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DA VINCI TO DRONES: THE HISTORY OF AVIATION’S ORIGIN, CHAPTER 1

From kite flying in ancient China, to hydrogen-powered hot air balloons discovered in the 18th century, to modern day aircraft so sophisticated that it cannot be detected by radar, the history of aviation is one full of true milestones. As all inventions do, the journey of aviation began with just an idea.


Dating back to the 5th century, the history of aviation first began with the invention of kites in China.


Although little is known on the true nature of aviation shortly after the 5th century, a shift in progress begins in the year 1505 with Italian artist and inventor, Leonardo Da Vinci. Best known as a Renaissance artist with his famous and historical paintings Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, Da Vinci would become an inventor in his own right, and a monumental leader in the founding of flying objects. Though his ideas were never published, his book Codex on the Flight of Books contained thousands of hand written notes on the nature of flight and principles of aerodynamics in addition to hundreds of sketches, including those of an ornithopter. All of this would become groundwork and influence future developments in aviation.


Centuries later, the first manned hot-air balloon flight would make its way to the skies. With what was once a successful test flight with a duck, sheep and a rooster as passengers, French brothers Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Etienne Montgolfier successfully ascended two human passengers in their invention of the hot air balloon over the city of Paris, France on November 21, 1783. Powered by a hand-fed fire, the brothers’ paper and silk made hot air balloon known as “Montgolfier”, rose 500 vertical feet into the air and traveled approximately 5.5 miles in about 30 minutes of flight.


After the Montgolfier’s incredible invention, a rather competitive race of aviation-made objects began. In an 18th century version of the space race, rival balloon engineers Jacques Alexander Charles and Nicholas Louis Robert stumped the Montgolfier brothers as they created their own balloon, only this time powered by hydrogen gas. At the time, many saw this as a slight improvement, but in fact, the hydrogen gas allowed the extraordinary object to travel an estimated 25 miles and stayed aloft for more than two hours.


Roughly 25 years after Charles and Robert’s hydrogen gas powered balloon, the study of aerodynamics is introduced by English philosopher, George Cayley. Cayley, credited with his publication of “On Aerial Navigation” becomes known as the “father of aviation”, as he becomes the first to identify the four forces of flight” weight, life, drag, and thrust. Using this, he then goes on to develop the first concept of a fixed-wing flying machine, and designs the first known glider reported to have carried a human on board.



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