The Royal Air Force (RAF) base at Waddington in the UK maintains two Ground Control Stations for managing unmanned aircraft systems flying halfway around the world in Afghanistan.
The "drones" based here include current and future equipment, such as the Hermes 450, Black Hornet Nano, Tarantula Hawk, Watchkeeper, and ScanEagle, shown below, as well as MQ-9 Reaper tactical unmanned combat air vehicles that carry out deadly air strikes in Afghanistan from their ground control station located here.
SGT Scott Weaver poses with the tiny unmanned reconnaissance aircraft Black Hornet, used by the Army in Afghanistan. It provides troops on the ground with local situational awareness.
The camera in a Royal Navy Scaneagle unmanned aircraft:
British Minister of the Armed Forces Mark Francois visiting the Ground Control Station:
Operators FLT LT Tom Maddock (on the left) and Master Rear Crew David Gaul sit in one of the Ground Control Stations:
Bombardier Louise Banton with a Desert Hawk 3, which equipped with three cameras can transmit real time video to a small laptop carried by the operators:
Thales Watchkeeper WK450 unmanned aircraft system, for all-weather Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Reconnaissance (ISTAR):
Black Hornet vs Watchkeeper:
The Boeing Insitu ScanEagle is a small, low-cost, long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle of the Royal Navy, used for autonomous surveillance in the battlefield:
The Tarantula Hawk unmanned aircraft:
The screens of a Ground Control Station:
Photos: Nigel Roddis/Getty Images