The Navy is inaugurating its first squadron using remotely piloted drone aircraft Thursday, formally adopting the unmanned technology amid debate over its growing use in warfare — and potential deployment by law enforcement and other domestic agencies.
A maritime strike squadron called the “Magicians,” which incorporates both manned and unmanned helicopters will be launched Thursday at the Naval Air Station North Island base on Coronado, near San Diego, Calif.
The base is formally recognized as the birthplace of naval aviation, and the launch comes on the centenary of the formation of the first Navy air detachment in 1913.
Lt. Aaron Kakiel told the Associated Press that the squadron will be aboard one of the Navy’s new Littoral Combat Ships in about a year.
He says most Navy drones now are operated by contractors overseen by military personnel.
The squadron will have eight manned helicopters and a still-to-be-determined number of the Fire Scout MQ-8 B, an unmanned helicopter that can fly 12 continuous hours, tracking targets, reports the AP.