The Reaper and the future of military flight

A U.S. army soldier with prepares to launch a UAV -- or drone -- outside Combat Outpost Nolen in the village of Jellawar in The Arghandab Valley.

There's an ongoing debate over the ethics of fighting war in a detached, videogame-like manner. You have planes launching missiles on human targets on the ground in Afghanistan but the pilots of those planes are sitting at a console somewhere in Nevada. But that debate hasn't slowed a global push in UAVs. They're cheaper, fewer of your own personnel are put at risk. It's the future.

The U.S. has been using Predator drones for a while now. But Predator was built as a spy plane, then retrofitted to carry weapons. Predator is being phased out in favor of a plane called the Reaper.

We're joined by Gary Solis. He's an adjunct professor at Georgetown University School of Law and teaches the law of war. As for the difference between the Predator and the Reaper, he says the Reaper "is bigger, better, faster and has a greater payload. It weighs 5 tons, which is 4x what a Predator weighs. Predator can carry 2 hellfire missiles while a reaper can carry 14. A Predator can fly 140 MPH, Reaper can fly 275 MPH depending on payload."

At the same time, other countries are developing their own technology and their own drones. Gary talks about one surveillance vehicle out of Israel that essentially looks like a pencil with helicopter blades.

Also in this program, Rupert Murdoch plans to launch a newspaper for iPads. Because what everyone wants from the technology of an iPad is to have it be more like a printed newspaper.

About the author

John Moe is the host of Marketplace Tech Report, where he provides an insightful overview of the latest tech news.

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