The UAV or Unmanned Air Vehicle has been in use for hundreds of years. The ancient Chinese are thought to be the first to use unmanned weapons. They would tie pouches full of hot ashes around a bird’s neck and set it loose over an enemy’s wooden garrison. The hope was that the bird would fly over enemy lines in perfect time for the ashes to burn through the pouch, dropping the embers to cause a fire. For obvious reasons this technique was short lived- The birds often simply flew back to their point of origin and ended up burning down their owner’s fortifications. It was a pretty flawed plan, but eventually opened the path to unmanned weapons.
During the American civil war, engineers tied time release explosives to balloons and sent them over enemy lines. The concept worked until high winds and mixed weather caused miscalculations in the time fuses, often seeing the bombs explode over their own soldiers or in mid-air.
UAV’s began to take shape around the late 19th century. The first aerial military photograph was taken in 1883 with a camera attached to a kite via a really, really long string. As advances in warfare were made the technology developed, WW1 sparked the introduction of radio controlled craft and by 1943 the world had its first true long range radio controlled missile with the German V1.
UAV’s have become a crucial part of modern warfare, cutting down the need for human risk and boosting the ‘efficiency’ of weapons. Drones have been integral to UN and NATO efforts in the Gulf, Afghanistan and other conflict zones.
The technology came under criticism after recent attacks in Libya, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Computer controlled drones were seemingly unable to determine civilian from military targets resulting in hundreds of deaths, prompting questions about the moral use of drone craft.
As UAV’s developed for warfare, the technology has become available to the general public. Remote controlled aircraft, helicopters and drones have been on the market for a number years, but have only just become part of the mainstream market. With reduced costs of HD video technology and improvement in WIFI it’s predicted these technological wonders will be a popular choice this Christmas.
The Parrot AR Drone is a radio controlled Quadra-copter, designed to be controlled by your smartphone or tablet. The Parrot uses its built-in WIFI to receive a signal from you portable device.
With an integrated HD camera the view from the front of the drone is broadcast back to your smartphone, meaning you get an on-board view of all the action. As live video is shown directly to the screen, your view is exactly like a pilot would see, just as though you’re sat on the machine itself.
Think of a remote control helicopter with state of the art spy tech on board.
What self-respecting spy would be without his airborne video recording kit? Well the Parrot AR doesn’t disappoint. Its 720p camera broadcasts video back to you smartphone or tablet, where you can chose to record the flight images onto your device. You can also take pictures whilst in mid-air. If you want to save memory on you tablet, video can be recorded directly to a USB flash drive. To retrieve it, simply plug it into your PC and transfer over.
As the drone is piloted from your smartphone or tablet you can take control of your Drone just as though you’re on board. Tilt the screen to move forwards and backwards and use your device to perform tricks, land and spy with perfect balance.
The Parrot AR Drone has been designed with simplicity in mind. On-board technology gives you extreme precision control and automatic stabilization features for a safe flight. Being a Quadra-copter and controlled flight is much simpler than a standard RC helicopter- If you do happen to lose control or botch a landing, the robust structure of the Drone made with carbon fibre, foam insulate and a tough EPP will be able to survive any accidental collisions with solid objects.
4 brushless motors (14.5W) mean the Drone can fly high, fast and far away from the ground for real action. The motors also have a built in emergency stop controlled by software to stop the Drone flying anywhere it shouldn’t
Alternatives to the Parrot?
For those on a budget, the Intruder Cam X30V is a great value Quadcaopter alternative to the Parrot AR Drone. Although not packed with all the features of the Parrot, the Intruder Cam still has enough features to keep your spy activities in business.
The X30V has a mini HD Cam built to the underside of the chassis that records direct to mini SD. Its flight time is around 7 minutes and has a simple to use flight stabilization mode.
The Intruder Cam also has the ability to turn into a stunt-copter- The user can flip the X30V mid aid performing an array of 360 degree flips, cuts and turns depending on your skill level.
It’s perfect for both new starters and experienced flyers. The Intruder Cam has has a protective foam ring around the hull to help keep the four motors protected in a crash- meaning you get more chances to practice some stunts without fear of damaging your craft.
For those who want a more traditional spy drone the Spy Hawk FPV is a Radio Controlled Plane that broadcasts a live feed of its progress directly back to the handset.
The glider is a little more difficult to fly than the Parrot drone, but a state of the art stabilisation system helps you keep level whilst in mid-air. All you need to do is fly the plane at the required height, switch to autopilot and the built-in gyro will do the rest for you.
Don’t worry if you are new to RC aircraft, the Spy Hawk is made of EPO crash resistant foam so it can withstand a few minor bumps and bruises whilst you are still learning your trade.
The Hawk comes with a 4GB built-in SD card, has a run time of about 15 minutes over a 200m range.
Remember local restrictions and safety precations apply for piloting drone craft. For more info please visit the Civil Aviation Authority