June 8, 2023

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Tesla’s toy boat: A drone before its time

Tesla’s toy boat: A drone before its time

Welcome to Time Machines, where we offer up a selection of mechanical oddities, milestone gadgets and unique inventions to test out your tech-history skills.

The military complex has certainly embraced the concept of telerobotics, especially in the use of drones, but luckily the technology has also led to other, more peaceful applications. Drones have been used to entertain, take on laborious tasks and even deliver packages (and burritos!). As we pursue the development of remotely controlled and autonomous craft, we must tread carefully or suffer the same fate as the fabled Icarus. Nikola Tesla saw both the terrible as well as the beneficial consequences for this technology when he debuted the “remote control” and the jury is still out as to whether we’ll succumb to a dystopian Terminator-style future or reach a peaceful stasis, where we harness the usefulness of robots and autonomous devices, and avoid the worst-case scenarios.

Tesla’s toy boat: A drone before its time

Nikola Tesla’s Remote Control Boat

Tesla once said, “The world moves slowly, and new truths are difficult to see.” It was his way of responding to the crowd’s stunned disbelief upon viewing his scientific wizardry at New York’s Madison Square Garden in 1898. Using a small, radio-transmitting control box, he was able to maneuver a tiny ship about a pool of water and even flash its running lights on and off, all without any visible connection between the boat and controller. Indeed few people at the time were aware that radio waves even existed and Tesla, an inventor often known to electrify the crowd with his creations, was pushing the boundaries yet again, with his remote-controlled vessel.

Tesla’s presentation, which was part of an Electrical Exhibition, was decried as magic by some, but it’s unsurprising that others would focus on its potential as a weapon. It wouldn’t be the first

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Toys Boat RC