Evolution of Drones: Military to Now a Hobby & Commercial

Drones are universal, bringing together people from all walks of life. Humans are now communicating through technology, and even with technology, drone enthusiasts worldwide have a massive interaction. Although Drone technology has been around a while in some circles, we are now starting to see them enter the mainstream in a big way. As drones could be a cost effective solution for many businesses, cutting out the need for human resources. Drones will almost certainly improve over the next ten or 20 years as autonomy and collision avoidance technology improves. Camera technology has seen an upwards spike in recent years, meaning drones have become far more effective at spotting things humans find hard to see. No longer are they only used by defence organizations and tech expert consumers?

Large-scale companies and private individuals are now seeing the potential drones may possess. Drones could help emergency services shortly and are becoming more accessible by the day, possibly leading them to replace humans in hazardous jobs. Also, delivery services may have to take a serious look at using drones for their benefit.

In India, the use of drones has been gradually rising in various applications, especially in non-commercial applications for aerial cinematography, land surveys, agriculture & mining activities, disaster management, construction activities and mapping national highways and railway tracks. Drone manufacturers, service providers, and platform integrators are seriously considering the business potential across these application types. The representation of drones in popular media has diversified from military drones to consumer ones, reflecting the growing market demand.

The History of military drones: the 1800s

Today, when we think of military drones, we tend to think of sleek, advanced planes and quadcopters. The world’s inventors and militaries first developed drone technology as balloons, torpedoes, and aerial targets - feats of invention and innovation at the time.

In 1849, the Austrian Navy used two hundred incendiary balloons to capture Venice. By the early 1900s, the United States military began exploring drone technology to build practice targets for training.

World War 1

In 1915, Nikola Tesla wrote about uncrewed aerial combat vehicles. The first attempt at a self-propelled drone as an aerial target was completed in 1916 by A.M. Low. It wasn’t until World War I that the Dayton-Wright Airplane Company invented the first pilotless torpedo.

After World War I, companies worked to push drone technology forward with inventions like the Hewitt-Sperry Automatic Airplane and the Kettering bug, aerial torpedo. The military completed most efforts during this time up until 1935, when actor and model aeroplane enthusiast Reginald Denny became the first civilian to develop a remotely piloted vehicle.

World War 2

During World War II, Allied and German forces used drones to train aircraft gunners and aid in missions. After the end of World War II, drone developers began using jet engines in technologies like the Australian GAF Jindivik and the Model 10001, built for the U.S. Navy by Beechcraft.

The 70s, 80s, & 90s

In the early 70s, Israel began using drones as decoys in the Yom Kippur War. During this same time, the United States officially confirmed that they had been using drones in Vietnam. According to the Armed Forces Journal International, in 1982, the U.S. stated that they had flown more than 3,435 drone missions during the war for both decoy and surveillance applications.

It wasn’t until the 1980s and 90s that the U.S. military began heavily investing in technology. The U.S. Department of Defence awarded the AAI Corp and Israel-based Malat contracts in the 90s to develop more advanced drone technology, which resulted in more cost-efficient technologies.

The MQ-9 Reaper is a larger, more powerful version of the U.S. government’s initial MQ-1 Predator drone developed in the 1990s. In the mid-90s, the U.S. government began The Predator program, which resulted in the MQ-1 Predator, equipped with a Hellfire anti-tank missile on its wings. It paved the way for the MQ-9 Reaper in 2007. The Predator and Reaper drones are what most people today picture when they think of military drones. Today, over three dozen countries and multiple terrorist groups and non-state actors have weaponized drones in their arsenal.

Demands for Drones are Increasing

By 2025, the human population is projected to hit 9 billion, which will likely strain agriculture if the current population is not already doing that. Sustainability is one of the problems that drones will address through high-tech planting systems, crop monitoring and spraying, irrigation management, fertilization, assessment and field analysis. Drone Fly estimates that drones can spray fertilizer 40 to 60 times faster than by hand.

One of the most popular demands for drones is the courier service. People welcome the idea of directly receiving small packages in their footsteps delivered by a drone. It means the reduction of green gas emissions and energy use for the environment, which is good news. Drone delivery of medicine and medical supplies to remote areas saves millions of lives.

India's drone industry may play an instrumental role in public services such as agriculture, defence, healthcare and infrastructure maintenance in the future, say, experts, while highlighting some concerns around the safety and privacy of these uncrewed aerial vehicles. They are mini pilotless aircraft operated by remote control and can be accessed through simple devices like a smartphone app. These crewless vehicles require far less effort, time and energy and can reach far and difficult terrains while being controlled by a single person remotely.

When Drones become mainstream

Many companies have sprung up in the last few years, making remote-controlled mini-aircraft mounted with cameras increasingly being used for commercial and entertainment purposes. But these aren't the remote-controlled helicopters you remember flying as a kid. Today's drones have lighter, better software, longer-lasting batteries, and vastly improved camera technology.

On the higher end of the cost spectrum is drones with high-definition cameras that can operate a mile or more from the person flying them. They cost thousands of dollars and are aimed at various commercial uses.

With their ability to collect data and transport loads, drones are re-shaping how we think and feel about our physical environment. However, they are also burdened with the perception of being surveillance equipment, and both individuals and activist organizations have criticized their commercial use.