Nov 02 2016

History of drones

Can you believe that the modern day drones have some weird connection with the bow and arrow used by primitive humans in remote warfare?  Across ages, technology has evolved and today, nearly everyone is talking about drones.

In warfare, aerial surveillance emerged for the first time, during the 1898 Spanish-American War. The Austrians   didn’t have the drones that you can order from Amazon for under $100 today. Bombs were therefore mounted on balloons and fitted with a camera.  These balloons without a pilot were then deployed by the Austrians in their war against Venice. The first photograph of aerial reconnaissance also emerged during this time.

The concept of the modern day photography drone or hobbyist drone was borne from the 1898 war, although there was a long period of slumber, before the concept came alive to nearly take the world by storm.

Today, most discussions on international relations or politics have a slice of drone in it. Recognizing the growing role of drones in these discussions, special columns have been set up by Huffington post and the Guardian just for news surrounding Drones.

The scary kind of predator drones was developed for military applications by General Atomics, the military contractor.

 

These were introduced for the first time in 1995 to gather intelligence and as a tool for surveillance. In later years however, it was also tricked-out for launching weapons such as hellfire missiles.

First patented remote control UAV

The first patented remote control UAV is the ‘teleautomation’ from Nicola Tesla. The foundational principles of modern day UAVs or drones have also originated from this.

Military research during 20th century

Many innovations in the history of drone evolved from Military research during the 20th century.  GPS systems enabled by surveillance satellites and protocols for information swapping were developed by defence researchers and these are the fundamentals of the internet Today’s UAVs belong to a similar category.  This is how some of the military drones look today.

 

Quadcopter drone with 2.0MP camera

Initial designs of the military UAVs were only for reconnaissance purposes. The commercial development and paramilitary deployments were often kept out of public sight.

Advanced technology and falling costs

With technology advancing costs also started falling. This has in turn encouraged rapid development of UAVs for day-to-day civilian applications. But, the development is not without its share of privacy and security concerns.

Drones with camera and live video

Public outcry against drone activity by military

In modern days, many defence establishments are employing drones for a series of covert and sometimes even overt operations.  Some of these deployments in recent times have not been well received by the Public, particularly in the USA.

Conventional radars are not very effective in detecting drones

Another concern for law enforcement as well as the regulators is that conventional radars cannot detect the drones.  For the drones on an attack mission this gives a high degree of advantages while the target camps will suffer a disadvantage. More work is presently on to overcome this so that done strikes do not take the other side by absolute surprise

Countries owning drones for military deployment

You must have thought that America is the only nation that is vigorously pursuing UAVs for military as well as civilian applications. Take a look at the nations which are nearly on the same footing with drone technology.  Well, to update you on that, here is a list of nations that are actively employing drones for their national security.

  • China
  • Germany
  • France
  • India
  • Italy
  • Iran
  • Russia
  • Israel
  • Turkey
  • United States
  • United Kingdom

Remember, this is only a selective list and 76 countries have some kind of UAV capabilities according to a report by the Accountability of the US Government in July 2012.

Distinguishing UAVs for use in Civilian applications

This is a representative image of a drone designed to carry people without any human supervision onboard.  This variant is still under development and regulatory controls for civilian application. Presently christened as ’184’, this could cost a cool $200,000 to $300,00 when made commercially available.

Quadcopters – the smaller drones

The more popular quadcopters are significantly smaller in size and prices start below the $100 mark.

 

Small UAVs – concerns of physical safety and privacy

Drones are just in their infancy state and its abilities as well as limitations continue to be evaluated across the globe.  Once these technology driven products are freely available, there is no way to check who will use them and to what end. Many nations are particularly concerned about terrorists and the drug mafia gaining advantage from the drones.

Drones in logistics

Have you perhaps noticed that the logistics business is making significant noise about how drones can enhance their business capabilities?  Tracking inventory, direct delivery to customers, internal delivery, surveillance and employee safety are some of the core segments in supply chain management that are now attracting deployment of drones.

Drones and Amazon

Many of us do know that Amazon is pretty secretive about its business plans or what to expect from them the next week or perhaps next month.  But, for the discerning pair of eyes, there are enough clues to suggest that it has plans to radically alter the way it delivers goods to its customers.  Although this has given some jitters to Amazon’s established delivery partners like UPS and Fedex, reports suggest that Amazon has no immediate plans to leave their long term partners in the lurch. But, Amazon firmly believes that the drone technology is here to stay and that flying, any day, is a lot faster, cheaper and hassle free.

But, with the skies getting dotted with drones, are we perhaps heading towards traffic snarls in the skies too? Only time can answer this question.

