCREEN I'M TRYING TO KEEP THE AIRCRAFT POSITIONED SO THAT HE HAS THE BEST ABILITY TO SEE THE TARGET AT THIS TIME, AND IT REALLY BECAME A GAME OF CAT AND MOUSE WITH THE CAMERA ♪ WE FOLLOWED THAT VEHICLE OUT INTO A COMPOUND HE AND HIS PARTY WENT INSIDE, AND A SECURITY DETAIL REMAINED OUTSIDE

Narrator: THE PREDATOR CONTINUES TO CIRCLE, EXPECTING AIR FORCE F-14s TO COME IN AND FINISH THE JOB Swanson: WE THOUGHT THAT AT THIS POINT AIR STRIKE WOULD BE CALLED IN IN ORDER TO TAKE OUT THIS HIGH-VALUE TARGET Narrator: BUT THE FAST-FLYING JETS AND THEIR THOUSAND-POUND BOMBS MAY PUT INNOCENT LIVES AT RISK Swanson: CENTRAL COMMAND HAD SPOTTED SOMETHING IN THE COMPOUND THAT WAS A CONCERN IN REGARDS TO COLLATERAL DAMAGE, AND THE STRIKERS WERE HELD OFF IT WAS AT THAT POINT THAT THE COMMAND CAME DOWN TO EXECUTE A STRIKE USING THE HELLFIRE MISSILES THAT WE CARRIED ON THE WINGS OF THE PREDATOR

Narrator: SWANSON AND HIS SENSOR OPERATOR GET READY TO FIRE Swanson: THERE WAS A QUIET TENSION IN THE GROUND CONTROL STATION IT WAS A SYSTEM THAT HAD NEVER BEEN PROVEN IN COMBAT BEFORE Narrator: IF THE PREDATOR'S MISSILES TAKE INNOCENT LIVES, THE ENTIRE DRONE PROGRAM WILL COME UNDER FIRE IF THEY SUCCEED, THEY WILL MAKE HISTORY

Man: READY TO FIRE LEFT MISSILE IN THREE, TWO, ONE Narrator: IN AFGHANISTAN, A PREDATOR HOVERS 20,000 FEET ABOVE TERRORIST MULLAH MOHAMMAD OMAR THOUSANDS OF MILES AWAY, CAPTAIN SCOTT SWANSON AND HIS SENSOR OPERATOR BEGIN A COUNTDOWN Man: READY FIRE MISSILE, LASERS COMING ON Swanson: THE SENSOR OPERATOR HAD THE SECURITY DETAIL ON THE CROSSHAIRS ON THE SENSOR BALL

I'M GETTING READY TO GO THROUGH THE SWITCH POSITIONS TO RELEASE THE HELLFIRE Man: READY TO FIRE LEFT MISSILE THREE, TWO, ONE Swanson: I SQUEEZED THE TRIGGER, AND THE HELLFIRE WAS OFF THE RAIL ♪ YOU DON'T SEE ANYTHING UNTIL THE IMPACT OF THE MISSILE ON THE TARGET

[EXPLOSION] AND AT THAT POINT THE HEAT OF THE EXPLOSION FILLS THE SCENE ♪ Narrator: THE HELLFIRE WIPES OUT OMAR'S ENTOURAGE OMAR HIMSELF ESCAPES Swanson: THE EMOTIONAL BOND ON A MISSION LIKE THAT ISN'T ANY DIFFERENT THAN SOME OF THE HELICOPTER MISSIONS THAT I FLEW THAT YOU COULD SEE, SMELL, AND LITERALLY TASTE WHAT WAS GOING ON YOU ARE 100% EMOTIONALLY INVOLVED

Narrator: SWANSON'S MISSION IS THE FIRST TIME AN UNMANNED AIRCRAFT USES A HELLFIRE IN COMBAT IT USHERS IN A NEW ERA: THE ERA OF THE DRONE Swanson: WE KNEW AMONGST OURSELVES THAT THIS WAS A LEAP IN TECHNOLOGY THERE WOULD BE MANY MORE IN THE COMING DAYS OF THE WAR ♪ Narrator: DRONES: NO TECHNOLOGY IN THE LAST 10 YEARS HAS CAPTURED THE PUBLIC'S IMAGINATION, AND ITS FEAR, SO RAPIDLY

SUDDENLY, THESE FLYING ROBOTS SEEM TO BE EVERYWHERE THEY'RE IN THE HANDS OF THE MILITARY AND CIVILIANS

BUT UNMANNED AIRCRAFT ARE FAR FROM AN OVERNIGHT SENSATION Roger Connor: DRONES GO BACK TO THE DAWN OF POWERED FLIGHT, EVEN BEFORE THE BEGINNING OF THE 20th CENTURY Narrator: ROGER CONNOR IS THE UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS CURATOR FOR THE NATIONAL AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM Connor: THEY GO BACK TO SAMUEL LANGLEY, WHO WAS SECRETARY OF THE SMITHSONIAN IN THE 1890s AND A PREMIER AERONAUTICAL RESEARCHER OF THE TIME Narrator: IN THE 1890s, LANGLEY DEVELOPS A SERIES OF EXPERIMENTAL AIRCRAFT

THEY'RE WOOD, SILK, AND PERCALINE FABRIC, HELD TOGETHER BY WIRE HE CALLS THEM AERODROMES– GREEK FOR "AIR RUNNERS" Connor: ON MAY 6, 1896, SAMUEL LANGLEY'S AERODROME 5 WAS LAUNCHED FROM A HOUSEBOAT ANCHORED IN THE POTOMAC RIVER THIS UNGUIDED AND STEAM-POWERED AIRCRAFT ACHIEVED A DISTANCE OF NEARLY HALF A MILE Narrator: IT'S THE LONGEST FLIGHT OF AN UNPILOTED MOTORIZED AIRCRAFT

