I, for one, welcome Skynet's aerial drones

Nuclear-powered drone aircraft on drawing board

The US Air Force is examining the feasibility of a nuclear-powered version of an unmanned aircraft. The USAF hopes that such a vehicle will be able to "loiter" in the air for months without refuelling, striking at will when a target comes into its sights.

But the idea is bound to raise serious concerns about the wisdom of flying radioactive material in a combat aircraft. If shot down, for instance, would an anti-aircraft gunner in effect be detonating a dirty bomb? [...]

Instead of a conventional fission reactor, it is focusing on a type of power generator called a quantum nucleonic reactor. This obtains energy by using X-rays to encourage particles in the nuclei of radioactive hafnium-178 to jump down several energy levels, liberating energy in the form of gamma rays. A nuclear UAV would generate thrust by using the energy of these gamma rays to produce a jet of heated air. [...]

The AFRL says the quantum nucleonic reactor is considered safer than a fission one because the reaction is very tightly controlled. "It's radioactive, but as soon as you take away the X-ray power source its gamma ray production is reduced dramatically, so it's not as dangerous [as when it's active]," says Hamilton. [...]

Tags: , , , ,

6 Responses:

  1. baconmonkey says:

    aren't gamma rays what created the Hulk?

  2. ivorjawa says:

    In the 50s or so, they were investigating the use of nuclear engines in planes. I've seen the prototype engine at the INEL museum in Idaho. It must have been some grand plane they had in mind ... the engine was roughly the size of a house.

    Ah. And here's a picture of it, and some more info:

  3. mag_e_monic says:

    more killing power!...

    is it ok if i add you to my friends list?...
    oh wait, i already did.

    (probably wont hurt._)

  4. Some scientists are having doubts about the feasibility of a quantum nucleonic reactor based on Hafnium-178.