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We are entering the era of the drones. What was initially seen as a fad has now integrated itself into our daily lives. Due in most part to its multifaceted nature and the many markets it could reach, the drone industry has been booming with a number of different companies and starts up looking to get in on the action. The future is definitely now, but how did we end up here you might ask? Here’s a brief history lesson on the history of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.

The early years

It might be surprising to some to find out that the first use of an Unmanned Vehicle to make use of radio frequencies was at the tail end of the 19th century. In 1898, during an exhibition in Madison Square Garden, Nikola Tesla mesmerized the crowd with an unmanned boat that he seemed to control with magic. He’d take out a patent on it for “Method of and apparatus for controlling mechanism of moving vessels or vehicles,” on November of that year. He thought that the discovery and use of these had the potential for mass destruction that it would bring about peace due to the risk of its use. This destructiveness wouldn’t be put to use though until years later.

Years at war

During the troubling times of World War I, was where the first unmanned weapon was made. Though it was developed late and remained unused throughout the war, the Kettering Bug could be seen as the precursor to drones we see today. Instead of the use of radio frequencies, it made use of pre set coordinates instead.

During World War II, Reginald Denny, an actor, and entrepreneur sold nearly 15,000 radio-
controlled planes to the U.S. military as targets for the training of anti-aircraft gunners. Further development led to reconnaissance or spy drones, proving its versatility and usefulness in the time of war. Radio controlled planes such as the MQM-61Cardinal was also developed as a target drone for the US Navy.

The succeeding wars also saw the rise in popularity of reconnaissance drones used to spy on enemies. This also saw the creation of dummy and combat drones. Proving a huge boost in the various countries war efforts.

(Photo Source: Pixabay)

In the succeeding wars also saw the rise in popularity of reconnaissance drones used to spy on enemies. This also saw the development of dummy and combat drones. Proving a huge boost in the developing countries war efforts.

For the people

By the 1960’s though, the price and size of transistors were at an all time low, paving the way for radio controlled products that enthusiasts could tinker and play around with. Though still used by various military outlets, commercial use of this products was starting to grow. It wasn’t until 1998 that commercial use of drones took its first nascent steps out of the stone age.

Aircraft designer Paul MacCready gave a TED exhibition in Monterey, California. He showed on screen live video footage from is unmanned surveillance drone. The 2010’s though is when everything truly started taking off. The Parrot AR. The drone was introduced at CES Las Vegas, a smart phone piloted drone that paved the way for a real boom in the commercial use of drones.


Photo of Paul MacCready Jr., Source: Wikimedia Commons

(Photo of Paul MacCready Jr., Source: Wikimedia Commons)

From there Video drones have become a way of life with the introduction of DJI’s phantom in 2012. Now just about every drone company has their own video drone with varying uses, ranging from the recreational to the professional.

The drone age was truly in full swing by then, a good number of hobbyist making use of open source software ArduCopter and Aeroquad. BY 2014 Amazon launched a project called Amazon Prime Air which looks to delivering products via drone in the near future.Nowadays, Drones are now a Billion dollar industry. From DIY set ups to Drone racing leagues the future has truly arrived.


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