LANGLEY TRIES TO KEEP HIS AERODROMES IN THE PUBLIC EYE, BUT RIVALS ECLIPSE HIS EFFORTS Connor: LANGLEY TENDED TO DISAPPEAR INTO THE BACKGROUND FAIRLY QUICKLY AFTER THE WRIGHT BROTHERS' FLIGHT AT KITTY HAWK BEING ABLE TO HAVE A HUMAN IN THE AIRCRAFT IS WHAT GETS THE ATTENTION ♪ Narrator: BY WORLD WAR I, MANNED FLIGHT IS AN INTEGRAL PART OF BATTLEFIELD TACTICS ♪ BUT AT HIGH RISK TO THE PILOTS SOME WONDER IF THE BEST WAY TO PREVENT THE LOSS OF AIRMEN IS TO REMOVE THE PILOT ALTOGETHER Connor: THERE WERE A HANDFUL OF INNOVATORS WHO WERE LOOKING FOR AN ALTERNATIVE THAT WOULD NOT BE VULNERABLE TO AIR DEFENSES IN THE SAME WAY THAT THE MANNED AIRCRAFT WERE Narrator: ONE OF THOSE INNOVATORS IS CHARLES KETTERING

THE MILITARY ENLISTS HIM IN A TOP SECRET PROJECT: TO DESIGN AN UNMANNED AIRCRAFT THAT CAN ACT AS A FLYING BOMB THE AIRCRAFT IS CALLED "THE KETTERING BUG" Connor: THE KETTERING BUG LAUNCHED BY ROLLING DOWN A TRACK ON A DOLLY WHEN IT BECAME AIRBORNE, AN AUTOPILOT STEERED IT ON A CONSTANT COMPASS HEADING A TIMER ON BOARD WAS SET SO THAT WHEN IT TRAVELED A CERTAIN DISTANCE, THE ENGINE WOULD CUT OUT AND IT WOULD FALL FROM THE SKY WITH ITS LOAD OF EXPLOSIVES

♪ Narrator: THE TECHNOLOGY IS REVOLUTIONARY WHEN IT WORKS ♪ Connor: IN REALITY, THEY WERE NEVER ABLE TO ACHIEVE THEIR OBJECTIVE OF GOING LONG DISTANCES

AT ABOUT THE TIME THAT THEY WERE DEVELOPING THIS, MANNED BOMBERS HAD BEGUN TO MATURE AND WERE MORE FAR CAPABLE THAN ANYTHING THAT COULD BE DONE WITH AN UNMANNED AIRCRAFT THIS ESSENTIALLY MADE THE WHOLE KETTERING BUG IDEA OBSOLETE ♪ Narrator: IT ISN'T LONG BEFORE UNMANNED AIRCRAFT ARE BACK ON THE AGENDA THIS TIME, IT'S THE DRONES THAT ARE THE TARGET Connor: THE YEARS LEADING UP TO WORLD WAR II SAW A RESURGENCE IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF UNMANNED AIRCRAFT

THE PRIMARY MOTIVATION EARLY ON WAS THEIR USE IN TRAINING ANTI-AIRCRAFT GUNNERS Narrator: THE MILITARY TAKES OBSOLETE FIGHTER PLANES, ADDS RADIO CONTROL SYSTEMS, AND BLOWS THEM UP Connor: TARGET DRONES WERE THE MOST EFFECTIVE WAY OF TRAINING ANTI-AIRCRAFT GUNNERS AND GIVING REALISTIC TARGETS TO PILOTS AND CREWS ON THE GROUND [GUNFIRE] Narrator: RADIO CONTROLLERS GUIDE THESE AIRCRAFT ♪ AT FIRST THEY FLY BLIND, BUT BY WORLD WAR II, THEY HAVE EYES

Connor: TELEVISION HAD BEGIN DEVELOPING IT WAS NOW EFFECTIVE ENOUGH AND SMALL ENOUGH TO ACTUALLY PUT IN AIRCRAFT OR EVEN MISSILE SYSTEMS IT QUICKLY BECAME THE PRIMARY EYES OF THE DRONE Narrator: THE WAR DEPARTMENT RUSHES TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE NEW TECHNOLOGY THEY REQUEST AN ASSAULT DRONE

THE PRIMARY USER: THE NAVY THE PROTOTYPES: THE TDR AND TDN-1 MARCH 1944 THE NAVY DEPLOYS THE NEW DRONE IN THE PACIFIC ITS TARGET: JAPANESE SHIPS

ONCE THE DRONE IS AIRBORNE, A PILOT FLYING IN A NEARBY BOMBER TAKES CONTROL A CAMERA IN THE DRONE'S NOSE SENDS A SIGNAL TO A 5-INCH TV SCREEN IN THE BOMBER'S REAR COCKPIT Connor: THIS AIRCRAFT WOULD HAVE AN OPERATOR IN THE BACK HE COULD BE THE BRAINS OF THE GUIDANCE SYSTEM, AND HE WOULD ACTUALLY STEER IT VISUALLY, USING THE TELEVISION IMAGE Narrator: THE DRONE CAN BE CONTROLLED FROM UP TO EIGHT MILES AWAY

IT CAN CARRY A TORPEDO OR A 2,000-POUND BOMB [EXPLOSION] ONCE IT'S DONE ITS DAMAGE, THE TDR-1 DOES SOMETHING REVOLUTIONARY IT RETURNS Connor: THE INTERSTATE TDR-1 WAS THE FIRST ASSAULT DRONE THAT WAS REALLY DESIGNED FROM THE OUTSET TO BE REUSABLE SO THIS WAS A MODERN DRONE IN THAT IT COULD ALSO BE RECOVERED AND REUSED

Narrator: THE NAVY HAS HIGH HOPES, BUT THE RESULT IS NOT IMPRESSIVE THE DRONES HIT JUST 50% OF THEIR TARGETS Connor: CONVENTIONAL AIRPLANES AND BOMBS WERE STILL THE MOST EFFECTIVE WAY OF ATTACKING THE ENEMY IN TERMS OF WHAT WE UNDERSTAND AS A UNMANNED AERIAL VEHICLE OR DRONE TODAY, THAT IDEA DEVELOPED A LOT MORE SLOWLY DURING THE COLD WAR ERA ♪ Narrator: MAY 1960

THE UNITED STATES SENDS RECONNAISSANCE PLANES OUT OVER SOVIET AIRSPACE Connor: THE PRIMARY RECONNAISSANCE AIRCRAFT AT THAT TIME WAS THE LOCKHEED U-2 SPY PLANE THE U-2 WAS VERY CAPABLE, BUT IT WAS ALSO VERY VULNERABLE Narrator: THE US

