Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones, have roots as far back as 1849. Drones have no pilots onboard, but through a system of communication, the ground-based controller pilots the unmanned vehicle. The earliest uses of drones were for military purposes such as the Austrians using unmanned balloons that were loaded with explosives to attack Venice, Italy. These were the first ever air bombs.

Although balloons aren’t what we think of as drones, this event led the way for future developments in UAVs for British military aerial photography in 1915 during the Battle of Neuve Chapelle.

The United States wasn’t far behind with their first pilotless aircraft used in 1916 during World War I, followed by the Kettering Bug developed in 1918 as a secret project that was supervised by Orville Wright and Charles F. Kettering.

The Kettering “Bug”

Military aviation was the driving force, and by 1930 the U.S. Navy started working on UAVs, and had created the first radio-controlled drone known as the Curtiss N2C-2 by 1937. It was designed by Theodore Paul Wright, and was also known as the Curtiss Fledgling.

The Curtiss Fledgling, or Curtiss N2C-2
The first remote-controlled aircraft was developed by Reginald Denny during World War II known as the Radioplane OQ-2. This was the true trailblazer in drones, as it was eventually massed produced for the military.

Due to the cost and question of reliability, the development of drones slowed down until the 1980’s when the Air Force of Israel used drones to annihilate Syrian aircraft. This drove the U.S. to construct the Pioneer UAV Program to build inexpensive drones, and by 1990 miniature and micro UAVs were available.

Israel Air Force Drone

By the new millennium, the U.S. had developed the Predator drone that was used to search for Osama Bin Laden designed by Abraham Karem.

According to Hickey, Churchill, and Johnson (2012), the CIA recruited the Predator to track Osama bin Laden in 2000. Testing of armed Predators started in February 2001, and had a successful hit on a replica of one of bin Laden’s homes. These armed Predators were out looking for him less than a month after 9/11. As we know, the Predator did take down Al Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan, Yemen, and Pakistan.
Technology continued to improve drones, so their uses multiplied. Jump to 2014 and Amazon makes a pitch for using drones to deliver packages, and now in 2017 they have a patent on an enormous flying drone made up of a lot of smaller drones to aide in carrying heavy packages.
According to Graham (2015), drones are being used to “bring stunning aerial video perspectives to life, they’re also inspiring people to create art and invent games that never existed before.” Drones are being used to aide in making movies, prompting conservation efforts, searching wreckage for survivors, bringing increased data analytics into farming, and sent into forces of nature such as storms or volcanoes for impossible footage and data collecting. Technology is still advancing, and new innovative ways to use drones are being developed that will impact and improve our society.


Unmanned Ariel Vehicles were born out of a desire of the military to conquer and protect, but grew into the catalyst that can be used for the good of all mankind.


Drones help the telecom industry by removing the need to send climbers to inspect cell towers. Not only is this safer, but also much quicker, delivering a site audit and a panoramic, as well as, top-down view of the tower.
UAV’s thermography is a tough weapon against poaching in Africa. The demand for ivory continues to increase, as does the number of wildlife deaths due to poachers operating under the cover of night. Infrared and thermal images on the cameras of flying drones can help eliminate this unfortunate statistic.
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina was one of the deadliest hurricanes that ever hit the U.S., with Louisiana and Mississippi being hit the hardest. It was during Katrina that the first drone was sent out to search the wreckage for possible survivors (Murphy, 2015). Due to the storm, access to roads in Pearlington, Mississippi were shut off. Drones were sent in to see if there were any residents that were stuck there, or in distress. Luckily there were none, but the drones gave them the freedom to continue without worrying they needed to get in there to rescue people.
This is a multi-rotor hexacopter, a type of drone that is used to monitor a farm in Kendrick, Idaho. The applications in agriculture are endless according to Kevin Price, formally from Kansas State University, and now with RoboFlight (Doering 2014). He believes in the next 10 years most farms will be using drones. Methods today, such as satellites, manned planes, and walking the fields, are too time consuming and the information gathered can be inaccurate or not complete. Precision agriculture will allow farmers to customize their applications of pesticides, among other things, based on data gathered. Drones are giving farmers new ways to increase yields and reduce crop damage.
In 2016, we saw what could be a revolutionary change in dangerous search and rescue missions. Emspak (2016), wrote about an “Urban Aeronautics’ robotic flying vehicle designed to carry people or equipment without a human pilot on board.”
Wanjek (2016), showed us how blood samples that were collected by a health worker in a remote village of Madagascar’s Ifanadiana district, were flown back to a central research facility. Drones have delivered medicine and other supplies in the past to many locations. There is hope that in the future, drones will deliver vaccines and disease surveillance systems to be set up in rural Africa and Southeast Asia someday.
Ariel drones are being tested in remote polar environments. Winds can be strong which poses a problem for launching drones. Weisberger (2016), said that drone pilot, Guy Williams, was able to capture pictures of Antarctic sea ice, and other aerial imagery, as well as surface topography. This helps oceanographers to create maps of sea ice.
There was a buzz back in 2015 that wearable drones would possibly be in our future. Ghose (2015), said that although it may sound hard to believe, there is a wearable drone, Nixie, that would soon be on the market. We are still waiting. Nixie is a wearable camera drone that you wear on your wrist and can take off whenever you choose. There will be more wearable drones in the future. The “Breathe” drone would sit on a person’s shoulder until it detects a hazardous pollution level, at which time it will hover in front of your mouth and nose giving you clean air to breathe. Another drone, the Flare, worn on a wristband, would be deployed if you were in an unfamiliar city to fly ahead to scout the best routes to take.


