Drones Past and Present on Display: In Photos

"Drones" exhibit takes off

(Image credit: Svetlana Jovanovic)

"Drones: Is the Sky the Limit?" at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, is the first exhibit to explore the ongoing story of drones — their origin and history, how their forms and uses have changed over time, and how we might deploy them in the future. [Read more about the drone exhibit at the Intrepid museum]

Early target drone

drones exhibit intrepid museum

(Image credit: Courtesy of the National Archive)

Historic photo of the WW2-era radioplane TDD, an early target drone.

A military workhorse

drones exhibit intrepid museum

(Image credit: Svetlana Jovanovic)

The Gyrodyne QH-50 Drone Anti-Submarine Helicopter (DASH) was developed in the 1950s and was used by the military for 43 years to drop bombs capable of neutralizing submarines.

DASH in action

USS ALlen M. Sumner crew

(Image credit: Courtesy of US Navy)

Crew members of USS Allen M. Sumner (DD-692) load a practice torpedo onto a QH-50 DASH. The DASH carried two Mk 44 torpedoes weighing 425 pounds (193 kg) each.

Boeing Insitu ScanEagle

drones exhibit intrepid museum

(Image credit: Courtesy of Boeing Insitu)

The Boeing Insitu ScanEagle was the first drone approved by the Federal Aviation Administration for commercial use beyond line of sight, where the operator can’t see it. Fishermen use the ScanEagle to locate schools of fish.

Rescue mission

(Image credit: Mindy Weisberger for Live Science)

The ScanEagle, on display in the exhibit, played a key role in the rescue of Capt. Richard Phillips by U.S. Navy SEALs during the 2009 hijacking of Maersk Alabama by Somali pirates.

RQ-2 Pioneer

drones exhibit intrepid museum

(Image credit: Couresy of US Navy)

The RQ-2 Pioneer, developed jointly by the United States and Israel, was derived from an Israeli design called the Mastiff. The Pioneer was the first highly successful surveillance drone of the modern era.

Military might

drones exhibit intrepid museum

(Image credit: Svetlana Jovanovic)

Drones were first engineered and used exclusively by the military, and many drones in use today were originally designed for military purposes.

Cormorant UAV

drones exhibit intrepid museum

(Image credit: Photo by Mindy Weisberger for Live Science)

The Cormorant Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, designed by the Israeli firm Tactical Robotics, is still in the early stages of development, and could be used to transport supplies in military zones.

Scientific research

drones exhibit intrepid museum

(Image credit: Svetlana Jovanovic)

Drones play an important role in scientific research, enabling scientists to gather data from locations that were previously inaccessible.

eBee drone

drones exhibit intrepid museum

(Image credit: Courtesy of Duke University Marine Lab)

The eBee drone surveys 4.6 square miles (12 square km) in a single automated flight, making it an ideal tool for tracking large groups of moving animals.

Mindy Weisberger
Live Science Contributor

Mindy Weisberger is an editor at Scholastic and a former Live Science channel editor and senior writer. She has reported on general science, covering climate change, paleontology, biology, and space. Mindy studied film at Columbia University; prior to Live Science she produced, wrote and directed media for the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Her videos about dinosaurs, astrophysics, biodiversity and evolution appear in museums and science centers worldwide, earning awards such as the CINE Golden Eagle and the Communicator Award of Excellence. Her writing has also appeared in Scientific American, The Washington Post and How It Works Magazine.