Beginner’s Guide to Drones

Darius Varize

Drones, otherwise known as a Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), are the products of war’s many predator tactics. A UAV is typically any type of flying technology that is not directly piloted by a person, but instead manned by either a controller or itself. Drones have a vicious reputation of being machines of offense when, in actuality, are most commonly used for surveillance. Their original purpose was to be the eyes in risky terrain or missions, as they are able to send real time video back to whoever might be controlling. This technology is essentially a big brother for soldiers, as it provides 24/7 supervision in the sky. On average, an aircraft can stay charged for over 17 hours at once, allowing time for another to be deployed. In war, the government’s first step before making any decisions is using drone cameras to scope out the terrain avoiding any irrational mistakes. Thinking ahead or even seeing ahead is an advantage that the United States has always had over other countries with the power of UAV mechanics. Through a camera, full attacks are easily planned, along with maps and other geographical challenges. Having these machines ensures that America’s army remain far ahead of everyone else.

Navy Unmanned Aircraft

(Image of navy drone preparing to take flight.)

Since the attacks on 9/11, the U.S. has been highly reliant on the work of drones, as it has provided ultimate supervision. Each crash that day put its population on edge. After such a crisis, the country has been up on its toes trying to keep the people out of harm’s way. In doing so, the practice of spying and surveilling potential enemies has become quite common for the government. The problem is, many view this as a violation to human rights. In order to get exact coordinates, maps, or information, drones are purposed to do whatever they can to retrieve intel. Whether that be staking out an entire village, tribe or even individual families, there is no limit to what a drone is capable of. A machine like this could be watching you for a year and you may never even know. That is, until it strikes without warning. This leaves plenty room for error on the controller, because that individual is never 100% sure if their target is guilty. There are often cases where innocent bystanders are put into harm’s way just on behalf of keeping soldiers safe or taking precautionary measures. According to the Atlantic, “U.S. special operations airstrikes killed more than 200 people. Of those, only 35 were the intended targets. During one five-month period of the operation, according to the documents, nearly 90 percent of the people killed in airstrikes were not the intended targets.” It can be easy to jump the gun in situations like this, just because there is always a grey zone before deciding where and when to fire.


(perspective of a U.S. drone strike)

Identifying a drone can be rather simple, you just have know what to look for. A drone that your neighbor flies in his backyard is quite easy to spot. When seeing a device that looks like a plane, however, it can be difficult to differentiate. In the military, the most common drones are called the MQ-B1 Predator and the MQ-9 Reaper. After America’s sudden boom of drones, the technology and news began to spread into other parts of the world. Soon enough, everyone was working on their own drones. Drones can vary anywhere from the size of a personal jet to even the mass of a fly. The wide variety of these devices make them perfect for the military’s rather difficult fields of war. Versatility seems to be one of drone manufacturer’s strong suits, as there is a drone for practically any occasion. There is never a time where a soldier should be sent into battle, when a drone can easily substitute his or her case. In the Air Force, there were originally issues around who should be in control over devices of the sort, since the CIA felt responsible for the technology’s capabilities. In this dispute, issues of power began to screw up plans, specifically Predator No. 3034. In the first ever attack by a CIA drone, a general flew the 3034 Predator over Kandahar, Afghanistan, attempting to take out the Taliban leader Mullah Omar. But little did General Chuck Wald know, the drone was not in his control, but that of the CIA. In the attack, the drone dropped a 100-pound missile on a cargo truck parked on the Afghani base, completely missing the target and foiling the initial mission. After witnessing such a careless mistake, the CIA saw the power they had through this new technology and tried to make regulations regarding the proper ways to use it.

According to an article written by BBC, “President Barack Obama has confirmed the US is using unmanned aircraft to target suspected militants in tribal areas of Pakistan. He defended the drone attacks, saying they made precision strikes and were kept on a “tight leash”. What are drones used for and how are they controlled?” After the release of this information, the government was asked a number of questions as to why these drones were being sent out and how long had they been using this method. Yet, the truth is, UAV technology had been around long before Obama came to office and has been a secret government project for some time. In fact, drones have been found as early as the 1800’s. For example, in 1849, Austria had planted over 200 pilotless air balloons carrying bombs when fighting against the city of venice. Nearly two decades later, this same method was used by Americans in the Civil War. Although these hot air balloons were not coined as “drones,” they still served the same purpose as any other explosive aircraft.

