More than 5 million people have marked the memorial of the founding father of modern combat drones using a special star on the U.S. Naval Observatory’s starboard-side flagpole to mark the Memorial Day weekend — the 20th anniversary of the birth of the technology.
“As more than 15,000 naval aviators dropped bombs, fired missiles and fired even headed and recoilless rifles at distant targets, the loss of a crew member represented an incomprehensible and emotionally wrenching loss that propelled this nation forward,” reads the inscription at the memorial. “But how far have we come since then?”
As CNN notes, major technology moves like GPS, artificial intelligence and low-cost robotics have helped human pilots and sensor operators who fly the drones shrink the number of flying hours required to reach peak performance to a fraction of what it was in the days before drones. With the number of service members worldwide in the U.S. Air Force dropping in recent years, pilots now often only have to spend three to six hours flying drone missions that often require them to fly several simultaneous missions over a large territory, including over Syria and Afghanistan.
“They are part of an amazing surge in the maintenance of our military superiority over the world that has enabled us to put together a very lethal fight-able force to succeed in our role as security guarantor for the world,” Gen. David Goldfein, the chief of Air Force personnel told CNN.
Read more: CNN