FINDS JUST HOW VULNERABLE WHEN ONE OF ITS MULTI-MILLION-DOLLAR SPY PLANES GETS SHOT DOWN Connor: WHEN FRANCIS GARY POWERS WAS SHOT DOWN IN HIS U-2, THE AIR FORCE REALIZED THEY NOW HAD A SIGNIFICANT PROBLEM IN TERMS OF THEIR RECONNAISSANCE PROGRAM Narrator: WITHIN DAYS, THE PENTAGON LAUNCHES A HIGHLY CLASSIFIED PROGRAM, CODE NAMED "RED WAGON" ITS GOAL: TO FIND UNMANNED AERIAL VEHICLES FOR MISSIONS TOO DULL, DIRTY, OR DANGEROUS FOR MANNED FLIGHT Connor: IN SEARCHING FOR SOLUTIONS, THEY STUMBLED UPON THE LIGHTNING BUG, A VERY CAPABLE RECONNAISSANCE PLATFORM

Narrator: THE LIGHTNING BUGS GET THEIR FIRST TEST IN VIETNAM A DC-130 CARGO PLANE DROPS THE BUG FROM UNDER ITS WINGS THE DRONE FLIES A PREPROGRAMMED ROUTE OVER HOSTILE TERRITORY AND SURVEYS THE LANDSCAPE BELOW WHEN IT'S DONE, A HELICOPTER SNATCHES IT MID-AIR, RECOVERING IT AND ITS ALL-IMPORTANT PHOTOS [CLICKING] ♪ [CLICKING] Connor: THE LIGHTNING BUG BECAME A CRITICAL RECONNAISSANCE PLATFORM FOR BOTH THE VIETNAM WAR AS WELL AS OPERATIONS IN CHINA AND SOUTHEAST ASIA

Narrator: LIGHTNING BUGS FLY OVER 34,000 MISSIONS OVER SOUTHEAST ASIA BY 1979, THEY'VE FALLEN OUT OF FAVOR Connor: UNFORTUNATELY, AS DEFENSE BUDGETS KIND OF SHRANK IN THE POST-VIETNAM ERA, MANNED SYSTEMS TOOK AWAY FROM A LOT OF UAV DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMS Narrator: ONLY ONE BRANCH OF THE SERVICE KEEPS FAITH IN THE TECHNOLOGY: THE ARMY IN 1974, THEY PARTNER WITH LOCKHEED MARTIN TO DEVELOP A NEW DRONE

[BUZZING] ITS PURPOSE: PICKING TARGETS FOR THEIR BRAND-NEW LASER-GUIDED ARTILLERY Man: OK, LOOKS LIKE WE GOT A GOOD LAUNCH Narrator: THE DRONE IS CALLED THE AQUILA, LATIN FOR "EAGLE" ♪ Connor: THE AQUILA WOULD SPOT A TARGET VIA TELEVISION FEED TO A GROUND STATION IT WOULD DESIGNATE A TARGET WITH ITS LASER, AND THEN EITHER THE MISSILE OR THE ARTILLERY ROUND WOULD TRACK IN ON THAT

[BOOM] [EXPLOSION] Narrator: BUT JUST THREE YEARS IN, THE PROGRAM'S COST REACHES ONE BILLION DOLLARS Connor: THE NEW GUIDANCE SYSTEMS, NEW METHODS OF LAUNCH AND CONTROL ALL OF THESE SUB-TECHNOLOGIES HAD TO BE DEVELOPED SIMULTANEOUSLY, AND NEARLY ALL OF THEM RAN INTO TEETHING TROUBLES OF SOME KIND OR ANOTHER

Narrator: IN 1987, THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE WITHDRAWS ITS FUNDING Connor: BECAUSE THE AQUILA WAS THE MILITARY'S BIGGEST DRONE PROGRAM, ITS FAILURE GAVE DRONES A HUGE BLACK EYE Narrator: THE AQUILA'S DEATH IS A MAJOR SETBACK DRONES, IT SEEMS, ARE NOT WORTH THEIR PRICE TAG RESURRECTION WILL TAKE A MIRACLE

1983 IN THE UNITED STATES, DRONES ARE ALL BUT DEAD 6,000 MILES AWAY IN ISRAEL, IT'S A DIFFERENT STORY ISRAELIS DEVELOP DRONES THAT ARE SIMPLER, CHEAPER, AND EASIER TO OPERATE THEY SCOUT SYRIAN RADAR SITES

THEY DESIGNATE TARGETS FOR ISRAELI WEAPONS SYSTEMS THE US NAVY TAKES NOTE Connor: THE U

S NAVY QUICKLY REALIZED THAT THESE DRONES OFFER CAPABILITIES THAT THEY HAD LONG BEEN MISSING AND SO QUICKLY THE US NAVY CONTRACTED WITH THE ISRAELIS TO PROCURE SOME OF THOSE, AND THAT SOON DEVELOPED INTO A CONTRACT FOR WHAT BECAME KNOWN AS THE RQ-2 PIONEER

Narrator: THE PIONEER DOESN'T LOOK LIKE MUCH, BUT JUST FOUR YEARS AFTER IT'S BORN, IT CHANGES THE FACE OF WARFARE FEBRUARY 1991 KUWAIT OPERATION DESERT STORM THE U

SS WISCONSIN SITS DEEP IN THE PERSIAN GULF, WAITING TO ATTACK ON DECK, ITS CREW GETS READY TO HUNT FOR IRAQI MISSILE SITES, USING ITS BRAND-NEW DRONE: THE PIONEER Randal McDonald: THE PIONEER WAS A PURCHASE TO PROVIDE GUNFIRE SPOTTING FOR THE 5-INCH GUNS AND PARTICULARLY FOR THE 16-INCH GUNS

Narrator: LIEUTENANT COMMANDER RANDAL McDONALD WAS THE OFFICER IN CHARGE OF PIONEER OPERATIONS ON THE USS WISCONSIN Randal McDonald: THE 16-INCH GUNS COULD THROW A 1-TON SHELL 27 MILES AWAY

[EXPLOSION] IT WAS HARD TO TELL WHAT DAMAGE WAS ACTUALLY BEING DONE WHEN YOU'RE THAT FAR AWAY, SO OUR AIRCRAFT WAS ORIGINALLY PURCHASED TO WATCH THE TARGET AREAS, DIRECT THE LINE OF FIRE, AND ALLOW THE GUNNERS TO MAKE QUICK CORRECTIONS Narrator: THE PIONEER TURNS OUT TO BE THE MOST EFFECTIVE DRONE THE NAVY'S EVER HAD PIONEERS GUIDE NEARLY A MILLION POUNDS OF NAVY GUNFIRE ONTO IRAQI MISSILE SITES BUT IT'S THE NEW AIRCRAFT'S FEAR FACTOR THAT GIVES DRONES A WHOLE NEW REPUTATION Connor: ON FEBRUARY 27th OF 1991 THE PIONEER WAS SPOTTING FOR NAVAL GUNFIRE

