A popular gadget nowadays (no, we aren’t talking about smartphones) is funnily, a vehicle. It is used to click photos at music festivals (NH7 Weekenders), used for spying on friends or even military forces, videography and a host of other activities; The humble drone has definitely come a long way! We shed some light on how it’s evolved over the years and has now become much easier to procure for average consumers!
A Little History
A drone was earlier known as an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). It first got its roots during World War II, but it is presently gaining access to civil applications as well. The idea of a pilotless aircraft dates back to the mid-1800s, when Austrians sent off pilotless, bomb-filled balloons as a way to attack Venice. The drones seen today went through a phase of innovation in the early 1900s, and was originally used for target practice in military training purposes. The development process continued during World War I.
One of the earliest example being the Dayton-Wright Airplane Company came up with an unmanned aerial torpedo that would be release after locking into a target with a timer. More drones were developed in the technology rush during World War II; which were used both to train anti-aircraft gunners. Nazi Germany and Hitler took special interest in these drones by producing and using various UAV’s during WWII. Drone technology later became a serious business when countries like the US started losing out pilots in hostile war areas.
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Surprisingly, it was Israel that started working on upgrading the drones. Earlier drones never had AI (Artificial Intelligence) chips embedded in them. But now most do. This innovation was further continued by the US. A lot of factors including sensor technology, communications, trajectory generation and regulation were upgraded to bring out gen-next drones that would not just assist in warfare, but in normal civil activities as well.
Linux even proposed the concept —Drone code. With easy access to remote controls, UAVs were often remote controlled, and the term “remotely piloted vehicle” came into being. Today’s drones often combine remote control and computerized automation. The more evolved versions may have built-in control or guidance systems. These help to performing low-level human pilot duties, such as flight –path stabilization, and simple navigation functions.
The endurance level is the second advantage of drones over piloted vehicles. Some of them can withstand extreme weather conditions and high artillery assaults, making them less vulnerable. Thanks to their size, weight and speed, they are efficient in most missions. But there was huge disadvantage. Controlling these high speed machines was not as easy task as they were prone to crashes. Thus came the idea of sensors where drones heavier than 20kg had the sensors that would be able to sense incoming objects and steer clear of crashes.
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Drone technology is now used by Google at their Google X facility, in a program called Project Wing, to deliver products sold via e-commerce. Along similar lines is Amazon’s drone delivery system, which delivers products to its customers via the usage of drones. Also interesting to note is India’s involvement in the whole Drone-delivery system. A pizza shop in Mumbai was actually delivering pizzas via drones!
Plans are on for the UAVs to use fingerprint and eye-recognition systems to deliver official documents such as passports, ID cards and licenses in Dubai. NASA even went on invent a bio-degradable drone for spying purposes that melts away if it crashes. Made up of cellulose sheets, these wasp drones as they are known is the new face to drone technology.
Drones, mostly used in military applications slowly gained access to civilian lifestyle. It was used in medicine, entertainment and commercial aerial surveillance purposes and not to forget scientific research. Movies like ‘The Bourne Legacy’ and ‘A-team’ used grim reapers (drones) which in original practice was used to target and destroy.
Drones also help in disaster relief by gathering information from across an affected area to and give and transmit to its original source. The 2014 Winter Olympics saw the use of drones for filming skiing and snowboarding events. Other uses include – search and rescue missions, crowd monitoring, reconnaissance operations, inspecting power lines, surveillance, mineral and gas explorations and the like.
All in all, drones are definitely gaining popularity and with more diverse uses, are becoming the in thing for the future!