When were Drones Invented? History From 1783 To 2024

Drones have become a ubiquitous part of our daily lives, whether it’s for recreational purposes or commercial use. Drones have transformed the way we communicate with the world around us, from aerial shots to package delivery. However, have you ever questioned when were drones invented?

In this blog post, we will explore the fascinating history of drones and how they have evolved from their humble beginnings to the sophisticated machines we know today. So, fasten your seatbelts and get ready to embark on a journey through time to discover the origins of these flying wonders.

When were Drones Invented? History of Drones!

Before jumping into the history of drones, we need to know what is a drone. The term drone or Unmanned aerial vehicle is because a vehicle is operated without the help of a pilot and crew.

There could be two possibilities for a drone flight to be automated and the other one is remotely controlled by a pilot. Drones also offer a good flight range of several kilometers, can carry weight or payload, and are lightweight, which are used for many applications that a manned or crewed aircraft cannot be used.

Now come back to the main discussion of that blog post, when was the first drone invented, and who made that drone, we have to go several centuries back.

1783 – Hot Air Balloon (The First UAV):

When we think about a drone the first thing that comes to mind is rotating blades, buzzing sound, and aerial photography (Well it’s true!). But the first drone was not like that and it was a hot air balloon. The hot air balloon is not counted in the list of drones but these can be operated without a pilot. (Yes, you heard it right!).

By flying a hot air balloon in front of people in Annonay, France, in 1783 Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier presented the first instance of an unmanned aircraft at the time.

1849 – UAVs’ First Military Use:

The first drone was used in military operations by Austrians to attack the city of Venice. Actually, these drones were not similar to the modern military drones in use today. These drones were the hot air balloons invented by Lieutenant Franz von Uchatiusthat.

These balloon bombs were filled with explosive materials designed to target specific locations in the city of Venice. Unfortunately, these balloons were unable to hit most of their targets in Venice and also these drones destroyed the Austrian camps and other important properties.

1917 – UAVs in World War 1:

In 1917, during world war 1 Britain made an unmanned aircraft Aerial Target. The aircraft was controlled by radio technology and successfully passed its first test flight. Further, in 1918, America also made its own unmanned aircraft named the American aerial Torpedo and also known as Kettering Bug. These drones were never used in any military operations.

1935 – The invention of the First Modern Drone:

Since the time period, of World War 1 the evolution of drones continued and the British developed three radio-controlled drones named Fairey Queen in 1931 for aerial target practice. 

Further continuing this experiment British developed lots of other aerial target practicing named DH.82B Queen Bee in 1935.

US Navy was also working on its radio-controlled drone that was developed in 1917. In 1936, The US also manufactured its own radio-controlled pilotless planes for aerial target practice and training. They named these unmanned aerial vehicles “Drones”.

1943 – The Rise of First-Person View (FPV) Drones:

The first FPV drone was made by the US Army after the decision to convert the old bomber “war-weary” B-17F to a radio-controlled  BQ-7 drone. These drones were initially controlled by pilots and crew and when the target is locked then they jump out of that drone by parachute.

Then further that drone was controlled toward its target by another BQ-7 drone. BQ-7 the drone was filled with heavy explosives. That was a good beginning for a military UAV but the risk of pilot injury and death had a higher chance.

1973 – Use of UAVs for Reconnaissance and Surveillance:

Israel started to use the IAI Scout drone models in 1973 for surveillance to identify the war situation and battlefields. During the 1973  Yom Kippur War, Israel also used their drones to destroy enemies’ expensive anti-aircraft missiles. After that war further, a team in Isreal started a company to develop drones for commercial use.

1982 –  Use of UAVs in Battlefield:

The final result of the first tackle that drones greatly impacted the result was the battle of Jezzine. By beating the Syrian Air Force and defeating the fight with few losses of life, Israel used their drones. It has been demonstrated that UAVs could potentially be used in warfare.

1995 – The Development of Predator Drones:

In 1995, The United States Air Force (USAF) developed  MQ-1 Predator drones and started using this in many wars and military operations in Afghanistan, and Pakistan. These drones were able to carry heavy payloads like cameras and different sensors. Predator drones also carry two missiles and weapons to eliminate the target.