WHILE FLYING LOW, THEY CAME ACROSS A GROUP OF IRAQIS WHO WERE ABLE TO SEE THE PIONEER IN THE AIR AND WHO UNDERSTOOD THAT USUALLY WHEN ONE SAW A PIONEER IT WAS ACCOMPANIED BY 16-INCH ROUNDS FROM THE BATTLESHIPS McDonald: AND THAT'S WHEN THE IRAQI SOLDIERS STARTED WAVING WHITE FLAGS, WHITE T-SHIRTS, TOWELS WHATEVER THEY COULD

THAT WAS THE FIRST TIME IN HISTORY THAT A HUMAN SURRENDERED TO A ROBOT Narrator: THE PIONEER MAKES DRONES LOOK GOOD, BUT THEY STILL HAVE SERIOUS LIMITATIONS Connor: ONE OF THE BIGGEST PROBLEMS WITH UAVs WAS THAT THEY REQUIRED LINE-OF-SIGHT COMMUNICATIONS SO, AS SOON AS IT WENT OVER THE HORIZON, YOU WOULD LOSE CONTROL OF IT AS WELL AS LOSING YOUR LIVE VIDEO FEED Narrator: THE SOLUTION COMES FROM AEROSPACE ENGINEER ABRAHAM KAREM

Connor: HE GOT HIS START IN ISRAEL NOT ONLY DEVELOPING SOME UNMANNED SYSTEMS, BUT ALSO DID A LOT OF WORK WITH GLIDERS AND OTHER AIRCRAFT THAT ARE DESIGNED TO STAY UP FOR A LONG PERIOD OF TIME Narrator: IN 1994, KAREM DESIGNS A FRAME THAT INCORPORATES SOMETHING REVOLUTIONARY INTO THE DRONE'S BODY: A SATELLITE SYSTEM HIS DESIGN IS CALLED THE PREDATOR Connor: ONE OF THE MOST REVOLUTIONARY THINGS ABOUT THE PREDATOR IS THE FACT THAT IT IS ABLE TO BE CONTROLLED AS WELL AS MONITORED ON THE OPPOSITE SIDE OF THE PLANET Narrator: WHEN THE PREDATOR FLIES BEYOND THE LINE OF SIGHT, IT CONNECTS TO A KU-BAND SATELLITE SYSTEM

THE SATELLITE PICKS UP INFORMATION FROM THE GROUND CONTROL STATION AND RELAYS IT TO THE AIRCRAFT THIS ALLOWS THE CREW TO CONTROL THE AIRCRAFT'S MOVEMENT AND ITS SENSOR BALL THE PREDATOR SCANS THE GROUND BELOW AND BEAMS THE VIDEO OR PHOTOGRAPHS BACK TO THE SATELLITE SYSTEM, WHICH THEN TRANSMITS THE IMAGES BACK TO THE CONTROL STATION FOR THE CREW TO RESPOND Cluff: THE ONLY LIMITATION WE HAVE IS THE LAG TIME IN GETTING THE SIGNAL TO THE CONTROL STATION FROM THE AIRPLANE, AND THAT TYPICALLY IS ANYWHERE FROM 15 TO 2 SECONDS

Narrator: SATELLITE CONTROL ALLOWS THE PREDATOR TO TAKE ITS ROVING EYE AROUND THE WORLD AND IN MISSIONS CLOSE TO HOME– SOME OF WHICH HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH COMBAT ♪ AUGUST 2013 CALIFORNIA FIRE THREATENS TO DESTROY THE YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK Reporter: YOU'RE LOOKING AT SOME OF THE 187,000 ACRES THAT HAS BEEN BURNED BY THE RIM FIRE

[SIRENS] Narrator: 50,000 FIREFIGHTERS COME OUT IN FULL FORCE THE FIRE IS FAST AND DANGEROUS FIREFIGHTERS ARE QUICKLY OVERWHELMED THE CALIFORNIA NATIONAL GUARD'S 163rd RECONNAISSANCE WING STEPS IN TO HELP Dana Hessheimer: IT WAS SUNDAY, AUGUST 25th, WHEN I GOT THE CALL TO SAY, "HEY, BE PREPARED, WE MIGHT USE A MQ-1 PREDATOR TO HELP SUPPORT THE EFFORTS AT THE RIM FIRE

" Narrator: COLONEL DANA HESSHEIMER IS COMMANDER OF THE AIR NATIONAL GUARD'S 163rd RECONNAISSANCE WING Hessheimer: I WANTED TO GET OUT THERE AS SOON AS WE COULD BECAUSE THEIR REQUEST WAS FOR PERSISTENT SURVEILLANCE AND WE KNEW WE COULD PROVIDE THAT FOR THEM BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT WE DO EVERY DAY Narrator: THE PREDATOR IS NOTORIOUS FOR ITS WEAPONS BUT SURVEILLANCE WAS ITS FIRST PURPOSE

IT'S DESIGNED TO HOVER AND WATCH Man: THE MQ-1B PREDATOR, ONE OF THE BIG ADVANTAGES THAT IT BRINGS, IS IT BRINGS ABOUT 24 HOURS OF LOITER TIME, WHICH A MANNED AIRCRAFT JUST CANNOT DO Narrator: THE MQ-1B PREDATOR HAS FOUR CAMERAS EMBEDDED IN ITS BODY, STARTING WITH ITS NOSE Man: NORMALLY ON TAKEOFFS AND LANDINGS THE PILOT WILL BE USING THAT CAMERA BECAUSE IT'S POINTED STRAIGHT OFF, IT'S FIXED, AND IT DOESN'T MOVE Narrator: THE OTHER THREE CAMERAS ARE IN THE PREDATOR'S BELLY, ON ITS GYRO-STABILIZED SENSOR BALL

