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The Past, Present and Future of Drones

By: Megan Roche 

With Drones: Is the Sky the Limit now open, what better time to learn about these small but powerful fascinating machines.

Military Strategy 

There are many names for drones, some of which include Remotely Piloted Vehicle (RPV), Unmanned Aerial System (UAS), and Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. A Venetian attack in the 1850s led to the first drone concept, an unmanned balloon filled with bombs. Other early ideas included the quadcopter and radio guided drones. 

The Battleship Wisconsin used RPVs during its time in the Persian Gulf. Sailors aboard the Wisconsin mainly used RPVs to observe enemy movements, assess damage, search and rescue, for artillery targeting, and for air support. They would launch the RPV off the fantail, from either the port or starboard side. To recover the RPV, football-esque goal posts would be mounted on the fantail with a net stretched to each post. The pilot would fly the RPV into the net, and it would be lowered onto the deck.

During the Gulf War, her RPV videoed the surrender from the Iraqi people on March 1, 1991. Currently displayed at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, the Wisconsin’s RPV has been dubbed the “Flying Lawnmower” due to the sound she made after the booster rocket dropped.

Birds-Eye View 

In current day, a common public usage of drones includes photography and videography. Andrew Richard, a local Hampton Roads drone photographer and videographer, shared how he uses the technology of in his business, often times to get the shot that nobody else can. 

“Photography and videography with drones are a good place to start when it comes to learning how to fly a drone. Drones can produce amazing photos that are impossible to duplicate by a ground-based photographer.”

Commercial Uses 

Drones are still used in the military, but have become a popular tool for businesses. Law enforcement, real estate, inspections, and agriculture are some of the industries that use drones in the workplace.

According to Professor Julie Young at Virginia Peninsula Community College (formerly Thomas Nelson Community College), drones will become the future among other instruments that are being developed.

“A drone is really a tool that is used to help get a job done. The drone itself can be used in all different ways. A drone is the universal tool that can be enhanced with instruments, such as cameras and thermometers.”

It is possible that drones will be used for other purposes in the near future, such as grocery delivery, package delivery, and more.

Drone Licenses

From a commercial standpoint, every individual who makes a profit using their drone needs to be licensed through the Federal Aviation Administration. VPPC’s certificate program is basically a drivers education program for drones. In their class, potential pilots learn how to read aeronautical maps, fix their drone, identify restricted airspace, and more. 

Open now until October 9, learn more about drone technology in the summer exhibit, Drones: Is the Sky the Limit. Through interactive displays and stations, explore the past, present and future of drones. Then, test your pilot skills in the Drone Zone obstacle course.