They blast our enemies in foreign wars and patrol our borders but in a matter of years, unmanned aerial vehicles or "drones" could be common in American skies.
"Not only will their numbers increase, but the size and sophistication will increase," said Joan Neuhaus Schaan, National Security fellow at Rice University's Baker Institute.
That could be a problem. In June, at the University of Texas at Austin, engineers hacked into the navigation system of a small drone, effectively hijacking the aircraft. The experiment revealed a gaping vulnerability to the public and a dangerous opportunity for terrorists.
Thursday, in the nation's capitol, the UT team leader Todd Humphreys shared his findings with Congress.
"What my nightmare scenario would be is looking forward three or four years where we have adopted the UAVs into the national airspace without addressing this problem," testified Humphrey's who serves as an engineering professor at UT.
The hearing of the House Homeland Security and Investigative committee was called by its chairman, Texas Republican Michael McCaul, who was outraged that no one from the Department of Homeland Security participated in the testimony, even though its agents foiled a terror-driven, unmanned aerial vehicle attack last fall.
"The fact that there was a terrorist in Washington who wanted to blow up the capitol and the Pentagon through the use of one of these drones and yet they want to hide and runaway from this hearing and say we have no role in this? That's unconscionable," said McCaul.
The Baker Institute's Neuhaus Shaan contends the potential danger posed by unsecured domestic drones is considerable.
"Just say they are being commandeered to be flown into a certain type of target whether its an existing aircraft or they can be commandeered and loaded up with a weapon and sent to a specific target like the inside of a stadium or a refinery or that kind of thing. The more robust the drones become, the more significant the threat is," said Neuhaus Shaan.
McCaul contends no government agency has been charged with the responsibility of making sure unmanned aerial vehicles can be operated safely and securely over American soil.