A simple Google search can tell you that a drone is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)—but seriously, what is a drone? You know they fly, spy, deliver packages, and take pictures, but are they really an invasive technology . . . or something to have fun with?
UAVs were originally designed for intelligence-gathering purposes, but over the past decade, drones have evolved from covert operation tools to toys that you can play with in the park on a Sunday afternoon.
To answer the question of “What is a drone,” it helps to look back into history. The idea of having an unmanned aircraft go into battle started with the first known UAV attack, which occurred in 1849, when Austria sent bomb-filled balloons over Venice. Then, in 1935, film star and model-airplane fan Reginald Denny created the first scale-model-sized remote-controlled airplane, an item that would go on to inspire current drones.
When the CIA began flying unarmed drones over Afghanistan in 2000, the machine first entered the public eye and immediately had everyone asking “What is a drone?” In 2002, the government released the infamous Predator drone, which was used to seek out terrorists. This effectively changed military surveillance forever.
Because technology has become more advanced—and the cost of production has gone down—you no longer need a military contract to buy a drone. This is why you see so many approachable UAVs on the market today.
From kid-friendly and not-too-expensive models like the Nimbus Remote Control Mini Drone to the high-tech, geeked-out Walkera Ready to Fly Hexcopter, plenty of choices in all price ranges are available.
It is important to note, however, that all drones weighing more than a half-pound (and less than 55 pounds) must be registered with the Federal Aviation Administration before ever being flown outdoors.
Today, the artistic work of drones can be seen in blockbuster movies such as Skyfall and at the Drone Film Festival in New York City. Additionally, there are UAV photography contests held around the world.
In fact, many of drones you come across will have photo and video capabilities. Some can even stream footage onto your smartphone, like Parrot’s AR Drone 2.0 Power Edition, a quadcopter-style drone that can shoot footage while on the move, even as it does a flip. For still-life shots, one of the most celebrated drones for photography is the Yuneec Typhoon Q500, which has an ultra HD camera, ground station controller, and a handheld camera mount. Use one to document an epic hike, get shots of your party from above, or even to take the ultimate selfie.