Back in the day, drones were much similar to computers; they were big, expensive and out of the reach of the masses. However, similar to computers the drone technology has come a long way from its humble beginning. Today, drones come in all sizes and shapes and are used for virtually all purposes, from military to business and art to science and agriculture. In fact, today, drones represent one of the fastest-growing industries across the globe, which is expected to double in the next decade.
Here in this blog, we will be unveiling the history and evolution of drone technology and see the past, present and future of the technology. So, let’s begin…
When Drones Were Invented – The Early Rise of Drone Tech
Can you make a wild guess about for inception of drone technology? Was it the World Wars (the early 1900s)?
Well, the history of drones goes back to the early 1800s (impressive, right?). The earliest record of the unmanned aerial vehicle is traced to 1839 in Austria. As you can guess, it was a military innovation when the Austrian’s used unmanned balloons to decimate the city of Venice. The balloons were filled with explosives and were intended to drop on strategic sites in the city-state of Venice. As we can expect, the immature technology backfired, and many of these explosive-filled balloons blew back to blow Austrian camps, while some did manage to hit the intended targets inside Venice. This was undoubtedly an ingenious technology implemented by Austrians; however, given the significant failure rate, the technology was shelved for decades at the war’s end.
Fast forward many decades, the comeback of the unmanned aircraft took off after the Wright Brothers were able to successfully conduct their Kitty Hawk flight. Ruston Proctor Aerial Target is known today as the first winged UAV. The aircraft was based on the designs of Nicola Tesla. The Ruston Proctor Aerial Target aircraft was controlled by radio signals, which interestingly is much like how we operate drones today.
Like Austrian flying explosive balloons, the Ruston Proctor Aerial Target aircraft was developed as a military machine by England against German Zeppelins. The designers of the aircraft also claimed that it was equally effective for ground targets. Nonetheless, just like the explosive flying balloons of Austria, the Ruston Proctor Aerial Target met overwhelming failures, which led to British authorities canning the project – even going as far as to claim that there is no future for UAVs.
As we know today, they were utterly wronged!
Drones – The Present Technology!
Fast forward to a century, and today drones are virtually everywhere to be seen. Today, these flying machines are excessively used across multiple sectors, including military, agriculture, photography, image segmentation and intelligence, construction, livestock mapping, terrain mapping, and many more. Also, we are witnessing the rise of AI drones, which is pushing drone technology into a new era. Here are some impressive stats reflecting the dominance of drones in today’s world;
- The total number of drones in the USA is expected to reach nearly 9 million by the end of 2021
- AI drones is expected to become the mainstay of precision agriculture in the next five years, which is crucial to meet the future food security for the growing global population
- Currently, nearly 10% of Americans owns a drone
- 50% of the Americans are expected drone deliveries to become the norm in coming years
- The global drone industry is expected to reach over USD 100 billion by 2021, the military being the primary user of the technology
- The agriculture drone market stands at over USD 1.5 billion and is expected to reach USD 5 billion by 2024
The Present and Future of Drone Tech!
The rise of modern drone technology can be traced back to World War II and the Cold War. These two events paved the way for the rapid development and adaptation of drones. However, the drone was an expensive and inconsistent military technology back in time, only used occasionally to spy on enemies. The US and Soviet Russia extensively used drones in surveillance operations throughout the Cold Ward (although many documents of that era remain classified).
It was not until 1982 when that drone warfare really took off and hit the mainstream. The earnest use of drone warfare was pioneered by Israel, who used the drone technology along with its fighter jets to decimate the Syrian aircraft fleet with minimal losses. In the war, Israel excessively used drone technology to recon the Syrian positions, jam Syrian radars, and used drones as decoys to minimize its aircraft losses. While the technology was already present in some form, still it goes to the credit of the Israeli military and engineers to figure out the best use of the technology in modern warfare and conduct successful operations.
To put into perspective the effect of Israel’s use of drone technology in the war with Syria, the US made tens of millions of dollars contract for drone technology just after the end of the war – starting the new race in modern warfare.
While drones have primarily been the subject of interest as military machines for the most part of modern history, today, technology has taken over many fields beyond tactical use. The first consumer drone hit the US market back in 2006, which marks another significant milestone in the evolution of drones. Today, technology has already proliferated across all fields from fun photography to consumer delivery and from scientific research to agriculture, construction and many more. More recently, the tech giants like Amazon and UberEats are aggressively pushing the AI drones technology to use it as a preferred delivery method to bring in more efficiency and productivity.
It goes without saying that the future of drone technology holds many surprises for the masses, and the rapid integration of in AI and computer vision technology in drones will open up endless possibilities for drone tech.