Nikola Tesla was one of the greatest inventors and scientists in the history of mankind, even though many of his findings fell into oblivion or it was others who profited from his ideas. Few people know the history of Tesla and the origin of drones, since one of the great inventions of Tesla was, neither more nor less than the invention of one of the first drones.
It was the year 1898, still in the 19th century, and Tesla was going to a great exhibition at the mythical Madison Square Garden in New York. There he prepared a great show, since, at the time, popular support was needed to get good funding.
In a pond, the inventor and showman remotely controlled a small boat with three antennas directed by a radio signal. Then, he asked the public to chant orders to the invention, which moved perfectly underwater, although it was Tesla himself who operated remote control, following people’s orders. This was the first application of radio waves in history, which means that Tesla’s patent No. 613,809 was the cradle of modern robotics in drones. And in that body of water floated an enormous possible military advance.
That same year, he obtained a patent for this primitive water drone, which he tried to sell to the United States Navy without much success. This type of device did not arouse the interest of the military until the arrival of World War I.
A few years later, in 1903, the great Spanish engineer Leonardo Torres presented his version of a remote-controlled drone, the Telekino, much more elaborate than the Tesla model and that allowed to fully handle a small boat, however, due to the lack of financing this invention could not be carried out. Finally, and many years later, in late 1946, the US Air Force approved a program to develop three types of drones for use as training targets. Of the three, the Q-2 model, was the most important, becoming the father of a class of “target” aircraft built by the Ryan Aeronautical Company.
The development of drones collapsed for decades due to the low need for them because of the success and developments in the field of missiles. In the mid-1950s the United States Army developed a type of long-range missile with a precision guidance system, somewhat more like a small aircraft.
In May 1964, the United States began considering sending drones to replace its U-2s on spy missions over Cuba. The “fireflies” operated by the United States were later used for surveillance in the so-called “sensitive areas”, the main theaters of the Cold War: among them Cuba, North Korea, and the People’s Republic of China. For many years and until today, drones have been used to facilitate military operations and government investigations. As we can see, drones were created to gain a military advantage against the enemy, the technology that has been developed for this has evolved over the years.
Step by step, unmanned aircraft were acquiring new capabilities that allow their use outside the military sphere. Currently, the applications of drones in the civil field are spreading and changing the traditional models of work in sectors such as agriculture, aerial thermography, surveying, inspection, and maintenance of industrial infrastructure, as well as tasks in the audiovisual sector and others very diverse.
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SOURCES, AUTHORS AND REFERENCES:
INTERNATIONAL CIVIL AVIATION ORGANIZATION (2011): “Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)”. Circular 328, AN / 190.
NEWCOME, L. R. (2004): «Unmanned Aviation. A Brief History of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles ». American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Reston, Virginia (USA)
VALAVANIS, K. P. and VACHTSEVANOS, G. J. Editors’ (2015): «Handbook of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles». Springer Science + business Media. Dordrecht (Holland).
AUSTIN, R. (2010): «Unmanned Aircraft Systems. UAVS Design, Development and Deployment ». John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Chichester (UK).
- REJADO, C. THE ORIGIN AND HISTORY OF THE DRONES. HEMAV. E.T.S.I. Aeronautics. Polytechnic University of Madrid