9 Amazing Facts About The (235+ Year) History Of Drones!

Marilyn Monroe with drone propeller

The drone revolution is upon us. From photography and videography to delivery drones, racing FPV drones, to the latest selfie drone trend, they are literally everywhere! It’s fascinating to read and understand how drone tech has come about and how it has evolved over the years. Quite a lot of different pieces had to come together to eventually enable the current version of drones and quadcopters. Click here to see the Infographic and read more about the history of drones.

1. Marilyn Monroe was discovered whilst working on radio-controlled miniature planes in 1945

Who would’ve known that the most sensational women ever would have a connection to drones?

In the spring of 1945, photographer David Conover was sent to take pictures of Women in War Work at the Radioplane Corporation, the manufacturer of radio-controlled miniature planes used by the army for anti-aircraft practice He came upon a girl putting on propellers. She had curly ash-blonde hair and her face was smudged with dirt. He snapped and walked on. Then he stopped. He was stunned. She was beautiful. Norma Jean, age 19, later to be known as Marilyn Monroe had just been discovered.

2. The first Unmanned Aeriel flight happened in 1782 by the Montgolfier brothers in France!

Montgolfier brothers unmanned balloon flight
Montgolfier brothers unmanned balloon flight

In 1782, people were still dreaming about flying. But nobody would risk actually trying to fly themselves, so it’s easy to understand that the first flight would be unmanned. The vehicle was, in fact, a hot-air balloon and it was a spectacular event – as one would imagine!

3. The first military drones were balloons with bombs used by Austria in a secret attack against Venice in 1849

Balloons bombing Venice. 19th-century illustration of balloons being used to bomb the city of Venice on 22 August 1849.

On August 22, 1849, Austria displayed the remarkable savvy to mount two hundred pilotless balloons with bombs, as part of a secret attack against Venice.

The history that is available, tells us that Austria had to take this urgent step because it was so challenging to get to Venice, which was surrounded by water, and it was far too risky for land soldiers to attack the Venetians.

4. Nicolo Tesla invented and demonstrated RC using a boat automaton in a pond in Madison Square Garden in 1898

Tesla Automaton

Tesla once said,

“The world moves slowly, and new truths are difficult to see.”

It was his way of responding to the crowd’s stunned disbelief upon viewing his scientific wizardry at New York’s Madison Square Garden in 1898. Using a small, radio-transmitting control box, he was able to maneuver a tiny ship about a pool of water and even flash its running lights on and off, all without any visible connection between the boat and controller. Indeed few people at the time were aware that radio waves even existed and Tesla, an inventor often known to electrify the crowd with his creations, was pushing the boundaries yet again, with his remote-controlled vessel.

5. The Ryan Firebee was the first jet-propelled drone and was one of the most widely used target drones

Ryan Firebee

The Ryan Firebee was a series of target drones developed by the Ryan Aeronautical Company beginning in 1951. It was one of the first jet-propelled drones, and one of the most widely used target drones ever built.

6. The first prototype quadcopter flew in 1907 and was designed by Louis Breguet

Louis Breguet Gyroplane

The Gyroplane No.I was one of the earliest attempts to create a practical rotary-wing aircraft. The aircraft had an uncovered open steel framework with a seat for the pilot and a powerplant at the centre.

To eliminate the torque effect, two rotor sets were driven clockwise and two counter-clockwise – something which is still in place in today’s personal quadcopters.

7. DJI Drones company owns 70% of the market and made revenues of $1.5bn in 2016

DJI Mavic Pro Collapsible Quadcopter

DJI (a Chinese technology company) now owns 70% of the personal drones market. With such popular drones such as the DJI Mavic Pro (see review here), and the ever-popular Phantom series, their revenues have jumped to more than $1.5bn, with no signs of slowing.

8. Racing Drone Leagues prizes have soared to $1m

Skitzo - drone racing champion
Skitzo – drone racing champion

It was inevitable that drones would eventually be used for drone racing. A niche industry in itself, FPV and customized racing drones have also increased rapidly in popularity. Sky has invested more than $1m in the Drone Racing League with the World Drone Racing Prix in Dubai being the first million-dollar drone race.

9. Lady Gaga used Drones Swarms to create spectacular lighting effects in the 2017 SuperBowl show

Drone swarm American flag
Drone swarm creating American flag visual

Of course, with drones being the next big thing before the big celebrities were jumping on the bandwagon. Lady Gaga used drone swarms in the 2017 super bowl to create incredible lighting effects, including an American flag.

And what’s next for the history of drones?

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