It's not science fiction anymore.  Military researchers are shrinking unmanned drones, the kind that fire missiles into Pakistan and spy on insurgents in Afghanistan, down to the size of insects and birds.

This is happening at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, home of all Air Force Research and Development.

They're creating drones that replicate the flight mechanics of moths, hawks and other inhabitants of the natural world.

One engineer says their goal is something that can spy or kill, and be hidden in plain sight.

The growing use of unmanned aerial drones is transforming the way America fights and thinks about its wars.  The Pentagon now has some 7,000 aerial drones, compared with less than 50 just a decade ago.

Drones are rapidly reducing the need for real pilots. Drones are flown by remote control, and the Air Force is already training more remote control pilots than fighter and bomber pilots combined.

via Microdrones, Some as Small as Bugs, Are Poised to Alter War - NYTimes.com.

To some, the debate over the use of drones sounds much like the debate over the merits of computers back in 1979.  They say drones are here to stay, and the boom has just begun.