A brief discussion on the development history of drones

A brief discussion on the development history of drones

On January 3, 2020, senior Iranian general Qasem Soleimani was killed in a U.S. drone attack in Iraq. This year, which has special significance in the creation of science fiction literature, kicked off with such an event that shocked the world. Many people said that 2020 will be a new beginning in human history. Looking back two years later, I can’t bear to I can’t help but sigh and it turns out to be a prophecy. Putting aside the various political contests and military confrontations behind the incident, the weapon that played an important role in this operation is very eye-catching, and that is drones.

IMG_256 *Drones in Oblivion

UAV in English is an unmanned aerial vehicle, abbreviated as UAV, or unmanned aircraft system, abbreviated as UAS (unmanned aerial vehicle system). In addition, drones also have a very vivid name drone. The original meaning of this word refers to drone, and it is also very vivid when used to refer to a small and flexible drone with a buzzing motor. In the action movie “Angel Has Fallen” released in 2019, drones launched from a multi-unit launcher raided the vacationing U.S. president like wasps exploding a nest. Due to their very small size, these drones They were so fast and so densely packed that they were mistaken for a swarm of bats by the security agents in the film.

IMG_257 * The drone swarm seen in the film

Although drones are often associated with high technology, their history is not short. The earliest unmanned aerial vehicle in a broad sense is the Kongming Lantern, which is said to have been born during the Three Kingdoms period. The earliest record of mankind using “unmanned aerial vehicles” in military affairs can be traced back to the first Italian War of Independence in 1849, when the Austrian army surrounded Venice. The besieging Austrian army released about 200 unmanned burning balloons towards Venice. Because the “unmanned control system” that can only rely on wind power and luck is too crude, these burning balloons did not achieve any results, and most of the balloons missed their targets.

The initial battle with drones failed, but humans have not given up research on them. The real development of drones started in the early twentieth century. In 1903, Spanish engineer Leonardo Torres y Quevedo designed a radio control system called “Telekino” in order to test the airship he designed while ensuring his own safety.

Eleven years later, British engineers are beginning experiments with radio-controlled drones and unmanned ships. In 1916, British engineer Archibald Montgomery Low further improved the radio control system based on his predecessors and applied this system to a 2.82-meter-long unmanned monoplane with a wingspan of 3 meters. The aircraft, known as the Air Target, was successfully launched from RAF Upaven on March 21, 1917, becoming the world’s first powered drone to fly under radio control .

“Air targets” are controlled, or “driven,” by radio operators on the ground sending control signals to radio receivers on the aircraft. To this end, Archibald specially designed a set of command transmission codes that could be changed every day to prevent enemy interference. Although the first three prototypes of the Air Target all ended in crashes, the Royal Air Force still recognized Archibald’s idea that it was entirely feasible to control aircraft carrying high explosives by radio. Improved versions of the “Aerial Target” were soon used in World War I for attacking shipping lanes and port facilities.

The famous “science madman” Nikola Tesla was not absent from the field of drones. In 1915, he proposed the idea of building an unmanned aerial fleet. However, because he was poor all his life and never met his Bole, this idea always remained on paper.

War is the best fuel for technology. With the two world wars in the first half of the twentieth century, the development of drones quickly entered the fast lane. Countries have invested in the design and development of drones, such as unmanned aerial torpedoes. Unmanned aerial vehicles for actual combat purposes, such as unmanned bombers and long-distance controlled unmanned bombers, are constantly emerging. The various unmanned equipment produced and used by Nazi Germany during World War II became the master of that time. The Gloria unmanned tank and the Argus unmanned reconnaissance aircraft all represented the most cutting-edge technology at the time. The leader among them is the famous V-1 flying bomb.

IMG_258 * V-1 Flying Bomb

It should be noted that in modern times, missiles and drones have become two completely different equipment by definition. However, according to current standards, the V-1 flying bomb is far away in terms of flight distance, maximum speed and guidance system. It is weaker than a missile in the modern sense, so it is classified as an unmanned aerial vehicle rather than a missile. As for why the V-2 missile that was later born was not classified as unmanned flight equipment, this is because it is the first man-made object that can cross the Kármán line and enter space, and it can achieve supersonic flight. Therefore, although the V-2 is named Missiles are actually rockets in the true sense.