THE FIRST IS A TWO-FOR-ONE-SPECIAL: IT CONTAINS ONE TV CAMERA OPTIMIZED FOR DAYLIGHT AND ONE THAT SEES IN INFRARED IT CAN SEE THROUGH CLOUDS AND SMOKE Man: MANNED AIRCRAFT NORMALLY DO NOT FLY AT NIGHT AND THE SMOKE AND THE HAZE AND THE FIRE, BUT WE CAN PROVIDE THAT REAL-TIME SITUATIONAL AWARENESS THROUGH OUR FULL-MOTION VIDEO AND THE INFRARED Narrator: THE LAST CAMERA OFFERS A WIDE AND ULTRA-WIDE POINT OF VIEW FOUR FULL-MOTION CAMERAS

FOUR OPTIONS FOR REAL-TIME VIDEO Man: ULTIMATELY THE GREATEST CAPABILITY THAT REMOTELY PILOTED AIRCRAFT BRING IS WE NEVER HAVE TO PUT A PILOT IN HARM'S WAY Narrator: MARCH AIR FORCE BASE, CALIFORNIA 350 MILES AWAY FROM YOSEMITE, AN MQ-1B PREDATOR TAKES OFF AND HEADS TOWARD THE FIRE ♪ THIS IS THE FIRST TIME THAT THE NATIONAL GUARD HAS USED THE AIRCRAFT TO SUPPORT CIVILIAN AUTHORITIES

IT'S A POWERFUL ASSIST IF THEY CAN PULL IT OFF Hessheimer: I WAS ACTUALLY PRETTY EXCITED THAT WE MIGHT HAVE THE CAPABILITY TO ACTUALLY SUPPORT THE FIREFIGHTERS

WE KNEW THIS WAS A CHANCE TO SHOW THE AMERICAN PEOPLE THAT THIS JUST WASN'T A KILLING MACHINE, BUT THAT THIS TECHNOLOGY COULD BE USED FOR GOOD Narrator: TWO HOURS INTO ITS FLIGHT, THE PREDATOR REACHES YOSEMITE ITS SENSOR OPERATOR AND PILOT SURVEY THE FIRE BELOW ♪ Hessheimer: THERE WAS THOUSANDS OF FIREFIGHTERS ON THE GROUND SOMETIMES THE FIRE WOULD ACTUALLY BE GOING OVER THE FIREFIGHTERS' HEADS BECAUSE THOSE TREES WERE SO TALL, AND THEY WEREN'T EVEN AWARE OF IT

Narrator: THE FIREFIGHTERS ARE SPREAD OVER HUNDREDS OF MILES KEEPING TABS ON THEM ALL IS A CHALLENGE Hessheimer: ONE OF THE BIGGEST CONCERNS OF THE INCIDENT COMMANDER WHEN THEY'RE FIGHTING A FIRE IS TO MAKE SURE THEY KEEP TRACK OF ALL THEIR CREWS BECAUSE OF THE MOUNTAINOUS TERRAIN, IT'S TOUGH TO CONTINUE TO HAVE COMMUNICATIONS Narrator: SOON AFTER THE PREDATOR ARRIVES, HESSHEIMER'S CREW LEARNS THAT SOMETHING ON THE GROUND HAS GONE TERRIBLY WRONG

Hessheimer: THE INCIDENT COMMANDER LOST COMMUNICATIONS WITH ONE OF HIS FIRE CREWS AND ASKED US IF WE COULD HELP FIND HIS FIRE CREW THE WORST THING THAT COULD HAPPEN IS OBVIOUSLY IF THAT FIRE ENGULFED THE FIREFIGHTER CREWS AND THEY COULDN'T GET OUT OF IT ♪ Narrator: HESSHEIMER QUICKLY REROUTES THE PREDATOR TO THE MEN'S LAST KNOWN LOCATION Hessheimer: IT WAS SUCH A HUGE FIRE THAT THE SMOKE PLUME WAS GOING UP TO 30,000 FEET, BUT THE INFRARED CAMERA CAN SEE THROUGH SMOKE, SO WE STARTED STREAMING FULL-MOTION VIDEO TO THE INCIDENT COMMANDER Narrator: THE PREDATOR MOVES SLOWLY OVER THE FIRE, SCANNING A VAST TERRITORY

THE SENSOR OPERATOR PORES THROUGH THE VIDEO THE MOOD IS TENSE IF THE PREDATOR CAN'T FIND THE FIREFIGHTERS, THEY MAY STAY LOST FOR GOOD A PREDATOR CIRCLES HIGH ABOVE YOSEMITE NATIONAL FOREST, SEARCHING THROUGH THE SMOKE FOR A SMALL TEAM OF FIREFIGHTERS THE SENSOR OPERATOR NOTICES SEVERAL SMALL FIGURES MAKING THEIR WAY UP A RIDGE LINE

Hessheimer: WITHIN FIVE MINUTES WE FOUND THE CREW, AND THEN WE RELAYED BACK TO THE INCIDENT COMMANDER THAT HIS CREW WAS SAFE ♪ THAT'S WHEN THEY REALIZED THAT THIS WAS A GAME CHANGER Narrator: OVER THE NEXT SEVEN DAYS, THE PREDATOR FLIES OVER 80 HOURS OF SUPPORT IT CONTINUES TO PROVE ITS WORTH WITH EVERY FLIGHT Hessheimer: WE HELPED THE INCIDENT COMMANDER FIND LOST FIRE CREWS, WE HELPED THEM SAVE YOSEMITE, AND WE ALSO HELPED THEM LOOK AND PROTECT CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE, LIKE THE POWER LINES

Narrator: THE FIRE DESTROYS 250,000 ACRES, BUT NOT A SINGLE LIFE IS LOST Hessheimer: YOSEMITE'S, YOU KNOW, ONE OF THE CROWN JEWELS OF THE NATIONAL PARK SYSTEM SO, FOR US TO GET UP THERE AND HELP SAVE IT WAS A HUGE THING FOR US, NOT ONLY FOR US PERSONALLY, BUT FOR THE WORLD Narrator: OVER 7,000 MILES AWAY, A VERY DIFFERENT KIND OF DRONE IS BROUGHT IN TO SAVE LIVES THIS TIME, BY THE U

S ARMY 2010 AFGHANISTAN FOR U

S TROOPS, IT'S THE DEADLIEST YEAR YET [EXPLOSION] Man: OH! IED! IED! Reporter: IN ALL THE YEARS THAT AMERICAN TROOPS HAVE BEEN FIGHTING IN AFGHANISTAN, THEY HAVE NEVER SEEN THIS MANY IED ATTACKS [EXPLOSIONS] Narrator: IMPROVISED EXPLOSIVE DEVICES ON AFGHANI ROADS KILL DOZENS OF SOLDIERS A $17 BILLION U

