Introduction to drones

A drone refers to an unpiloted aircraft or spacecraft in aviation and space terminology. Another name for it is an “unmanned aerial vehicle” or UAV.
Drones are primarily used for military purposes because they don't put a pilot's life at risk in combat zones. On top of that, drones don't require resting period, enabling them to fly as long as the fuel does not finish and no mechanical problem is encountered.
Drones may be remotely controlled or can fly using software controlled flight plans in its embedded systems working in conjunction with GPS. Drones have most often been applied for the military cause but they are also used for search and rescue, surveillance, traffic, weather and firefighting monitoring, photography and videography, among other things.
Recently, drones are being considered for a number of commercial applications. Amazon in late 2013, announced a plan to use drones for delivery in the near future.

Personal drones are also becoming increasingly popular with passing time, mostly for drone-based photography.

Drone surveillance and drone journalism are other prominent applications, because the unmanned flying vehicles can often access locations that would not be possible for a human to access.

The market and potential applications are both expected to expand rapidly for personal drones as it is often being used for aerial photography.

Origin of drones

The idea of unmanned aerial flight is not completely a new one. When Austria attacked the Italian city of Venice with explosives loaded unmanned balloons on August 22, 1849, the concept finally came to light. From the Austrian ship Volcano, some balloons were launched. While some balloons managed to reach their intended destination, most were blown back over Austrian lines as they were caught in changing winds.

A timeline of the origin of drones is given below:


The first unmanned aerial flying crafts were developed during and shortly after World War I.

The Automatic Airplane was demonstrated for the US Army in November 1917. With the success of this demonstration, the Army decided to commission a project to build an aerial torpedo, later came to be known as the Kettering Bug, which flew in 1918. Although the technology was a success, but it wasn’t ready to fight during wartime, which ended before the drone could be developed and deployed.

Several other UAVs were developed in between the time of WWI and WWII. The term “drone” first came to use in 1936 when the head of the Navy’s research group used it to describe radio-controlled aerial targets.

Drones were used as training tools for antiaircraft gunners and for aerial attack missions during the technology rush era of WWII. Nazi Germany also had produced and used various UAVs during WWII. After the war the Teledyne Ryan Firebee I of 1951 was the first drone to which jet engines were applied. These drones were nothing more than just remote-controlled airplanes until the Vietnam Era when the concept of drones started to evolve.


Concerned about losing pilots over hostile territory, US Air Force began planning for UAVs in 1959. The UAV program which was highly classified was launched under the code name “Red Wagon” in 1960 after a Soviet Union shoot down of the secret “U-2” aircraft.

Being used during the Persian Gulf War in 1991, interest in drone technology started to grow during 1980s and 1990s which were cheaper and more capable fighting machines. While most drones of the earlier years were primarily surveillance aircrafts, some were used for combats like the General Atomics MQ-1 with an AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-ground missile, was commonly called an unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV).

POST 9/11

After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the CIA commissioned the drone technology which was until then used by the military only. CIA started using drones primarily for intelligence gatherings from 2004 which was called the Eagle Program flying over Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia.

By 2008 the USAF has availed 5,331 drones, which is twice the number of manned aircrafts. The most commendable of all these was the Predators that were armed with Hellfire missiles. The Predators have the capability of pointing lasers at targets with pinpoint accuracy and was exclusively used to hunt down Osama Bin Laden.

The Global Hawk operates virtually independently, while Predator is remotely operated via satellites from more than 7,500 miles away. As soon as the user pushes a button, it alerts the UAV to take off, and then via GPS directional instructions are the only interaction between ground and the UAV.

It was reported in February 2013 that at least 50 countries used drones, several of which have made their own, including Iran, Israel and China.


More recently civil and model drones are becoming increasingly popular in the commercial and private market.

In December 2013, the largest online retailer Amazon announced that it was developing drone technology to one day deliver mail autonomously.

Drones are also being developed exclusively for hobbyists and other enthusiasts. Reginald Denny mass-produced the first radio-controlled aircraft in 1930s for the hobby market and since then it has been very common.

However, recent technology is now making them precise, more useful and more powerful – some come with added cameras and GPS trackers for everyday enthusiasts.

Types of Drones

Very Close Range Drones

Very Close Range Drones These drones have range of about 5 km. The fly time battery life is usually 20-45 minutes. Mainly used as toys, these cost around $10,000 USD. The Dragon Eye and the Raven are examples of these kinds of drones. .

Close Range Drones

Close Range Drones These drones have a significantly higher fly time and range compared to very close range drones. Usually these can be controlled within a range of 50 km. They have a very high power battery of 1-6 hours flight time. They are employed by the military in conducting surveillance missions because of their higher range and flight time.

Short Range Drones

Short Range Drones These have range which extends to 150 km, that is 100 km more than the close range drones; a flight time of 8-12hours, which is also twice of that of the close range drones. Thus, short range drones are more extensively used by the military. Although short range drones are superior in features than close range drones, they are used in spying and reconnaissance just like the close range drones.

Mid-Range Drones

Mid-Range Drones These drones are far more superior to all the previous categories. These have a mind blowing range of 650 km accompanied with high speed and fly time. These are basically used in the collection of meteorological data for their large range and high fly time. However, they are also used for surveillance purposes. .

Endurance Drones

Endurance Drones With the maximum flight time of 36 hours, these are the best types of drones available at present. These are also used for high end surveillance as they can reach to an astonishing height of 30,000 feet above sea level


Furthermore, according to the new drone regulations there are three different types of drones – (in alphabetical order): Civil Aircraft ( any aircraft that is not used for governmental purposes; more specifically commercially flown drones) Model Aircraft (any aircraft weighing 55 pounds or less exclusively flown for hobby or recreational purposes) Public Aircraft ( any aircraft flown for governmental works)