Where Did Drones Come From? (A Brief History Lesson on UAVs)
Over the last few years, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) have emerged in the public’s spotlight – first through the expanded use of them in the Iraq and Afghani wars, and later with the emergence of the hobbyist movement – small quadcopters that are becoming almost a commodity. It’s always interesting when I start discussions with non-industry people about the “rise of the drone” since the 2000s. But what many do not realize is the incredible history that these machines already enjoyed, going much further back than the powered aircraft launched in 1903.
In fact, we can trace it all the way back to 1849, when the Austrian Army came up with the bold plan to use Unmanned Balloons to bombard Venice. Due to its location in the lagoon, traditional artillery was unable to get close enough, so instead, balloons with explosives were launched. Long copper wires attached to batteries allowed for remote release of the bombs once they reached the target area. Similar tactics were also thought of during the Civil War in the United States.
During World War I, various countries explored the possibilities of using unmanned aircraft as a form of “aerial torpedo” to be used against Zeppelins, with the U.S. Army investing in the “Kettering Bug.” With a crude mechanical computer, this biplane could fly “autonomously” up to 75 miles, before it jettisoned its own wings in order to crash the fuselage into a target. It never saw actual combat, as the war ended before it was fully developed. Continue reading about the brief history of UAVs.