Drones – In the Beginning - Part 2
Earlier helicopters used tail rotors to counterbalance the torque generated by a single, main rotor but this was inefficient, complex and wasteful. To solve the problems that helicopter pilots had with performing vertical flights,engineers developed quadcopters. These quadcopters were among the first VTOLs (Vertical take-off and landing) aircraft.
Aircraft evolved rapidly during The First World War, with unmanned concepts soon following, culminating with the Kettering Bug, a biplane which flew on a pre-set course using an on-board gyroscope and altimeter. A similar idea, underpinned perhaps the most infamous of Second World War drones, the V-1 Flying Bomb or Doodlebug, which devastated London and other British cities. Radio controlled aircraft also evolved during the war and were used for targets, and, hesitatingly, in combat, with the most
Omnichen 2, 1922
advanced controlled via a television camera. The first quadcopter was the Omnichen 2. It was invented by Etienne Omnichen in 1922 and this aircraft flew a recorded distance of 360 meters and made over 1000 successful flights. As well as this, the Convertawings Model A quadcopter designed by Dr. George E Bothezat, appeared in 1956 and it was the first to use propulsion, or a propeller’s forward thrust, to control the aircraft’s roll, pitch and yaw.
The use of drones as decoys goes back to at least the 1950s, with the Northrop Crossbow tested in such a role. The first operational decoy drone was the McDonnell Douglas “ADM-20 Quail” which was carried by Boeing B-52 Stratofortress bomber to help them penetrate defended airspace. Nevertheless, they were little more than remote-controlled airplanes.
The Ryan Firebee was a series of target drones developed by the Ryan Aeronautical Company beginning in 1951. It was one of the first jet-propelled drones, and one of the most widely used target drones ever built.
Although the introduction of UAVs into military service had a rocky start, the technology has proven they form an essential part of the armoury for any war, especially given the asymmetric nature of recent conflicts making ground combat increasingly treacherous.
But it was in the second Gulf war that the Quadcopters really came into their own by being able to send live television pictures to their handlers, a development that would have baffled boffins, however far-sighted, in the early 20th century.
At the other end of the scale, UAVs are getting smaller and more agile. In the last few decades, small-scale unmanned aerial vehicles have been used for many applications. The need for aircraft with greater manoeuvrability and hovering ability has led to a rise in quadcopter research. Technology has advanced quadcopters or drones dramatically.
In the past decade, companies like SYMA, JJRC, EACHINE and HUBSAN have launched mini quadcopters that use state-of-the-art computer technology for flight control and aerial photography. Some carry aerial cameras and gimbals to make this possible. The Hubsan takes it up a notch and provides GPS and “Follow Me” to the mix. The reason they are so popular today is that they are mechanically simple and fun to use.
Drones and quadcopters, with extensive history and capabilities, are the devices of the future. In times to come, we will find it difficult to imagine life without them.
In the meantime, learn what you can do with what you have and explore the possibilities. Push yourself beyond what you think you are capable of.
As you do, share with us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can put your info or photos on our Facebook page. You are the artists, and your drone with its camera is your paint brush. Let’s see what you can create. Fly safe and have fun.
The SYMA X5SW below.