Rarely does a day go by that we don’t hear something in the news about a drone mishap, accomplishment, regulatory issue, or innovation. But have you ever wondered where the drone came from and how we got to this place?
As it turns out, drone technology got its start in 1911 during World War I. Sadly, the results were less than stellar.
“…According to a Navy history, the planes rarely worked: they typically crashed after takeoff or flew away over the ocean, never to be seen again.”1
Ah well. So much for that, right?
We Americans are not known to take our failures lying down, so we were back at it during World War II.
“Remote control technology was still limited—involving crude radio-controlled devices linked to motors—so actual pilots were used for takeoff: they were supposed to guide the plane to a cruising altitude and then parachute to safety in England, after which a ‘mothership’ would guide the plane to its target. In practice, the program was a disaster. Many planes crashed, or worse. John F. Kennedy’s older brother, Joseph, was one of the program’s first pilots: he was killed in August 1944 when a drone-to-be that he was piloting exploded prematurely over Suffolk, England.”1
Sigh. Surely that would teach us our lesson, eh? No, no, we were not to be outdone by these pilot-less crafts. And we made our mark. During the Vietnam War, we found success. Over 3,500 recon missions proved that drones had found their stride. But our sensors weren’t quite up to snuff for warfare purposes.2
That wouldn’t stop us for long. By the Gulf War, drones were regularly used for warfare and spying.2 Fast forward a few years and these top-secret devices find even more uses.
Long gone are the days of the military-only drone advancements. Now, they often take to the air with rotary wings,3 haul Amazon deliveries,4 and fit in the palms of our hands.5 They assist fertilizing practices on farms6 and deliver medical supplies.7 They are the wave of the future.
And a popular Christmas gift this year.8
- Sifton, J. “A Brief History of Drones,” The Nation, February 27, 2012 issue
- Hastings, M. “The Rise of the Killer Drones: How America Goes to War in Secret,” Rolling Stone, April 16, 2012
- “A Short History of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles,” dragonfly.com, ND
- Amazon Prime Air Program
- Wallet Drone IndieGoGo Campaign
- Rohr, R. “Meet the New Drone That Could Be a Farmer’s Best Friend,” Modern Farmer, January 21, 2014
- Masunaga, S. “First FAA-Approved Drone Delivery Takes Medicine to Rural Virginia,” Los Angeles Times, July 20, 2015
- Dodson, A. “Drone Invasion: 1M New Drones This Xmas,” wibw.com, October 18, 2015