As several of the world's major militaries know, however, drones are also useful in more serious situations.
Now Japanese researchers are trying to develop an unmanned aerial system for use in saving people, instead of directing explosives towards them.
A team at Chiba University recently simulated an explosion at a chemical plant, to see how competently a fleet of four flying quadcopters were able to search the site for survivors.
The robotic machines, linked to a central computer, used image processing and other techniques to search the site. Onboard cameras sent data to the computer, which calculated their position to within a milimetre. That helps rescuers cover a wide area, quickly and with minimum risk, and know precisely where the cameras are when they find something.
The group said the robots did so well that police are looking at practical applications:
The Nonami group said, according to Diginfo:
"We succeeded very well, and the Police Department said they'd like to introduce this system. It could also have lots of other applications. For example, it could be used to monitor volcanic eruptions, or to inspect power lines."