In 1916, development of the first actual drone began in an attempt of using machines in World War I to reduce possible soldier fatalities. By 1917, the U.S. had conceived the first automatic plane prototype, which was quite a success. In that same year, the army requested that an Aerial Torpedo be built after observing the possibilities of drone technology. This wasn’t completed until 1918, when the war had ended. Once World War II had popped off, several UAV projects were already in the works, and many were ready to be deployed. It was not until 1936 that these machines were called drones. With the sudden spark of successful UAVs such as the Navy’s Larynx and the British Queen, even Germany began production on their own machines of war. An article on Red Orbit says, “During the technology rush of WWII, drones were used both as training tools for antiaircraft gunners and for aerial attack missions. Nazi Germany also had produced and used various UAVs during the course of WWII. After the war, jet engines were applied to drones, with the first being the Teledyne Ryan Firebee I of 1951. By 1955, the Model 1001, developed by Beechcraft, was developed for the US Navy.”  By the start of the Vietnam war, the Navy already had a ton of drone projects under their belt, providing soldiers with complete security before committing to battle. In a way, this was an advantage over the Vietnamese soldiers, but it was never  enough to win the war.

Throughout the years of drone production and completed UAV missions, the U.S. government has found this technology to be rather successful. Now that the existence of drones is no longer a secret, the amount of noise they are making amongst the public is rising everyday. The freedom of owning one’s very own remote control UAV has skyrocketed a new market of people from all backgrounds. People of all socioeconomic backgrounds are getting their hands on drones This creates the question of how easy is it to purchase a drone. Regarding the accessibility of owning such technology, Joan Lowy of Business Insider states, “The government is getting near-daily reports — and sometimes two or three a day — of drones flying near airplanes and helicopters or close to airports without permission, federal and industry officials tell The Associated Press. It’s a sharp increase from just two years ago when such reports were still unusual.

Many of the reports are filed with the Federal Aviation Administration by airline pilots…While many of the reports are unconfirmed, raising the possibility that pilots may have mistaken a bird or another plane in the distance for a drone, the officials said other reports appear to be credible.The FAA tightly restricts the use of drones, which could cause a crash if one collided with a plane or was sucked into an engine. Small drones usually aren’t visible on radar to air traffic controllers, particularly if they’re made of plastic or other composites.”  

Now that the drone has been embraced in ordinary society, their popularity has grown significantly. Drones are as accessible as any other electronic device that you might find at a Best Buy or Radioshack, but the drawbacks to this uprise has began to create new issues. These aircrafts have tampered with satellites, crashed into people, and even destroyed property.  The machines that have caused havoc have also caused people to create campaigns against drone flying. For Example Manhattan held a drone protest arguing that “ drone strikes threaten civilian lives in Afghanistan and Pakistan and the domestic use of drones violates people`s sovereignty.”Today, you must own a drone license before even flying your device in your own backyard. The drone community is not happy about all of the required rules and regulations that are being placed for their own safety, but it seems as though this is the only way to make a compromise. To sum it up, drones are only the beginning of future technology, knowledge, and a small piece of what humanity is capable of. If this power is actually humane is yet to be decided, as these products have existed for little over a decade. The imminent possibilities with UAV specs are endless and, hopefully, will be used for more than just the benefit of war.


(Kid playing with drone)

4 Comments Add yours

  1. felicityjones17 says:

    I think you guys did a wonderful job with your presentation and it was very obvious that you guys did a plethora of research based off of all the information you provided us


  2. felicityjones17 says:

    The video was very amusing and somewhat informational. I enjoyed it a lot!!!!


  3. ceceliabell17 says:

    I didn’t really know anything about drones before this but your research was very thorough and I felt like I learned a lot.


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