2000, Air and Space Museum
Unmanned, remote-controlled aircraft changed the character of war
Author Mark Bowden writes in our 101 Objects Special Issue:
Soldiers had long coveted the ability to see over the next hill. Manned aircraft delivered that, from gas-filled balloons in the Civil War and from airplanes in the 20th century, but only until the pilot or his fuel was exhausted. Satellites provide an amazing panorama but they are expensive, few in number and not always overhead when needed. The Gnat gave commanders a 60-mile panorama from a platform that could stay airborne more or less permanently, with vehicles flown in 12-hour shifts. Renamed the Predator, it quickly became the U.S. military’s preferred surveillance tool.
Read more of Bowden's essay.