“Since when did the word ‘drone’ become part of our daily lives?” Drones have been a reality instead of science fiction for a few years already, and there are probably a few of them flying in your local parks right now. Come to think of it, do you find it a little hard to believe?
Drones, who are they for?
A drone generally refers to a remote aircraft that doesn’t require a pilot. It can be further divided into Remotely Piloted Aircraft, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, Unmanned Aircraft System and Aerial Mobile Robotic System. The first one is modified from retired planes into a smaller size, mostly for military purposes; second one is the one popular right now and the most versatile kind, it doesn’t require a pilot, but is still remotely controlled just like a male bee who takes orders, hence the name “drone.” The last one is a highly advanced drone that is endowed with artificial intelligence, which is not available in real life quite yet but often seen in sci-fi movies, which also makes it kind of familiar to many people.
The early developement of drones was not initiated to make sci-fi movies come true, it was to prepare for war. In 1916, the “father of radio guidance systems” Archibald Montgomery Low invented the first drone, known as the “Aerial Target.” The Dayton-Wright Company also invented a drone that could drop torpedoes during World War I. Since World War II, drones have been used on experimental missions and as shooting targets, and are execptionally flexible and important on reconnaissance missions. Fun fact, the first remote control drone was not invented because of war, it was made by model aircraft enthusiast, and movie star Reginald Denny in 1935.
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The time is 2016, this once-regarded military technology has now gone fully commercial. Last year was even called the “Year One of Drones” by some, and many major manufacturers have already made their moves into the market. This could be seen in 2015’s CES, where not only plenty of manufacturers went to showcase their drones, there was even an area dedicated to just drones; and they still remained popular in this year’s CES, the “CES Innovation Awards” even added the new catogory of “Unmanned Systems and Accessories.” This just goes to show how promising of a market it is.
Drones are so highly regarded today for very good reasons. Fundamentally, they satisfy mankind’s desire to fly, at a relatively low cost, and with functionalities like photography and transportation, it’s literally the complete package. This could be seen in this year’s CES, except it was even better. The company EHang who brought us the Ghost Drone last year continued to impress us with their new drone that is big enough to fit a person! The Ehang 184 Autonomous Aerial Vehicle exapnded the definition of a drone and successfully brought it to the consumer market, proving that drones are more than just the supply to a demand, but can also be the pioneer.
The not-so-glamorous pioneers and their failures after crowdfunding.
Ever since Lily, world’s first flying camera, made its debut on crowdfunding website last May, people had been crazy about it, and just when the backers were looking forward to the release, the check bounced. It was delayed due to “hardware and software issues.” Coincidentally, the nano drone Zano released at the end of last year is somehow similar, if not worse. It remains unfinished and is as good as dead, leaving their backers in a really awkward situation. Apart from the crowdfunding websites’ inability to give the backers legal assurance, the software and hardware of drones are also starting to face technical difficulties duing production. These things certainly put a huge damper on drone enthusiasts.
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