S COUNTEROFFENSIVE DOES LITTLE TO STEM THE PROBLEM Darren Bland: DURING OUR TOUR IN EASTERN AFGHANISTAN IT SEEMED LIKE OUR GUYS WERE ENCOUNTERING IEDs PRETTY MUCH EVERY DAY Narrator: SERGEANT DARREN BLAND SERVED THREE TOURS IN OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM Bland: A LOT OF TIMES WHAT WE WOULD FIND IS AS SOON AS WE'VE STOPPED AT ONE IED, JUST AROUND THE NEXT CORNER OR THE NEXT BEND, THEY'D BE PUTTING IN ANOTHER ONE

Narrator: NOW BLAND'S UNIT HAS A NEW TOOL TO BATTLE THE IED THREAT IT WEIGHS JUST 17 POUNDS, BUT THE ARMY BELIEVES IT'S THE NEXT BIG THING THE RQ-20 PUMA IS PROPELLER-DRIVEN, BATTERY-POWERED, AND DESIGNED TO BE READY FOR COMBAT IN ANY PLACE, AT ANY TIME Nick Kioutas: THEY CAN PUT THIS SYSTEM TOGETHER IN ABOUT 15 MINUTES THEY'RE ABLE TO DO IT QUICKLY WITHOUT HAVING TO CALL HIGHER ECHELONS FOR SUPPORT

Narrator: LARGER DRONES NEED A RUNWAY OR A CATAPULT TO GET THEM INTO THE AIR NOT THE PUMA IT'S DESIGNED TO BE LAUNCHED RIGHT FROM THE SOLDIER'S OWN HANDS EACH PUMA TEAM HAS TWO MEMBERS THE MISSION OPERATOR IS THE PUMA'S BRAINS

HE USES A TOUCH SCREEN LAPTOP TO PROGRAM THE PUMA'S ROUTE A GPS EMBEDDED IN THE PUMA'S BODY ALLOWS HIM TO TRACK IT ON A DETAILED MAP THE VEHICLE OPERATOR CONTROLS THE PUMA'S EYES HE USES A TABLET WITH CONTROL STICKS TO PILOT THE AIRCRAFT AND MONITOR WHAT IT SEES Kioutas: HE CAN IDENTIFY ENEMY SOLDIERS WITH WEAPONS OR WHAT THEIR INTENT IS

Narrator: THE PUMA MAKES A BIG PROMISE: TO SAVE SOLDIERS' LIVES AFGHANISTAN IS ITS FIRST REAL TEST SERGEANT DARREN BLAND AND HIS UNIT DRIVE DEEP INTO THE AFGHANI COUNTRYSIDE BEHIND THEM, A CONVOY OF VITAL SUPPLIES THE ROAD IS ONE OF AFGHANISTAN'S DEADLIEST

BLAND'S UNIT MUST ENSURE IT'S IED-FREE Bland: ON THIS SPECIFIC ROUTE THERE ARE SEVERAL AREAS THAT WERE TYPICAL SPOTS WHERE PEOPLE WOULD TRY TO PLACE IEDs IN FRONT OF A CONVOY IF YOU JUST MISS ONE IED AND ONE OF THOSE TRUCKS GETS HIT, IT'S PRETTY SERIOUS, SO WE DECIDED TO TAKE THE PUMA ALONG WITH US TO PROVIDE INTELLIGENCE, SURVEILLANCE, AND RECONNAISSANCE OF THE ROUTE THAT WE WERE CLEARING Narrator: BLAND'S HUMVEE PULLS OFF BEFORE IT REACHES THE FIRST TROUBLE SPOT THE CONVOY CONTINUES ON AHEAD

Bland: THE SPOT WE CHOSE TO FLY FROM FOR THIS SPECIFIC DAY WAS A GOOD SPOT BECAUSE IT WAS HIDDEN FROM THAT AREA, AND WE COULD SEE AROUND THE CORNER BEFORE THE CONVOY COULD THAT ALLOWED US TO FLY AROUND, TAKE A LOOK BEFORE THE ENEMY WOULD EVER SEE A VEHICLE ♪ Narrator: BLAND SCRAMBLES TO GET THE PUMA IN THE AIR IT RACES AHEAD OF THE CONVOY, LOOKING FOR THREATS Bland: IT'S ALWAYS IN THE BACK OF MY MIND THAT THAT CONVOY'S STILL MOVING FORWARD AND THAT IF I DON'T IDENTIFY THE THREATS QUICK ENOUGH, IT MIGHT BE TOO LATE

♪ Narrator: AT FIRST, NOTHING ♪ BUT THEN, THE VEHICLE OPERATOR HOMES IN ON SOMETHING SUSPICIOUS Bland: AROUND THE NEXT TURN IN THE ROAD WE NOTICED THAT THERE WERE THREE GUYS AROUND A HOLE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD ONCE WE NOTICED THE GUYS IN THE ROAD DIGGING, WE PRETTY MUCH KNEW WHAT WAS GOING ON THEY WERE TRYING TO EMPLACE AN IED

WE RADIOED THE CONVOY WITH AN ALL-STOP, WHICH MEANS EVERY VEHICLE IN THAT CONVOY STOPS IMMEDIATELY ♪ Narrator: SOMEHOW THE INSURGENTS SENSE THEY'VE BEEN SPOTTED A TEAM OF SOLDIERS DISMOUNTS FROM THE CONVOY AND HEADS TOWARD THE INSURGENTS BUT WHEN THE SOLDIERS ARRIVE, THE INSURGENTS ARE GONE Bland: THEY MOVED UP THE ROAD AND AROUND ANOTHER CORNER TO A VEHICLE WHERE THEY PUT THE IED IN THE BACK OF THEIR VEHICLE AND THEY DROVE AWAY

Narrator: TODAY'S SCORE: AMERICA, ONE; TALIBAN, ZERO Bland: THOSE GUYS COULDN'T COMPLETE THE JOB, THEY DIDN'T GET THE IEDs IN PLACE BECAUSE OF THE PUMA WE WERE ABLE TO ELIMINATE ONE MORE THREAT TO OUR SOLDIERS ON THE GROUND ♪ Narrator: THE US

