• Drones: An Unmanned History

    • Enaeria
    5 October2016

    The history of UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles or drones) goes as far back as the mid-19th century. The first use of a UAV was in August 1849, when the Austrian army attacked the city of Venice with miniature hot air balloons armed with bombs. The problem they faced was that they had no way to control the balloons from the ground so they were subject to the wind.

    The first remotely controlled aircraft was developed during World War I; however, the first demonstrated flight of an unmanned vehicle was not until September 12, 1917. It was called the Hewitt-Sperry Automatic Airplane designed by Elmer Sperry and Peter C. Hewitt. The drone was just a modified bi-wing airplane, fitted with a few servo motors and a gyroscopic system that would help stabilize the plane in flight. The main purpose of these airplanes was again to carry bombs that would then be flown to their targets. Because of their explosive nature and destructive intentions, many consider this plane the precursor to the cruise missile. Through World War II, the Cold War, and the Vietnam War, UAVs were mostly used for military purposes, from training to reconnaissance to further missile development.

    Drones: An Unmanned HistoryThe first applications of miniature UAVs for non-military purposes started in the 1990s. In 1992, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) held a workshop on “Mobile Microbots”. Later, in 1997, DARPA began a multi-year $35 million program to develop micro-air vehicles. The constraints of this development were to create a drone with dimensions no more than 15 centimeters that could carry a day and night vision camera and that would have the endurance to fly for 2 hours. Though the drones created through this program  were not all that useful on the battlefield, the design concepts used  for this project opened the door for manufacturers to invest in miniature and man-portable drones. Though they are used for many purposes such as inspections, surveys, aerial photography, and even recreational usage, the history of military use still follows drones. To increase the safety surrounding these drones, government organizations, such as Transport Canada, have placed strict rules and regulations regarding the type of drones that may be used, the type of applications that they may be used for, and the places they may be flown. That’s why it’s important to make sure that any work completed with drones is done so by a company that is fully licensed and insured.

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