Yes, it's a mercury arc rectifier. When I was a kid I recall seeing one in the Scince Museum in London, and it was working at the time. Emitted a blue-green glow when it was working. The cathode was a pool of mercury at the bottom, the anodes were (I think) carbon rods in the tubes around the sides.
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.