Drone Physics

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The History of Drones

Early Drone History
In 1849, the earliest known unmanned drones were deployed by Austrian soldiers filled with explosives attacking city of Venice. They were launched by a nearby ship. The wind would guide balloons set off by electromagnetism through copper wire. However, there was limited success by these attacks, and the concept didn’t stick very well.

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The Wright Brothers invented flight of winged Aircraft. This changed everything for manned aircraft. The Kitty Hawk flight was in December 17th, 1903.

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Nikola Tesla, a prolific inventor, designed a radio control boat. Tesla attempted to sell this idea to U.S. Navy with remote controlled torpedoes. Navy was not sold on the concept.

In 1916, the first pilotless winged aircraft called the Ruston Proctor Aerial Target was invented. This opened the door for more better UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles).

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During WWI, the development of radio-controlled techniques by Archibald Low named “the father of radio guidance systems” helped advance drone technology. In 1918, the Hewitt-Sperry Automatic Plane AKA “Flying Bomb” or the “Aerial Torpedo” was invented.

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During 1917, the United States of America came up with their own version of UAVs. One was the Kettering Bug, which was never used, since the war ended. It is considered to be the first design of the curse missile.

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There is a difference between a cruise missile and a UAV. They both carry out similar missions or jobs. Drones can be armed and carry equipment depending on their purpose. UAVs and drones are recoverable after completing a mission. Once cruise missiles hit their targets, they are done. The automatic airplane of the past carved the way to the modern cruise missile of today.

Reginald Denny from England moved to United States. He soon opened his very own hobby shops of powered model planes. Later, his business became a radio plane Company selling the idea to military as target drones. The most famous model was the OQ-2A.

Image Source: United States Air Force

Modern Military Drone History
UAV technology and drones were vastly enhanced during WW2 and the Cold War.

However, they were viewed as untrustworthy and costly innovations at their time. They were not as nearly as trusty or impressive as other improvements in manned aircraft at that time such as the Flying Fortress and SR-71 Blackbird.

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It is acknowledged that during the Cold War, both US and USSR used drones to some degree to spy on the opposing side. Some of these details are still currently classified, and the some of the leaked information is often inconsistent.

What is recognized is that modern drone warfare started in 1982, when Israel organized the usage of battle-ready UAVs along with manned aircraft to eliminate the Syrian fleet with very few casualties. The Israeli Air Force used militarized drone for reconnaissance, jamming communication, and as decoys to prevent the pilot fatalities.

This drone technology was not brand new, yet the IAF discovered how to utilize drones to make their military ops more prosperous. International interest in drone hardware picked up significantly. For example, the US paid up to tens of millions of dollars on new drone contracts in 1984.

Most modern militarized drones serve two purposes. The first purpose is combat surveillance, where human pilot uses radio control to fly a drone to different points of interest to spot out enemy positions. Secondly, the military uses drones for tactical reconnaissance. This is done by using a small drone, such as the size of a commercial drone, which flies on autopilot to mark targets by capturing images before coming back to home base.

The military has used drones to carry out missile strikes. An example would be the infamous MQ- 1 Predator which would carry out these drone strikes. Truth be told, drones are often used for offensive measures, but their actual usage in these circumstances and the technology implemented in these drones to wipe out targets are classified for most cases. Also, The MQ-1 predator retired in 2018.

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Modern Commercial Drone History
The first account of non-militarized drone usage came from a Wall Street Journal Report. According to this report, it claims commercial drones began in 2006. Government agencies used drones to provide disaster relief, border surveillance, and wildfire fighting. Meanwhile, corporations started to use drones for inspecting pipelines and dispersing pesticides on farms.

As UAVs became better for the military, those same technological advancements could be used for commercial purposes.

Recently, recreational drones started not too long ago, and its popularity is increasing quickly. The reason behind this is that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) needed to be assured that commercial drones were safe to authorize and establish regulations.