ARMY CURRENTLY HAS OVER 325 PUMAS IN SERVICE IN MARCH 2012, THEY SIGNED A $20 MILLION CONTRACT FOR MORE Connor: THE INCREASED USE OF SMALLER UAVs, EVEN PERSONAL UAVs ON THE BATTLEFIELD, IS GOING TO CONTINUE TO GROW Narrator: THE MILITARY ISN'T THE ONLY GROUP FINDING NEW WAYS TO USE DRONES THE FASTEST-GROWING MARKET IS WITH CIVILIANS

APRIL 2012 LIBERTY, TEXAS A 2 1/2-YEAR-OLD BOY HAS BEEN MISSING FOR A WEEK Ken Defoor: WE PROBABLY HAD AT LEAST 200 PEOPLE INVOLVED IN BOTH THE SEARCHING AND THE OPERATION DEVELOPMENT ITSELF Narrator: CAPTAIN KEN DEFOOR HAS BEEN WITH THE LIBERTY COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT FOR FOUR YEARS

Defoor: THIS WAS A VERY SWAMPY AREA, IT WAS ALLIGATOR-INFESTED, SNAKE-INFESTED THERE'S ALL KINDS OF ANIMALS IN THERE THAT WOULD BE DETRIMENTAL, NOT ONLY TO A YOUNG CHILD, BUT TO THE SEARCHERS THEMSELVES Narrator: THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS AND HUNDREDS OF MAN-HOURS LATER, INVESTIGATORS ARE STILL AT SQUARE ONE Defoor: WE HAD FOOT SEARCHERS, ATVs, DIVE TEAMS, AERIAL SURVEILLANCES, WE USED EVERY TECHNOLOGY AND EVERY RESOURCE THAT WE HAD Narrator: BUT THERE'S ONE RESOURCE THAT THE SHERIFF'S OFFICE HASN'T YET USED: A DRONE

Gene Robinson: MANY LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES AND FIRST RESPONDERS DON'T HAVE VERY LARGE BUDGETS IT'S VERY DIFFICULT FOR THEM TO CONSIDER PURCHASING THIS SORT OF TECHNOLOGY BECAUSE THEY, QUITE FRANKLY, CAN'T AFFORD IT Narrator: GENE ROBINSON HAS DESIGNED UNMANNED AERIAL VEHICLES FOR OVER 20 YEARS Robinson: THAT'S WHERE A CIVILIAN CAN COME IN AND PROVIDE THE SAME SORT OF SERVICE THAT A LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY WOULD NEED Narrator: DESIGNING DRONES USED TO BE THE MILITARY'S TERRITORY

TODAY, CIVILIANS MAKE THEM, TOO Robinson: THIS IS THE RP FLIGHT SYSTEM SPECTRA, IT'S A FLYING WING, AND IT'S DESIGNED TO SHOOT AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHY Narrator: A SPECIALLY DESIGNED WING LETS THE SPECTRA FLY FAR AND FAST Robinson: IT'S A FLYING WING IT HAS A SWEPT, TAPERED DESIGN

IT'S VERY STRONG AND IT'S ALSO VERY LIGHT THE LIGHTER WING LOADING ALLOWS US TO CARRY A BIGGER PAYLOAD BIGGER PAYLOADS MEAN LONGER FLIGHT TIMES, AND WHEN WE'RE IN A SEARCH, WE NEED ALL THE TIME IN THE AIR WE CAN GET LAUNCHING IN 3, 2, 1

[BUZZING] Narrator: THIS TINY CRAFT CAN SOAR UP TO 12,500 FEET, OR HOVER LOW AT TREETOP LEVELS BUT IT DOES HAVE A SWEET SPOT Robinson: THE CAMERAS THAT WE USE HAPPEN TO HAVE THE FOCAL LENGTH THAT FITS WITH A 400-FOOT ALTITUDE AND GIVES US SUFFICIENT RESOLUTION TO BE ABLE TO USE THEM IN SEARCH AND RESCUE THE DETAIL THAT WE CAN GET IN THOSE PICTURES IS SIGNIFICANT WE GET ENOUGH DETAIL WHERE WE CAN SEE SOMETHING AS SMALL AS A TENNIS SHOE

Narrator: 200 MILES FROM LIBERTY, ROBINSON VOLUNTEERS HIS SPECTRA TO HELP SEARCH FOR THE MISSING CHILD Robinson: BASED ON OUR PAST EXPERIENCE, WE FELT LIKE IT WAS GOING TO BE A RECOVERY RATHER THAN A RESCUE, WHICH IS ALWAYS DISCONCERTING BUT IT'S JUST AS IMPORTANT TO BRING THAT CHILD HOME IN ANY CASE Narrator: DOUBT ABOUT THE DRONE ADDS TO THE TENSION Robinson: THE AREA HAD BEEN COVERED VERY THOROUGHLY AND THERE WAS GREATER POTENTIAL THAT WE WERE NOT GOING TO BE SUCCESSFUL

EVEN THE LAW ENFORCEMENT WERE SKEPTICS BECAUSE THEY HAD ALREADY RESIGNED THEMSELVES THAT THIS WAS NOT GOING TO BE SOLVABLE Narrator: ROBINSON KNOWS HIS SPECTRA JUST MAY BE THE LAST CHANCE TO LEARN THE CHILD'S FATE Robinson: WE DON'T TRY TO GUESS THE OUTCOME OF ANY MISSIONS, WHETHER THEY BE SUCCESSFUL OR NOT WE JUST GO AND TRY TO DO THE MISSION [BUZZING] ♪ Narrator: A 2 1/2-YEAR-OLD CHILD IS MISSING IN TEXAS

THE LAST CHANCE TO FIND HIM: A DRONE Robinson: WE WERE ADVISED THAT THIS WAS IT, THIS WAS THE LAST EFFORT THAT WAS GOING TO BE MADE FOR THE SEARCH THEY FELT THAT THEY HAD DONE EVERYTHING THEY COULD DO Narrator: ROBINSON LAUNCHES THE SPECTRA INTO THE SKY IT'S TIME FOR THE DRONE TO PERFORM

Robinson: WE WERE BRIEFED AS TO WHAT THE CHILD WAS WEARING, WE WERE TOLD WHITE JERSEY, MAROON RAGLAN SLEEVES THAT'S WHAT WE'RE LOOKING FOR Narrator: ROBINSON INITIATES AUTOPILOT, THE BRAIN OF THE DRONE ITSELF Robinson: THE AUTOPILOT THAT WE USE IN THE SPECTRA IS A VERY SMART PIECE OF EQUIPMENT IT AUTOMATICALLY CALCULATES, BASED ON THE ALTITUDE AND SPEED, WHEN TO TAKE A PICTURE AND GIVE US WHATEVER OVERLAP WE SPECIFY

