US plans long flights with nuclear-powered drones
Hoping to keep drones in the air for a longer period of time in order to leave more power available for operating equipment, the US plans to build nuclear-powered drones that can fly for months
The United States is planning to build nuclear-powered drones, which will allow an increase in flying time from days to months without refueling, leaving more power available for operating equipment.
The project, developed by the U.S. government’s principal nuclear research and development agency Sandia National Laboratories along with defense contractor Northrop Grumman, has not yet reached the building or testing phase, the Guardian has reported.
According to the report, the project sets out to solve three problems associated with drones: insufficient “hang time” over a potential target, lack of power for running sophisticated surveillance and weapons systems, and lack of communications capacity. The research team found that nuclear drones were able to provide far more surveillance time and intelligence information per mission compared to other technologies, and also to reduce the considerable costs of support systems, eliminating the need for forward bases and fuel supplies in remote and possibly hostile areas.
The Obama administration frequently uses drones for clandestine strikes on suspected militants in countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen. These strikes particularly strain relations with Pakistan. Pakistan wants them to stop, arguing that such strikes are counter-productive because they kill civilians, exacerbate anti-U.S. sentiment and violate sovereignty.