Drones or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) are not so uncommon to see today – many people have it as a toy and spend hours piloting it in their backyards. But not everyone knows that the first UAV was used in a military application over a century ago. It has truly been a long journey from the first attempts to create an unpiloted system to the current technological innovations.
The drones we see today were initially used in the military. The first time an unmanned vehicle was recorded in history was in the 1849 when Austria sent unpiloted balloons filled with explosives to attack Venice. Shortly after the World War I unpiloted aircrafts were built. All this finally led to a first large-scale drone manufactured in the 1930s, many of which were later used by the U.S. Army in the Second World War. Since then UAVs have been widely exploited by the military in many countries.
Apart from combat drones, unmanned aerial vehicles are now being used in many other cases, for example, in logistics operations and civil and commercial applications. Ironic to see how drones were first used as pilotless bombs and now they save lives. UAVs are used in search and rescue operations, to deliver medical supplies to remote areas, in fire investigations, surveillance and many other cases. Clearly the purpose of a drone is not just to fly around your backyard.
Despite the great use of drones there have been quite a few accidents and incidents reported in the past few years. Several times drones nearly collided with landing or taking off planes, crashed into constructions (Sydney Harbour Bridge, for instance), and even crowds of people. Several individuals have been seen flying their drones near nuclear power plants and even the hospital where Nelson Mandela was in.
Image © Michael MK Khor