There has been an increase in the use of UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) not just in warfare (Though the have seen much operational action in Iraq and Afghanistan), but also in law enforcement, journalism, the notorious and much discussed tacocopter and even here in Groningen an art gallery offering aerial shots of the area using an octocopter.
UAVs are also known as drones and are controlled remotely. Though these robotic drones are in vogue now, the first attempt at creating drones occurred in 1916. And saw true operational use after being developed by the Israeli Defense Force after the 1973 Yom Kippur war. Subsequently the US military started buying them from Israel in the 1990s.
Though mostly used for military purposes, these drones have numerous uses for photography, surveillance, research, exploration as well as search and rescue.
"In 2007 a team of 8 students from the University of Adelaide School of Mechanical Engineering designed and manufactured a UAV named iSOAR. The iSOAR aircraft was specifically designed for civilian applications such as bushfire monitoring, shark spotting, and traffic surveillance." - As seen in this clip:
This clip gives more background on AUVs and UCAVs and their military uses:
One of the most used and most familiar UAVs in use currently is the Predator drone: