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The drone in your future

Drones in the past

Not too terribly long ago I came across an article and an accompanying YouTube video by a man who had attached a small digital camera to a remote-controlled toy helicopter. The contraption worked well enough to yield video from high above the trees around his house.

It was a fun project, the man felt, and there might actually be a practical application for such a thing. But most who watched the video probably dismissed it as just a weird hobbyist science project.

What the man may or may not have known was that he may well have cobbled together one of the first “drones” as we know them today. I say “as we know them today” because unmanned aircraft that could shoot pictures have been used as far back as the Spanish American War in the late 1800s, back then mounted to a kite.

The actual term “drone” apparently dates back to the mid-1930s when unmanned remote-controlled vehicles made the buzzing sound of hive-controlled male bees, or “drones.”

Capturing images from the sky has been done for a while. Here are a couple of technicians loading a camera set which was used for the first U-2 Soviet overflight on July 4, 1956. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Conrad H. Blickenstorfer
Conrad H. Blickenstorfer, Ph.D., co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of Pen Computing Magazine, has extensive experience in all aspects of rugged computing from his many years at the helm of the Pen Computing industry journal, Digital Camera Magazine, Handheld Computing Magazine, and his years of service as Director of Information Systems and Chief Information Officer with the New York State Dormitory and project manager for the New York State Urban Development Corporation. He has also written for numerous technology journals and wrote the mobile technology section in Fortune Magazine's semi-annual technology buyers guide for years. Blickenstorfer has visited numerous rugged manufacturing operations in the US, Japan, and Taiwan.