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Helicopters’ history can help us better imagine drones’ future.

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Endurance is a crucial question here. Small, cheap drones’ ability to remain in the air for long periods of time will not dramatically improve in the near future. This is because their endurance is limited by the ability to store energy, an area in which technological leaps are unlikely. Larger drones are large for a reason—they can carry enough fuel to stay aloft for long periods, and the complicated sensor packages they carry can be minimized only so much. Because few see them up close, we tend to mentally underestimate the difference between a Global Hawk, which weighs as much as a tractor-trailer; a Predator, which weighs as much as a small car; and the hobbyist-sized drones that are widely available.

Solar-powered drones?

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