Earth & Conservation

Drones Gone Wild!

As the popularity of special-purpose UAVs takes off, so to speak, we present a rogue's gallery of 10 cool drones for our 21st century skies.

For several years now, hobbyists have been having fun customizing recreational UAVs -- but few can match the inherent awesomeness of Imperial Star Destroyer drone. French hobbyist and YouTuber Olivier C has posted dozens of videos featuring his Star Wars inspired creations. Imperial Star Destroyer. Credit: Olivier C / YouTube

Of course, drones these days are built for work as well as play. Industrial inspection drones like the Elios are built with 360-degree roll cages so they can fly into tunnels, bounce off structures and survive collisions. Credit: Flyability

Developed by a French company, the Drone Spray Hornet is specifically designed to shoot liquid pesticides at the treetop nests of Asian hornets that are currently plaguing Europe. Credit: Drone Volt

For those who prefer a more assertive approach to hornet nest management, this homemade flamethrower drone made the viral video rounds late last year, winning first-ballot admission to the Bad Idea Hall of Fame. Credit: Hogwit / YouTube

The Casa Madrona is Sausalito, California, is just one of several luxury hotels now offering service industry work to the humbly endeavoring drone laborer. The hotel's dedicated octocopter delivers champagne to guests partying on the deck of the $10,000-a-night Alexandrite Suite. Credit: Casa Madrona

Drones are getting into the performing arts these days, too. In the artfully high-tech presentation Sparked, the world-famous Cirque de Soleil deploys choreographed drone performers dressed as flying lampshades. Credit: Cirque de Soleil

Last year, a small fleet of quadcopters at ETH Zurich autonomously constructed a pedestrian rope bridge between two units of scaffolding, unspooling the rope themselves and even tying their own knots. Check out the time-lapse video to see the final result. Scaled up, this kind of drone work could have huge significance in future bridge-building projects. Credit: ETH Zurich

FPV drone racing -- in which drivers pilot their machines using head-mounted displays -- is poised to be the Next Big Thing in e-sports. ESPN will be covering this year's U.S. National Drone Racing Championships in August on Governors Island in New York City. Credit: Drone Racing League

Over in the heavyweight division, drones like the NEO from AceCore Technologies -- designed to handle high winds and adverse weather conditions -- are used by storm chaser teams to get video footage of violent storms. Credit: AceCore Technologies

In August of 2015, British tinkerer and YouTuber gasturbine101 finally took things to the next logical step by lashing together parts and rotors to create a "manned superdrone" called The Swarm. Inspirational, isn't it? Credit: gasturbine101 / YouTube