<p></p> <p>Eight years ago, armed Predator drones began patrolling the sky, bombing targets and providing close air support to troops in combat. But as yesterday's unveiling of<a alt="((CONLINK|758|%20BAE's%20Taranis%20drone))" href=""> BAE's Taranis drone</a> highlighted, the Predator looks as retro as beepers and beta-max tapes when compared with the next generation of UAVs coming down the pipe. Disguised with stealth, equipped with new computer brains and armed to the teeth, these seven unmanned vehicles push the limits of robotic military technology.</p> <p></p>


<p></p> <p></p> <p>Manufactured by Boeing, the X-45 was one of the first of a new generation of UAVs ordered by the Pentagon. Like many of the other planes on this list, it borrows its stealthy, flying-wing shape from the B-2 stealth bomber. Also, based on a grainy photo taken at Kandahar Airbase in Afghanistan, the X-45 may have already seen some action.</p> <p></p>


<p></p> <p></p> <p>Northrop Grumman's next generation UAV, the X-47 will do for the U.S. Navy what the X-45 may already do for the U.S. Air Force. As a result, the X-47 will be able to take off and land from an aircraft carrier.</p> <p></p>


<p></p> <p></p> <p>Not content to let the Yanks have all the fun, the British defense firm BAE Systems introduced its new, next-gen UAV yesterday. Named Taranis, after the Celtic god of thunder, BAE hopes that advanced computers will allow this drone to perform its mission with less human input than ever before.</p> <p></p>


<p></p> <p></p> <p>Unlike the rest of the robots on this list, Lockheed Martin's Convoy Active Safety Technology (CAST) slogs it out on the ground with the grunts. CAST is an automated driving system that attaches to a regular truck. That way, CAST can worry about driving the vehicle from point A to point B, while the humans can <a alt="((CONLINK|545|scan%20the%20road%20for%20IEDs))" href="">scan the road for IEDs</a> .</p> <p></p>

<strong>Phantom Eye</strong>

<p></p> <p></p> <p>Unveiled by Boeing yesterday, the Phantom Eye greens up the sky by running on hydrogen fuel. The Phantom Eye would be a dedicated sky plan, staying aloft for days on end while it's complex surveillance package monitors the ground below. With a 150-foot wingspan, the Phantom Eye is one of the largest UAVs ever produced.</p> <p></p>


<p></p> <p></p> <p>Continental Europe's entry into the advanced UAV market, the nEUROn looks a lot like the other next-gen drones in our countdown. Produced primarily by the French company Dassault Aviation, with help from seven other European<a href=""> aerospace and defense companies</a>,  the nEUROn is more of a test bed for future UAV concepts than a plane slated for impending combat.</p> <p></p>

<strong>"Novel Air System"</strong>

<p></p> <p></p> <p>This drone is so new, they haven't even started building it yet. Rather, the Novel Air Capability is a speculative future UAV underdevelopment in Britain. The project, lead by BAE Systems, hopes to produce an advanced drone capable of vertical take off and landing, like a helicopter, but straight flight like a plane.</p>

7 Next Generation UAVs