IMG_259 * V-1 flying bomb on launcher

The appearance of the V-1 flying bomb is similar to that of an ordinary aircraft, except that there is no room for the driver to sit. Like UAV predecessors such as the “Aerial Target”, remote control is performed through a radio control system, and the missile is also equipped with a simple autopilot to adjust altitude and airspeed. The most striking feature of the V-1 flying bomb is that it emits a huge buzzing sound when flying, so it is also called a buzz bomb. When it reaches the predetermined airspace and is ready to descend, the rudder will be in neutral and the engine will be shut down. Then drop sharply until you hit the target. The sudden silence after the hum reminds every listener of the impending impact, like the god of death stopping his bell and swinging his scythe.

During the Cold War, the development of drones ushered in its second spring, and the two major camps in the East and the West began to compete in the field of drone research and development. During the Vietnam War, the United States used various types of UAVs such as the Ryan 147, Ryan AQM-91 Firefly, and Lockheed D-21. The U.S. Air Force’s 100th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing carried out approximately 3,500 missions during the Vietnam War. Hundreds of drone missions occurred at the cost of losing more than 500 drones. Israel manufactured the first batch of tactical UAVs equipped with reconnaissance cameras in the late 1960s. These tactical UAVs that can be launched and landed on any short runway have shone in the Middle East wars and have successfully carried out many missions. Bring back reconnaissance photos from across the Suez Canal.

The Soviet Union also launched a UAV program code-named “Red Carriage” in a targeted manner, and developed unmanned tactical reconnaissance aircraft such as Tu-123 and Tu-143. Although technically conservative, in the “ultra-high-altitude drone competition” in the 1960s, Soviet drones kept pace with the United States with better reliability and practicality, showing no signs of weakness. Looking back at Russia thirty years after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, due to various reasons, it was suppressed by Ukrainian drones in the Russia-Ukraine war, which is regrettable.

IMG_260 * Tu-143 unmanned tactical reconnaissance aircraft in the museum

With the development of scientific research technologies such as material technology, electronic technology, and aerodynamics, UAVs gradually began to be miniaturized, informatized, and lightweight in the 1980s and 1990s, and their use in military operations became more and more Broad, no longer limited to reconnaissance. In the 1991 Gulf War, the U.S. military used a large number of weapon-carrying drones, such as the MQ-1 Predator drone manufactured by General Atomics, which was capable of launching AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missiles. In actual combat Caused a lot of casualties to the Iraqi army. Cheaper, more powerful combat drones are shaking up the world.

IMG_261 * MQ-1 Predator UAV

At the same time, drones have also begun to transform from military equipment to scientific research equipment and civilian equipment. They are increasingly used in consumer and civil aviation activities, and have gradually become a “toy” well known to the public. As of 2021, quadcopter drones have become the most widely used drones in the civilian field.

Although China’s UAV technology started late, it has also achieved excellent results. It has developed the “Rainbow 4” (CH-4) medium-altitude and long-endurance UAV, the “Pterosaur” UAV, and the WJ- Excellent drone models such as the Type 600 high-altitude and high-speed drone have also given birth to world-renowned civilian drone manufacturing companies such as DJI. Thanks to the efforts of Chinese scientific researchers, the sci-fi drone swarm that appeared in “Angel Has Fallen” has become a reality. In November 2017, China Electronics Technology Group developed a forty-eight-unit drone launch platform installed on a truck chassis. A single unit can launch forty-eight drones into the sky with a single intensive salvo for precise formation and formation transformation. Check and strike with precision. This UAV system can launch two hundred UAVs at a time to form a huge “swarm”, doubling the strike effect. From a technical point of view, it is not an easy task to conduct orderly combat command of drone swarms while guiding and controlling large-scale drones to perform complex attack actions. It requires excellent air control capabilities and formation coordination. capabilities. Therefore, the test work conducted by China Electronics Technology Group Co., Ltd. is of very important significance. It also declares that China has made a major technological breakthrough in UAV “swarm” operations.

While we’re taking stunning, beautiful photos from drones, let’s not forget that these tiny, buzzing toys can also be instantly transformed into life-harvesting weapons. However, “the crime is committed by humans, not by soldiers.” I hope that humans can always be rational and keep these little things born in war from being stained with more blood.


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