THIS ENSURES US 100% COVERAGE OF THE SEARCH AREA Narrator: TEN MINUTES LATER THE SPECTRA IS BACK ROBINSON QUICKLY TAKES ITS MEMORY CARD TO HIS MOBILE HEADQUARTERS Robinson: ONCE WE COMPLETE A MISSION, THE SD CARD COMES OUT OF THE CAMERA AND COMES STRAIGHT TO THE VAN Narrator: SQUINTING IS A CRUCIAL PART OF THE PROCESS

ROBINSON BORROWED THE TERM FROM THE WORLD WAR II ERA Robinson: WELL, WE DIDN'T REALLY HAVE A GOOD WORD TO DESCRIBE WHAT YOU DO TO VIEW PICTURES IN WORLD WAR II, WHEN THEY TOOK HIGH-RESOLUTION AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHY, THEY HAD PEOPLE WHO WOULD LOOK AT PICTURES AND THEY WOULD SQUINT AT THE PICTURES, AND THEY WERE CALLED SQUINTS SO WE ADOPTED THAT TERM TO DOING THE SAME THING

WE BASICALLY BRING THE PICTURE UP AND WE SQUINT EACH LITTLE SECTION OF IT TO SEE IF WE CAN FIND A CLUE IN IT WE CAN ZOOM IN TO THESE IMAGES AND SEE THINGS ON THE GROUND THIS IS THE PROCESS OF SQUINTING Narrator: IT DOESN'T TAKE LONG BEFORE A SQUINT POINTS OUT AN OBJECT OF INTEREST: A RED DOT IN THE WATER A HELICOPTER TEAM TAKES OFF TO GET A CLOSER LOOK

Robinson: THE HELICOPTER CAME IN, AND THIS TIME, DIRECTED BY US, FLEW TO THE RED OBJECT AND AS THEY HOVERED OVER THE LAKE, WE HAD RADIO CONTACT COME THROUGH TO THE RANGERS THAT POSITIVE ID WAS MADE AND THE CHILD WAS FOUND Narrator: THE TEAM IS TOO LATE IT'S A DEVASTATING END TO A TRAGIC STORY BUT IT COULD HAVE BEEN WORSE

Defoor: THE PHOTOGRAPHS ALSO PHOTOGRAPHED AN ALLIGATOR WITHIN ABOUT 30 YARDS OF THE REMAINS OF THE LITTLE BOY SO HAD WE NOT RECOVERED THE BODY WITHIN THAT HOUR, WE WOULD HAVE NEVER RECOVERED THAT LITTLE BOY Narrator: FOR ROBINSON, THE DRONE'S PERFORMANCE IS A VINDICATION Robinson: WE MANAGED TO PROVE A LOT THAT DAY AND MANAGED TO CHANGE A LOT OF MINDS ABOUT WHAT A DRONE, UNMANNED AIRCRAFT CAN DO [BUZZING] Narrator: DRONES

44 COUNTRIES USE THEM FOR THEIR MILITARY OPERATIONS THE GLOBAL HAWK THE SHADOW

THE HUNTER THE RAVEN THE REAPER THE K-MAX HELICOPTER THE LIST GROWS EVERY YEAR ♪ Swanson: ANYTHING THAT CAN BE DONE WITH A MANNED AIRCRAFT HAS THE CAPABILITY TO BE DONE UNMANNED WITHIN A FEW YEARS, THEY'RE GOING TO BE DOING THINGS THAT WE NEVER HAD IMAGINED THAT EITHER A MANNED OR UNMANNED AIRCRAFT MAY BE CONDUCTING

Narrator: IN 2014 ALONE, THE PENTAGON SPENT ALMOST $25 BILLION ON DRONE DEVELOPMENT WITH A DRONE, THERE'S NO NEED FOR EJECTION SEATS, LIFE SUPPORT SYSTEMS, OR EVEN A COCKPIT SPACE NORMALLY RESERVED FOR A PILOT CAN GO TO SENSORS, WEAPONS, OR EXTRA FUEL DRONES DON'T JUST DO WHAT THEY'RE TOLD; SOON, THEY'LL THINK FOR THEMSELVES, TOO

Connor: THE NEXT STEP IS GOING TO BE A BIG ONE, AND THIS IS THE INCREASED USE OF AUTONOMOUS FULLY ARMED DRONES, SO THINGS LIKE THE NAVY'S X-47B Narrator: THE X-47B USES AN ONBOARD COMPUTER TO TAKE OFF AND LAND WHEN IT'S IN THE AIR, IT PILOTS ITSELF Connor: THESE AIRCRAFT WILL FLY FULLY AUTONOMOUS MISSIONS, BUT IT IS GOING TO BE A BIT FURTHER IN THE FUTURE BECAUSE THERE ARE A LOT OF TECHNICAL ISSUES THAT HAVE TO BE RESOLVED, AND IT'S GOING TO BE EXTREMELY EXPENSIVE Narrator: CIVILIAN DRONES HAVE EXPLODED, TOO, CREATING AN ANNUAL MARKET ESTIMATED AT MORE THAN A BILLION DOLLARS

Connor: THE CIVILIAN MARKET HAS JUST COMPLETELY EXPLODED IN FASCINATING AND KIND OF UNBELIEVABLE NEW WAYS, WITH HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF THESE THINGS BEING PRODUCED AROUND THE GLOBE THERE ARE ANY NUMBER OF NEW OPPORTUNITIES FOR THEIR USE, FROM REAL ESTATE AGENTS TO POWER COMPANIES THAT WANT TO INSPECT THEIR TRANSMISSION LINES TO POLICE DEPARTMENTS THAT WANT TO SPOT ALZHEIMER'S PATIENTS WHO'VE WANDERED AWAY FROM A NURSING HOME Narrator: IT'S SCIENCE MEETS SCIENCE FICTION FROM THE BATTLEFIELD TO THE BACKYARD, EACH GENERATION OF DRONES GETS FASTER, STRONGER, AND SMARTER THE NEXT TIME YOU LOOK UP AND SEE SOMETHING FLYING ABOVE YOU, TAKE A GOOD LOOK IT JUST MAY BE THE FUTURE OF AVIATION ♪

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