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On Aug. 22, 1849, after months of trial and error Austria launched a pilot-less balloon bomb attack against Venice. 200 Balloons were launched with 33 pounds of explosives and half hour time fuses. The balloon did not cause much damage, and some even blew back to Austria, but it led the way for the use of drones. The man behind this idea was an Austrian artillery lieutenant named Franz Von Uchatius, and this was the first recorded use of drones.
Drones steadily developed over the years, being used throughout WWII, and began to be used in specialized commercial applications shortly after.
In 2010 consumer drones became a reality, with the first model, the Parrot AR Drone made by Parrot SA, a French electronics company. The popular DJI Phantom drone soon followed in 2013, at which point the consumer drone industry began to take off. In a few short years, we have went from the original DJI Phantom delivering around ~10 minutes of flight time, with a range of 800m, no camera, and 1000g weight to drones that cost a fraction of the price while delivering 30 minutes of flight time, 10km range, 4K cameras, and a large number of software features, such as follow me ability, and obstacle avoidance.
For more information about the history of drones, check out Why Have Drones Suddenly Become Such a Big Thing and A History of Drones.