They sound like doodlebugs, the automated V-1 bombers that terrorised residents of London during the Blitz, claiming thousands of lives and reducing large chunks of the city to rubble. But today, it's America and her allies who are using unmanned bombing machines to devastating effect in remote parts of Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Now there are plans to make drones even more powerful.
No one knows just how many men, women and children have been killed by America's predator drones during the so-called war on terror: conservative estimates reach almost 3,000 and the true figure is almost certainly higher. It's also impossible to say how many civilians have died, because they target such remote areas. The victims of these attacks are poor and powerless: they cannot speak up for themselves or fight back.
But all of those who want to see an end to these extra-judicial killings will be deeply troubled by new plans for nuclear-powered drones, which will be able to circle in the sky and fire weapons for months without refuelling.
US officials claim there are no immediate plans to start building them, but then again, the CIA also claims that no civilians have been killed by remote-controlled weapons since May 2010. This is patently false, and begs the question of what else US intelligence and military agencies are hiding in their covert war.
Take action:Support Reprieve's legal petition for justice for the victims of drone strikes, and for the relatives of those killed.
Further reading:Drone Wars UK has a vast archive of reports on the development and use of unmanned aerial vehicles, and this footage (via Andrew Sullivan) shows the view from a drone during a deadly attack: