Unmanned aerial vehicles have come a long way since 1849 when the Austrians attacked Venice by launching balloons loaded with explosives, to mixed results.
Some were blown back over Austrian lines.
For much of early – and risky – aviation history, development of unmanned vehicles proceeded hand in hand with piloted aircraft.
Engineers would produce pilotless planes to be tested before taking the chance of sitting in the thing themselves.
But the real forerunner to today’s drones was the America Navy’s “flying bomb” which first flew in 1918.
It was a propeller-driven biplane guided by a gyroscope and altimeter, capable of flying for 50 miles on a pre-set course.
World War 2 brought a surge in development, with the Nazis’ V1 and V2 rockets, while the US developed remote-controlled versions kitted out with video-cameras.
One was used to deliver a torpedo attack on a destroyer some 20 miles away from the control aircraft.
After the war, the US continued its drone programme by converting surplus planes into unmanned drones.
The age of the drone really began in the 1980s. In 1982, the Israeli air force used manned aircraft and unmanned drones – deployed as decoys, electronic jammers or to provide real-time surveillance – to destroy 86 Syrian planes over the Bekaa Valley in a short time.
Since the first Gulf War, drones have become an integral part of battlefield operations.
The War on Terror has also seen them take on a new role, able to target terrorists in territory off-limits to US ground troops – such as Yemen or Pakistan’s tribal belt.
That doesn’t mean the technology is perfect.
One of the smallest in use is the three-foot-long Raven, which soldiers say is surprisingly easy to lose.