Wide range of potential applications

Once the regulatory hurdles are crossed, it is expected that drones will play a significant role in a wide range of businesses across the globe.  Disaster response, photography, journalism, real estate, education, climate and environment, mapping, tourism, and utilities are only some of these segments.

The portability and size of small drones are appealing features for fire services and the police to consider how they can be adapted for aerial surveillance and other tasks. There is little doubt that the technology holds great promise to revolutionize the future in many ways than we would want to think today.

This thinking is further demonstrated by the fact that AR.Drone,  a popular commercial sUAV is reported to have sold in excess of 300,000 units so far. Let us not forget that these numbers are for just one manufacturer and there are many others in the fray.
Regulation for small drones on the anvil

In 2016, the US government has announced some regulations for drones. Many other nations are in the process of framing similar rules.  These governments will primarily address safety issues, liability in the event of accidents, insurance and a slew of other factors to enhance the accountability of those who own and operate drones in the skies.

Price range for drones today

Price range for drones today varies from under $100 to as much as a few hundred thousand dollars depending on the type of drone you are looking for and the end application expected of the gadget. Toy Drones, Camera Drones and Racing drones are some of the options for civilians.

 

Fun facts

According to Washington Times, there could be as many as 30,000 drones in the U.S. skies alone by the year 2020.

Reaper drones can currently purvey an area of 4 square kilometer area but would soon expand to 10 square kilometers.

The stare of Reaper drones are called “Gorgon Stare” and the name comes from terrifying female characters in Greek mythology.

Thankfully, no drone has as yet acquired the power to turn you into a stone with just their gaze.

There are plenty of disagreements on what is a more fitting name for ‘drones’.

For the surveillance industry, more cuddly drones are preferable. British manufacturers are suggesting bright colors for the drones so they can be more friendly and less like a reminder of war zones. In hot pink, they opine, the big brother can be more appealing.

 

 

 

Drone brings fresh lease of life to Cape Canaveral

The space program may be on its way out from Cape Canaveral.  The Border Protection and U.S. Customs would now turn this space to a practice spot.

Prosecutions may increase – says U.S. Coast Guard

The US Coast Guard feels that prosecutions could increase by as much as with the help of drones.

  • Weird ways of using a drone
  • There are many bizarre ways in which drones are impacting our lives. According to New York post drones may be used for spying on people.
  • In Las Vegas you can have your liquor delivered on the pool side by a drone – expect to pay a fat tip though!
  • Laundry services may soon start using drones for delivery
  • Food delivery companies may soon take to drones for delivery
  • Flower delivery through drones may become popular particularly during occasions like Valentine’s day
  • Men may take to proposing via drone
  • UPSA and FedEx are already planning to launch delivery of urgent medical supplies to inaccessible areas

 

 

 

 

 

Drone Facts

With the increasing popularity of consumer drones many people assume that what they buy from Amazon or other outlets are less sophisticated variations of drones used by the military. This is however, far from the truth.

While a predator represents an aircraft carrier a DJI Phantom 3 is similar to a row boat. But in terms of capabilities they are two different products altogether with distinct abilities.

With the advancement in digital technologies, many components became cheaper and easily available. This encouraged hobbyists to construct DIY drones. Some of the early birds among the hobbyists also went on to build their own companies such as DJI and 3D Robotics. The powerful mini computers and cheap sensors have provided great impetus to the civilian drones.

Drone delivery is relatively easy and could well be a reality as early as 2017. The life of the battery and flight range are two major issues currently being sorted out.

One constraint that could remain however is that the drones are not intelligent. Therefore, the usual intelligence expected of your delivery person will always be absent.

Drones cannot either avoid your Chihuahua or an enterprising neighbor who is fond of free stuff,

A drone flying above your home is not a crime. Yes, you are not the owner of the sky above your home.
Conversely if you shoot down a drone, that is criminal and you will face the consequences
If you think a drone is disturbing your privacy you can call the police or the drone pilot and ask him to take it off, Calling off a drone is not a difficult task since most drones have a battery life lasting about 2 hours,

Civilian drones are not considered very good when it comes to aerial photography. At best they are as good as your mobile phone cameras or Google Earth.

When you need to spy on people, drones are pretty effective and inexpensive too. already many people are using drones for this purpose effectively. However, the imagery or information you gather at higher altitudes will be lacking in clarity, Closer to your target, your drone has chances of getting caught. So think twice before you launch the drone, particularly to grab nude scenes or stuff similar to that

The payload for small drones are pretty small. So if you thought that drone is a good alternative in destructive missions, you should think again.

The aiming accuracy of civilian drones are not as good as your eyes  and therefore if you have a mission on hands you are better off believing your own eyes.

 

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