The Rise of the Latest Drones:

Today the use of drones is significantly changed from the past and could easily be seen in the sky. Drones have revolutionized the way we conduct business across various industries, offering a range of applications for commercial purposes. These unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are widely used in fields such as agriculture, construction, photography, videography, package delivery, surveying, and even emergency services.

There are the latest stats on drones that show their importance and dominance in our world today!

  • During to the latest records, there are 850,000 registered drones in the United States and this is not the total numbers lots of people who do not register their drones. 
  • Almost 10% of Americans currently owned a drone.
  • In 2022, it is anticipated that drone sales would generate over $1.2 billion in revenue.
  • In 2022, a drone will cost an average of $540.
  • Drones are predicted to provide 103,776 employment by 2025.
  • By 2030, it is anticipated that the worldwide drone market would exceed USD 92 billion.

2006 – UAVs Permitted to fly in US Civilians Airspace:

In May 2006, the first time Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) allowed the Predator M/RQ-1 and M/RQ-9 drones to be used for surveillance, search, and rescue operations in the U.S. civilian airspace. The request for the use of drones for rescue and surveillance in civilian airspace was made in 2005 but FAA permitted the request after one year.

The predator drones were able to detect humans from a distance of 10,000 feet with heat sensors and infrared cameras, which makes them a perfect machine for search and rescue.

2006- FAA Permitted Commercial Use of Drones:

In 2006 Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) allowed the commercial use of drones for photography, filmmaking, mapping, surveillance, and rescue operation.

In the same year, a student Frank Wang from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology started their own drone company DJI  in Shenzhen China with the help of a small team. DJI is the leading brand in the drone industry since 2006 for commercial drone applications.

2010 – Parrot Turned a Smartphone into a Drone Controller:

After the successful use of drones in commercial applications many drones manufacturing companies started making more advanced and featured drones.

In 2006, a well-known company Parrot unveiled its AR Drone. This drone was controlled by a smartphone with the help of an App. This quadcopter was small in size and it had an FPV camera and self-stabilizing sensors.

2013 – DJI Phantom 1 was Released:

The boom in the use of commercial use of drones began with the release of DJI’s Phantom series. As the company was founded in 2006 but its most advanced DJI Phantom 1 was released in 2013. This drone was a budget drone with high-definition cameras, a long flight range, and ease of control.

This drone modernizes the use of camera drones in the commercial market. Now the DJI is the most used consumer drone in the world.

2013 – The Use of Drones for Product Delivery:

Drones for Product Delivery

At that time drones were used in many applications from photography to search and rescue operations but big companies like Amazon, Google FedEx, UPS, and many other delivery companies started experimenting to utilize drones to deliver products. The concept was unique and effective but the main issue with the drones is the battery life airspace constraints.

2015 – First Consumer Drone was Released:

After the massive success of the DJI Phantom 1, the company released its most advanced and highly equipped drone DJI Phantom 3 in 2015. This drone was one of the best-sold consumer drones in history. It was the first consumer drone that was equipped with a 4K camera, FPV mode, up to 5km range, and was able to fly for 23 minutes in the air.

2016 – Autonomous Aerial Vehicle – Ehang

In 2014 a Chinese company Ehang developed an autonomous passenger drone car. This is actually a manned aircraft but the concept and technology that is used in it was based on a drone. This Autonomous aerial vehicle provides a fully secured flight, operated at low altitudes, and its fully autonomous pilot-controlled system.

This man-carrying drone car has successfully tested its test flights. The vehicle is able to fly for 23 minutes by carrying a single passenger.

2016 – First Foldable Consumer Drone:

In 2016, DJI released its Mavic Pro series and introduced the first consumer drone that can be folded. This feature was very helpful to carry a drone while traveling and could easily fit in a backpack. Further Mavic Pro is also equipped with advanced sensors, high-definition cameras, a gimbal, and longer battery life.

2020 – Use of Drones in Pandemic:

For the duration of the coronavirus, drones have been an essential component in providing delivery of medical materials, social isolation by the police, and quarantine.

Drones help firefighters locate points of entry into buildings without putting themselves at risk and help police maintain social isolation.