Drones are not without their issues. Whitlock (2015), reports that “rogue drone operators are rapidly becoming a national nuisance, invading sensitive airspace and private property- with the regulators of the nation’s skies largely powerless to stop them.” With the increasing sales of drones to individuals for recreational use, more and more incidents of misadventure are occurring. Drones have flown too close to commercial aircraft, which is a violation of federal rules. There are possible legal issues when it comes to drones causing property damage, as well as privacy issues. Also, drone delivery is far more complicated than it first appears. Most of the lingering questions deal with the use of drone warfare and its many implications. It is questioned whether drone strikes are legal or ethical. However, according to Marris (2013), University of Florida’s ecologist, Adam Watts, said of drones, “they are on their way to becoming this indispensable and revolutionary technology.” This certainly seems to be true. No longer just used by the military, science and agriculture are only a few areas that have been impacted by the technology of drones. Sports photography, the telecom industry, scientists doing atmospheric research, conservationists looking for ivory poachers, archeologists discovering ancient cult sites, life-saving healthcare is being offered to remote rural regions, and farmers collecting data on crops while being able to pinpoint areas of potential yield loss, all benefit from this technology we have available in our society. Drones technology will continue to improve, just as drones continue to improve so many aspects of our lives already.

Works Cited

5 Awesome Uses for Drone Technology. (2016, October 13). Retrieved March 30, 2017, from http://iq.intel.com/5-awesome-uses-for-drone-technology/

Burwood-Taylor, L. (2017, March 24). The Next Generation of Drone Technologies For Agriculture. Retrieved March 30, 2017, from https://agfundernews.com/the-next-generation-of-drone-technologies-for-agriculture.html

Drake, D. (2016, March 04). Drones Rising: Bringing the Economy Along With It. Retrieved April 2, 2017, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-drake/drones-rising-bringing-th_b_9324278.html

Drones Impacting the Telecom Industry -. (2017, March 09). Retrieved April 2, 2017, from http://archaerial.com/2017/03/drones-impacting-telecom-industry/

Emspak, J. (2016, December 2). Drones. Retrieved April 2, 2017, from http://www.livescience.com/topics/drones

Ghaffarzadeh, D. K., Harrop, D. J., & Zervos, D. H. (2017, March 06). Agricultural Robots and Drones 2017-2027: Technologies, Markets, Players: IDTechEx. Retrieved March 30, 2017, from http://www.idtechex.com/research/reports/agricultural-robots-and-drones-2017-2027-technologies-markets-players-000525.asp

Hickey, W. (2012, September 16). This Heavily-Armed Drone Is Changing The Way America Wages War. Retrieved April 2, 2017, from http://www.businessinsider.com/the-predator-drone-is-taking-out-al-qaeda-one-terrorist-at-a-time-2012-9?op=1%2F#e-italian-air-force-and-philippines-national-security-advisor-have-both-jumped-on-the-predator-bandwagon-25

Holman, B. (2009, August 22). The first air bomb: Venice, 15 July 1849. Retrieved April 2, 2017, from https://airminded.org/2009/08/22/the-first-air-bomb-venice-15-july-1849/

Mansell, I. W. (2016, May 30). Is the government holding back the future of drones? Retrieved April 2, 2017, from http://www.newsweek.com/drones-2016-where-do-unmanned-aircraft-go-here-438630

Marris, E. (2013, June 12). Drones in science: Fly, and bring me data. Retrieved April 2, 2017, from http://www.nature.com/news/drones-in-science-fly-and-bring-me-data-1.13161

A Short History of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). (2016, August 11). Retrieved April 2, 2017, from https://consortiq.com/short-history-unmanned-aerial-vehicles-uavs/

Stamp, J. (2013, February 12). Unmanned Drones Have Been Around Since World War I. Retrieved April 2, 2017, from http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/unmanned-drones-have-been-around-since-world-war-i-16055939/

U. C. (2014, March 23). Growing use of drones poised to transform agriculture. Retrieved March 30, 2017, from http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2014/03/23/drones-agriculture-growth/6665561/

Whitlock, C. (2015, August 10). Rogue drones a growing nuisance across the U.S. Retrieved April 2, 2017, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/how-rogue-drones-are-rapidly-becoming-a-national-nuisance/2015/08/10/9c05d63c-3f61-11e5-8d45-d815146f81fa_story.html?utm_term=.6b875476391b


Created with images by ki-kieh - "drone technique technology"

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.