Drones History

Written by Chrysa Maragkou


First Creation


The world’s first quadcopter was created by inventor brothers Jacques and Louis Bréguet in 1907, working with controversial Nobel Prize winner Professor Charles Richet. It had some big limitations: being unsteerable, requiring four men to steady it, and lifting two feet off the ground. Also, it did innovate the quadcopter form factor we have today.

The first military drones


The Ruston Proctor Aerial Target became the first pilotless winged aircraft in history in 1917. It was a radio-controlled pilotless airplane, based on RC technology from the inventor Nikola Tesla. The goal of the Aerial Target was for it to act as a flying bomb, which could be piloted into enemies. Despite promising demonstrations, the AT was ultimately never used in a combat scenario.


“Fritz X” created in 1943 for use by the German military during World War II, and was the nickname given to the FX-1400, the first remote-controlled weapon that was actually put into operational use. A 2,300 pound bomb that was used to sink ships during combat.

The RC plane boom


What followed was a popularity boom in RC planes in the U.S (1960). Mostly coming in kit form, these RC planes offered everything from indoor-flyable models to much larger outdoor models.

The first armed drone


In 2001 the CIA began flying armed drones over Afghanistan as part of the war against the Taliban. The first CIA drone-based kill operation took place in February 2002, when an unmanned Predator drone was used to target a suspect thought to be Osama bin Laden.

FAA creates commercial drone permits


Recognizing the potential of non-military, non-consumer drone applications, the FAA issued the first commercial drone permits in 2006. These permits lifted some of the limitations placed on consumer drones flown for recreational purposes. In doing so, it opened up new possibilities for companies or professionals who wanted to use drones in assorted business ventures.

Parrot AR Drone


In 2010 the French company Parrot released their Parrot AR Drone, the first ready-to-fly drone which can be controlled entirely via Wi-Fi, using a smartphone. The drone was almost immediately successful, both critically and commercially, receiving the 2010 CES Innovations award for Electronic Gaming Hardware, and selling upwards of half a million units.

Amazon Prime Air


In December 2013, Amazon released a concept video showcasing founder Jeff Bezos’ dream for a drone-based delivery system. It was the one which puts the technology into the public consciousness.

The Lily drone debacle


    Perhaps the biggest disappointment was the Lily Camera drone disaster. Despite racking up $34 million in pre-orders, the original company behind this smart flying camera wound up filing for bankruptcy and shutting down after a series of delays.

Drones get smarter


DJI’s Phantom 4 introduced smart computer vision and machine learning technology. This allowed it to avoid obstacles and intelligently track (and photograph) people, animals, or objects — rather than being limited to following a GPS signal. The resulting UAV was a major milestone for drone photography and consumer drones in general.



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