2023 – Release of DJI Inspire 3:

The DJI Inspire 3 drone has introduced its DJI Inspire 3 drone and is eagerly anticipated by filmmakers around the world. This new drone is packed with improved features that make it even more versatile and user-friendly.

This drone comes with 8K video shooting capability and an increased distance range, the DJI Inspire 3 is an essential tool for cinematographers looking to capture stunning aerial footage. The drone’s importance in the film industry arises from its ability to produce high-quality images that were previously impossible or difficult to achieve.

FAQ: When were Drones Invented?

What Did the First Drone Look Like?

The first drone was invented in 1918 by the US Army and was called the “Kettering Bug.” It was a small, unmanned aircraft that was powered by a gasoline engine and had a wingspan of 12 feet. The Kettering Bug was designed for reconnaissance and was equipped with a camera that could take aerial photographs.

It was made entirely of wood and fabric and was launched via a catapult. Although it was never used in combat, it paved the way for the development of modern drones and set the stage for the use of unmanned aerial vehicles in military operations.

When Did Drones Become Popular?

Drones gained popularity in 2015 due to their widespread use in various industries, including photography, filmmaking, agriculture, and delivery services. The technology became more affordable and accessible to the public, leading to a surge in demand for drones.

In addition, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the United States introduced new regulations that made it easier for businesses and individuals to obtain permits for commercial drone use. These factors played a crucial role in the rise of drone popularity in 2015 and beyond.

Who Invented the First Drone Camera in the World?

The first camera on a drone was invented by Alfred Nobel in 1896. However, the first drone camera in the modern sense was likely developed by Abraham E. Karem, known as the Father of UAV Technology, who made the first drone for the Israeli Air Force during World War II.

When were Military Drones Invented?

The idea of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) has been around since the middle of the nineteenth century, and the first known drone was the Austrians’ Aerial Target, which they used in 1849. However, modern military drones, such as the Predator drone, became a thing in the 1990s when mini and micro versions of UAVs were introduced.

These drones were primarily used for reconnaissance, surveillance, and targeted attacks, which have raised ethical questions about their use in warfare.

When were Agricultural Drones Invented?

Agricultural drones were first invented in the early 2000s. The Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and Yamaha were the first to develop agricultural drones during this period.

However, the use of aerial vehicles in agriculture dates back to 1921 when the USDA, in collaboration with the US Army, deployed it for crop purposes. John Chaytor, a New Zealand farmer, also used (partly) unmanned vehicles for spreading grass seed in 1906.

When were Toy Drones Invented?

Toy drones, also known as consumer drones, were first introduced in the early 2010s. The release of the French company Parrot’s AR wireless-controlled drone in 2010 revolutionized the market for hobbyist and consumer drones.

Since then, the consumer drone market has grown tremendously, with various models offering advanced features like high-quality cameras and GPS capabilities. Today, toy drones are popular among children and adults alike, and are used for entertainment, aerial photography, and even drone racing.

Conclusion: History and Future of Drones!

The history of drones is relatively short with the first being made around 100 years ago. Drones are being used as toys, military weapons, and even in biological warfare. The era of drones started with the first hot air balloon flight in 1783 by the Frenchmen Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier. These balloons were not controlled by a pilot and their only purpose was to represent France.

The next major step toward the development of drones was in 1917 when the US military set up an Aerial Target Laying Team. This team was responsible for releasing explosive devices out of hot air balloons from a distance so that they could be accurately aimed at strategic locations. They named these balloons “drones”.

In the 1950s, the US military started developing nautical drones for use in underwater operations. And in the 1960s, the US military further developed the world’s first operational manned drone, the General Atomics MQ-1 Predator, which is still being used today.

With the technologies that have been developed since then, drones have become an indispensable tool that can be used in a variety of ways. They have also become more affordable, allowing more people to get involved with the usage of these flying machines.

So, where is the future of drones going to take us? You will have to wait and see as it’s anyone’s guess as to how the next 20 years will unfold!

Hi! I'm John Romero a drone enthusiast and a FAA certified drone pilot. I've been in love with these UAVs for 8 years when I bought my first drone. Now I have started Drone Guider to share my experience and knowledge with people like me around the world. Happy Flying!

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