A Brief History of Unmanned Aircraft
From bomb-bearing balloons to the Global Hawk.
- By Ed Darack
- AirSpaceMag.com, May 18, 2011
US Patent Office
The Union and Confederate armies both used balloons for spying on the enemy during the U.S. Civil War, with pilot-observers onboard. At least one person—Charles Perley of New York City—imagined that they could also be used to deliver weapons. His patent dated February 24, 1863 calls for a “divided basket” which would open like a clamshell when a timed fuse expired, thereby releasing a bomb. “A balloon can be made to pass over any object, and…any-sized bomb or missile of destruction can be carried up over the place to be destroyed,” he wrote.