Like any other great invention, drones have been around for many years, although they were not available for general public and were not as easy to fly as they are today. The modern drones are now controlled with the help software applications and are capable of sending back real-time imagery in high resolution along with flight parameters and status to analyze the data for various useful purposes. These machines are now officially known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and they are found in many types and sizes depending on the functionality they offer and their purpose.
Why Build Drones?
The development of modern drones has remained a practice throughout the world and even in developing countries because these machines have unlimited uses. They allow you to remove pilots from areas of danger. Since the machines do not house a pilot, there is no need for a cockpit and other accessories that a pilot requires in order to fly an aircraft. This cuts significantly on the costs required to build an aircraft.
Cost is a major consideration when it comes to building aircraft and other defense equipment and machines as there is usually not enough budget to fulfill all requirements. Military UAVs are being used for a number of purposes, most importantly intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR). Modern drones fulfill these requirements to a great extent as timely and accurate information acquisition is very important for the success of all military projects. The machines are able to provide continuous surveillance and a complete and accurate picture of enemy resources in order to plan a successful combat.
Drones have also been used extensively for weather research and monitoring. There is a need to inform the concerned authorities especially the Navy in case of a dangerous weather. If there is a failure to forecast a bad weather, it results in great loss of transport, cargo, and precious human lives.
Brief History of UAVs
Today’s cruise missiles have a very well-known precursor known as the aerial or naval torpedo. However, this type of weapon was supposed to be dropped into water in order to reach its target and therefore was associated with the navy. These were first introduced in World War I and were still popular during World War II. These devices and other aircraft used by the military personnel without a pilot on board were later termed unmanned aerial vehicles or UAVs. This term became popular in the early 1990’s when robotic aircraft were developed to carry out various operations. UAVs were defined as;
Vehicles powered by batteries that take off the ground using aerodynamic forces and fly in the air autonomously or through a remote controller or transmitter and can also carry a payload are known as unmanned aerial vehicles.
Aircraft such as cruise missiles and ballistic vehicles do not come under this category. Also, unpowered vehicles, such as gliders are not included in this list. Aerial vehicles used for combat missions without a pilot are now more commonly known as “drones”.
In 1920’s, pilotless aircraft were tested by the Army and these were called “Bugs”. These machines were controlled by electrical and vacuum-pneumatic controls. After some time, the aircraft automatically turned itself off and would fall to the ground. It was a very heavy vehicle – weighing up to 80 kg and wherever it fell, it was considered an enemy target. Today’s guided missiles can be traced back to this forerunner that was discontinued around the end of 1920’s. A couple of decades later anti-aircraft target practice came into being and for this pilotless planes were used. Much later, USA started using UAVs that were not very technically advanced for the purpose of electronic intelligence gathering, reconnaissance, and surveillance. However, since data transfer was not as fast as it is today, the filming for intelligence gathering wasn’t of much use. By the time it reached the concerned authorities, it was too late. Another aircraft was developed in the 1950s that was powered by a jet and used rocket assistance for launch. This drone was used to carry out pre-programmed missions as well as reconnaissance and autonomous flights. This was probably the best match of today’s lightweight, powerful drones and has provided many of its useful features to its successors. Other machines were also developed and tested, but they didn’t become popular or successful.
Aircraft versus Aerial Vehicles
There is a need to differentiate between the terms aircraft and aerial vehicles. Aircraft encompass all airborne flying machines governed by some sort of government regulations and if they are operated by pilots these personnel need to be licensed. However, the term UAV or simply aerial vehicle refers to a machine that can be used even by a layman and requires no regulated training or license of any sort. Since the FAA is chartered to regulate aircraft, it coined the term remotely operated aircraft or ROA that defined all aerial vehicles remotely controlled by a user that didn’t need to be a certified pilot to fly these machines.
The modern aerial vehicles are successors of those machines that were developed in the 1970s by Israel. These flying machines were meant for battlefield data collection and were responsible for sending back real-time data for analysis. Other similar projects were developed for a number of different purposes including;
Countries other than the USA and Israel that are working on the development of modern more sophisticated drones and aerial vehicles include China, Japan, Russia, Italy, France, Germany, and Great Britain.