You may have heard of drones being used at weddings and ceremonies to capture the most memorable moments. You may have even come across news of drones being used to deliver supplies to those in need.
However, there is another major application of drones. Also called Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), drones are frequently used in combat. Typically, these combat machines are used to carry missiles and execute strikes.
Drones are usually under human control in real time, although the level of autonomy can vary from one case to another. They are beneficial for combatants because no pilot is on board, which means there is no collateral or casualties if the drone is shot down.
In principle, the operator runs the drone from a remote location. The equipment that a pilot would utilise is not needed, which means that the drone is considerably lighter than a manned vehicle would be.
The United States, Israel and China are generally considered as industry leaders when it comes to drone technology and the art of implementing them in warfare.
History of Drones
Although it may seem that drones have come to the fore in recent years, their first use can be traced all the way back to the 19th century, when Austrians employed hot air balloons to bomb Italian cities without using pilots.
As soon as the Wright brother made a significant breakthrough and pioneered the first aircraft, work on pilotless planes began in earnest. While remote controlled planes were in development during the First World War in 1914 and 1918, unmanned vehicles were also being researched extensively.
It was at that time that the term drone was being thrown around. The United Kingdom created the Queen Bee, which was a plane that was regulated using a radio from the ground. This vehicle was designed for target practice, similar to most unmanned appliances at the time.
In the decades following the Second World War, countries realised the need for innovation and making headway in combat devices. It was in the second half of the 20th century that drone technology witnessed a revolution of sorts.
First, it was the Israeli aviation team of the 70’s that established an aircraft which operated similar to how a glider would. This unmanned vehicle was capable of flying for more than 24 hours at a stretch. This became the basis of drones and even to this day, these vehicles take inspiration from the design produced by Israel.
The next advancement came in the 90’s when transmitters were attached to drones. This meant that footage could be recorded and transmitted to operators on the ground. This was used to devastating effect by NATO commanders and expedited the signing of the Dayton peace accords.
Another imperative improvement was made at the turn of the century by the United States once again. They were able to fasten missiles to drones as the CIA began their pursuit of Osama Bin Laden, the most wanted man on the planet at the time.