In some ways, the bigger question is one of relevance. Nobel called out physics in his will most likely because it was considered most prestigious and valuable in his lifetime, during which major discoveries had come second fast. That is not to say that we've made all the major discoveries – obviously not – but in an increasingly technological society, the contributions of engineers have the potential to more profoundly impact our world. By having a separate honor for advanced technology, the Kyoto Prize program has made itself more relevant. Meanwhile, in the 60s, the Nobel organization ruled that it would add no more categories, so unless the various committees shoehorn something in, the program will increasingly ignore key advances that are changing the fabric of our lives.
True, but on the other hand, Geim and Novoselov won the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics for isolating graphene, even though the material had been theorized about since 1947 and at least one other group had reported using the Scotch tape method as early as 1999. Granted, part of the Geim/Novoselov work had to do with characterization, but much of it was simply about isolating the material. Basically, they took the concept and turned it into reality. Conversely, the 2009 prize to Smith and Boyle for the CCD imager spawned some rather unbecoming controversy because it was felt in some quarters that while the two may have developed the concept, others were responsible for extending it to imaging, as named in the prize. The language of Alfred Nobel's will says to award prizes to those who, "...have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind...one part to the person who shall have made the most important discovery or invention within the field of physics..." Maybe Atanasoff made the discovery but Dennard was responsible for the invention, including the great benefit part.
Drones are, in essence, flying autonomous vehicles. Pros and cons surrounding drones today might well foreshadow the debate over the development of self-driving cars. In the context of a strongly regulated aviation industry, "self-flying" drones pose a fresh challenge. How safe is it to fly drones in different environments? Should drones be required for visual line of sight – as are piloted airplanes? Join EE Times' Junko Yoshida as she moderates a panel of drone experts.