The drone market is evolving rapidly, with two separate sectors – recreational drones and military drones – meeting in the middle to spawn the market for commercial drones.


Listed below are the major milestones in the journey of the drone theme, as identified by GlobalData.

1782 – France: The Montgolfier brothers demonstrated unmanned balloons.

1806 – France: Scattered propaganda pamphlets all over parts of the country by using Kites from the HMS Pallas.

1848 – Austrians launched surprise attack on Venice using bombs on 200 unmanned balloons.

1862 – US: First patent filing for a flying machine which can hold bombs was filed in Massachusetts.

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1898 – American Armed forces use a kite with a camera attached to it for reconnaissance during the Spanish-American war.

1911 – Libya was attacked by Italy using drones.

1940s – US developed the GB-1 Glide Bomb, which was intended to bypass German air defences during World War II.

1960 – Lightning bug and Ryan Firebee used as remote combat aircraft.

1960s – Vietnam witnessed over 3,500 Lightning bugs deployed by the US Armed Forces.

1974 – The Predator unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was developed by Abe Karem.

1985 – The development of Pioneer UAV initiated in the US.

1986 – Israel and American military start using the Pioneer.

1990 – Miniature micro UAVs entered military services.

1991 – At least one UAV was airborne at all times.

1993 – Meteorology and Environment studies using UAVs begin.

1999 – Kosovo, Afghanistan and other war zones witnessed extensive application of the Predator UAVs.

2007 – Iraq and Afghanistan witnessed the use of the Reaper UAV by the US.

2010 – Consumer application of drones initiate in part of Europe and North America.

2013 – Google conceived the idea of using unmanned balloons to stream internet services in rural areas – Project Loon initiative.

2014 – Consumer drones popularity exploded – for recreational purposes; the US approved military budget of ~$24bn.

2016 – Consumer drones popularity reached all time high.

2012 – The US introduced the Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012.

2014 – Amazon proposed the idea of using drones to deliver packages at doorsteps.

2016 – The US introduced the Code of Federal Regulations Title 14, Part 107; Facebook’s Aquila set its first test flight.

2017 – Legalities and ethics in the foreground as drones keep getting popular.

2018 – SESAR JU’s U- Space programme allocated €9.5bn (~$11bn) to study commercial drone applications across the region.

2019 – BVLOS operations to expand across the US, Europe, China and other countries as regulators relax laws.

2020 – Regulatory framework evolves towards integration of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles in several countries.

2025 – Drone applications in the commercial sector become widespread.

2028 – More countries adopt drones for commercial and military purposes, drones become omnipresent in human activities.

This is an edited extract from the Drones in Aerospace and Defense – Thematic Research report produced by GlobalData Thematic Research.