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Drone Delivery System- Where did it all begin?

Updated: Jul 13, 2023


Rigitech Drone delivery solutions
Image- Drone Delivery by Rigitech in Denmark

Authored by Gary Vermaak (edited by Adam Erickson, PhD)

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones, have rapidly become an integral part of modern aerospace technology. The concept of remote-controlled flying devices can be traced back to the early 20th century when the American physicist and inventor Nikola Tesla showcased a theoretical blueprint for a remote-controlled aircraft.

However, it was not until the mid-20th century that the first practical UAVs were developed and utilized for military purposes. The origins of UAVs can be attributed to World War I, with various countries experimenting with radio-controlled aircraft for reconnaissance missions. Over time, advancements in technology and significant breakthroughs have allowed UAVs to evolve, leading to their widespread use in various domains such as military operations, civilian applications, scientific research, and recreational purposes.


Here you have a short list of applications of drone delivery systems in history starting from the late 18th century.

  • 1917- first remote-controlled (and powered) aerial drone: the Sopworth Aerial Target developed by Archibald Low

  • 1935- first known use of the word drone to describe an unmanned vehicle: the US Navy’s remote control aerial targets by Commander Delmer Fahrney

  • 1942- first pulse jet drone: German V1 Bomb

  • 1951- first jet engine drone: the Ryan Model 147 Firebee

  • 1956- first rogue drone: Battle of Palmdale, California when a US Navy Grumman F-6F-5K drone went rogue over Los Angeles and the two USAF F-89D Scorpion jet fighters failed to shoot it down.

  • 1959- first anti-submarine drone: Gyrodyne QH-50 DASH

  • 1964- first supersonic drone: the Lockheed D-21 reached Mach 3

  • 1967- first tactical reconnaissance UAV: used by Israel in the 1967 War of Attrition

  • 1973- first decoy drones - used by Israel in the Yom Kippur War

  • 1991- a Japanese company, KEYENCE CORPORATION Gyrosaucer produced the first consumer eVTOL drone.

  • 1996- first autonomous drone: Boeing Lockheed RQ-3 Darkstar

  • 1999- Draganfly Inc. launched the first commercial eVTOL drone

  • 2001- first drone strike: General Atomics Predator in Afghanistan ordered by CIA

  • 2004- first hypersonic, and fastest drone: NASA X-43A reached Mach 9.6

  • 2012- Google X begins Project Wing, work on drone delivery systems

  • 2013- Flirtey founded, begins work on drone delivery systems

  • 2013- The Royal Canadian Mounted Police | Gendarmerie Royale du Canada recorded the first use of a drone, a Dragonfly, to save a life.

  • 2014- Zipline begins work on drone delivery systems

  • 2014- Wingcopter start working on its first hybrid (FW-VTOL) drone delivery system

  • 2016- Flirtey (now SkyDrop) conducted the first fully autonomous FAA-approved drone delivery in an urban setting in the U.S.

  • 2018 - Wingcopter sets the world record for the fastest ground speed by a remote-controlled tilt-rotor aircraft (149.5 mph)

  • 2019- fastest electric drone: With a top speed of 163.5mph, the 1.76-pound DRL RacerX set the Guinness World Record for the Fastest Ground Speed by a battery-powered remote-controlled quadcopter.

With the dawn of the 21st century, the development, innovation, and integration of UAVs continue to reshape the aerospace industry, promising an exciting future for unmanned aerial vehicles.

Drone Delivery Systems are going to become an integral part of the logistic industry in the coming years, this technology would be a centre-piece for multiple technologies such as AI, Lightweight material, UTM etc.


Image credited to the article by Unmanned Airspace "Denmark launches medical drone delivery service with a 50km mission"


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