I wanted to share this short yet interesting article that provides a (very) “brief” history of drones. However short, when I read this article it reminded me of just how far drones have come in such a short time. From the first quads of the 20th century like the the Breguet-Richet Gyroplane, the Oehmichen No. 2, and the de Bothezat helicopter to the DJI drones of today.
The first quads were piloted vehicles that date to the very beginning of rotary wing aviation in the early 20th century: the Breguet-Richet Gyroplane, the Oehmichen No. 2, and the de Bothezat helicopter.
What we could call modern quadcopter drones, which range from sub-palm-sized to just under two feet across, and which generally have onboard cameras and other features, first emerged in the late 1990s and early 2000s as hobbyist kits. The runup to ubiquity began with the 1999 release of the “Draganflyer quad helicopter.” The original Draganflyer kit became popular among UAV researchers, and gained some public recognition after its use in the movie “Inspector Gadget.” It evolved into the first true, ready-to-fly law enforcement drone. (We should note, however, a toy quadcopter introduced in Japan a full decade before the Draganflyer. Called the “Keyence Gyrosaucer II E-570,” the toy could hover for about three minutes in calm winds.)
During the mid-to-late 2000s, quads continued to grow in popularity among hobbyists. In 2010, the French company Parrot released their “AR.Drone,” the first commercially successful ready-to-fly consumer drone, and the first able to be controlled solely by a Wi-Fi connection. The drone immediately made a splash, and Parrot’s successor quads remain in demand.
In April 2015, 3D robotics released the “Solo” quadcopter, which for the first time allowed professional quality video (with an attached GoPro). Less than a year later DJI came out with the Phantom 4, boasting “computer vision” capability and machine learning to track a person, animal, or object on the ground without simply following a GPS track.
If you’d like to learn more, then I highly encourage you to check out our Introduction to Drones course. This class is available in over 50 different locations across the the United States. It’s a fact, we are a leading drone university in the USA.