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Faster, higher, deadlier: US plans nuclear drones

Published time: April 02, 2012 17:38
Edited time: April 02, 2012 21:38
A U.S. Predator unmanned drone armed with a missile. (Reuters / Massoud Hossaini / Pool)

A U.S. Predator unmanned drone armed with a missile. (Reuters / Massoud Hossaini / Pool)

The United States is planning on building nuclear-powered drones. The innovation will allow an increase in flying time "from days to months," leaving more power available for operating equipment.

­Research for the project was conducted by Sandia National Laboratories, the US government's principal nuclear research and development agency, and defense contractor Northrop Grumman, the Guardian reports.

The technology is to deal with three problems facing the US’ current drone arsenal: insufficient flying time over a potential target, lack of power for running surveillance and weapons systems, and lack of communications capacity.

The team looked at numerous different power systems for large- and medium-sized drones before settling on the nuclear solution.

The research summary deems the technology as highly efficient, saying the results of the research are “to be used in the next generation of unmanned air vehicles used for military and intelligence applications."

However, there is a big concern over safety as drones have a tendency to crash – and should a nuclear-powered drone fall into the hands of terrorists or unfriendly powers, the consequences could be devastating.