In 1903, Orville Wright became the first person to pilot a powered airplane. The flight lasted a (probably terrifying) 12 seconds and covered 120 feet. Since then, airplanes have become much, much more sophisticated but they still require onboard human pilots. However, a revolution is underway: more and more research is being conducted on the feasibility of unmanned aircraft.
One great example: Adam Amos of Rescue Robotics is developing a high-performance autopilot system that can be rapidly reconfigured for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) competitions around the world. He’s using LabVIEW 2012 and Multisim to program his system, and he chose a NI sbRIO-9606 device because it has a large FPGA and 400 MHz processor in a very lightweight package.
Picture of the UAV on its launcher with the ground station.
His plane has a wingspan of 1.8 meters and a maximum flight time of 25 minutes. How does he launch his aircraft, you ask? An elastic catapult. Watch the video of his plane in action below.