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Ready or Not, Here Come Drones

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Published on Feb 2, 2015

The automation of tasks at work and at home is just around the corner, including driving cars, piloting planes, delivering packages, and transporting weapons. Unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as drones, are rapidly evolving to meet both society’s and the military’s needs in automation and better efficiency.

Dr. Missy Cummings, an associate professor at Duke University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and the director of the Humans and Autonomy Lab, is at the forefront of drone technologies. During her time as one of the first female fighter pilots in the US Navy, Cummings observed that computers could take off and land a plane more precisely than humans. Because of this breakthrough and her fascination with this growing technology, she made a career change and began human–drone interaction research.

Despite their promise, people have wide ranging opinions about drones, with privacy issues at the forefront of their concerns. On the other hand, these automated devices are becoming the norm for many work and social environments, such as deactivating a nuclear reactor in case of a meltdown. They can react quicker and more effectively than humans in certain situations, increasing safety.

Dr. Cummings discusses her research and her predictions of continuing interactions between humans and computers.

American Scientist is the illustrative, award-winning magazine of Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society and is your source of science, technology and engineering news and features since 1913! Visit our website at http://www.americanscientist.org.

© 2015 Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society

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