History Series: The Beginning of Unmanned Vehicles

A drone is defined as an unmanned aircraft or ship guided by remote control or onboard computers. The earliest known military drone appeared in the late 1840s in the form of unmanned balloons.

Balloons were one of the first air warfare mechanisms used on the battlefield. The first military balloons had pilots and were used for reconnaissance purposes. A “birds-eye view” of the battlefield would help a side create accurate maps and gain intelligence on enemy movement. Soon after, military balloons were redesigned to serve a different, more destructive purpose. Incendiary balloons were pilotless vehicles that were inflated with hot air and had an incendiary device attached. In 1849, the Austrian Navy launched incendiary balloons in an attempt to take Venice in the First Italian War of Independence. The attack was largely unsuccessful, but these Austrian incendiary balloons are considered to be the first UAVs. Unmanned vehicles began to evolve and expand their utility from there.

Join IQ with our new history series to start learning about the history of drones!


Sarah Baig

Marketing Coordinator

January 19, 2022