How Does A Drone Work?

And now, it’s time for Who Smarted?

Narrator: Hey, Smarty Pants, have you ever played with a remote-controlled vehicle? How about a remote-controlled plane? If so, you’ve used a type of drone. And if you haven’t used one, chances are you’ve seen one. And if you’ve seen any recent movies, TV shows, concerts, or sporting events, chances are you’ve seen footage captured by a drone.

So, what exactly is a drone? Is it

  • Any vehicle that flies in the air.
  • An unmanned aircraft or vessel.
  • Or C- a triangular-shaped pastry?

If you said C, you might be hungry and thinking about a scone. No, a drone is actually B-An unmanned aircraft or vessel controlled remotely or by an onboard computer. So, that remote-controlled plane of yours is actually a type of drone. And so, are the high-tech drones becoming increasingly popular today.

Alexandra: Like me. My name is Alexandra. I am a completely original civilian drone operating system. And definitely not a copy of a well-known voice assistant shaped like a hockey puck that you might be listening to Who Smarted on.

Narrator: Mm-hmm. Around the world, billions of dollars are being spent on civilian drones like Alexandra. And some estimates say the industry might become five times bigger by the end of the decade. In the United States, drones are the fastest-growing part of aviation.

Um, less than 20 years ago, the U.S. issued its first permit for businesses to use drones. [Ahem] Today, more than 850,000 drones are registered with the government. And more than a million people, uh, are using drones just for fun.

Sorry, Smarty Pants, I got a bee buzzing around me. Alexandra, is there any way you can get rid of this bee?

Alexandra: Searching. Here’s something I found on the internet. B is the second letter of the alphabet, derived from the Greek letter, “Theta.” Common words starting with B are book, banana, baseball, bulldozer, baboon.

Narrator: Alexandra, stop! Okay, okay, maybe I’ll just try and shoo it away myself.

Bee: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, easy with the arms there, pal. I’m here for the show.

Narrator: The show?

Bee: Yes, uh, you’re doing a episode on drones, right? Um, hello, I’m a drone.

Narrator: There must be a mistake. We’re talking about unmanned aircraft, not bees.

Alexandra: Other B words include birthday, boxes, buttocks.

Narrator: Alexandra, stop.

Bee: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Just look at my contract. See? In this episode, you got to talk about bees.

Narrator: Really? Bees?

Bee: You best bee-lieve it pal. So, I think I’ll just buzz around while you record your podcast.

Narrator: Okay. So, Smarty Pants, how do drones work? Where do they come from? And how are they gonna change the world? Alright, alright, and how are they connected to bees?

It’s time for another whiff of history and science on… Who Smarted? Who Smarted? Who smarted? Is it you? Is it me? Is it science? Or history? Listen up, everyone, we make smarting lots of fun, on Who Smarted?

Narrator: Smarty Pants, compared to other aircraft, remote-controlled drones may seem a bit unusual. For starters, how many propellers do the most popular drones have? One, two, three, or four? Well, some may have three, or as many as eight propellers, the most popular drones have four. That’s a stark difference from most helicopters, which have only two.

Meanwhile, fixed-wing drones, which look like planes, are distinct-looking in that they are missing windows and a cockpit. After all, there’s no need for either, because there’s no pilot on the drone itself.

Alexandra: Often, the pilot is far from the aircraft.

Narrator: Very true. Drones are also called UAVs.

Bee: Sorry to buzz in here, but I’m not called a UAV.

Narrator: Not bee drones, electronic drones. They’re called UAVs, which stands for what, Smarty Pants? Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, haa! The ability to control a UAV from far away, even from another planet, can be useful in many ways.

Smarty Pants, what do you think the very first drones were used for? Is it



Or C-Warfare?

The answer is C, Warfare. The early history of drones is a bit hazy, but some say they originated in 1849, when the Austrian army used unmanned, explosive-packed balloons to attack the city of Venice, Italy. But these balloons weren’t controlled by anyone, and all it took was a change in wind direction to blow this balloon off target. Out of the hundreds of balloons launched, only a few actually hit the bullseye. Oops!

So, Smarty Pants, when do you think the first remote-controlled UAV was developed? Is it

A,-In the 1910s during World War I.

B-In the 1960s during the Vietnam Conflict.

Or C-In the early 2000s during the war in Afghanistan?

While modern military drones were introduced in Afghanistan, the first radio-controlled pilotless aircraft was actually created in the 1910s during World War I. Today, drones are still used in many military conflicts. But the drones that are capturing the imagination and are vastly growing in popularity are drones like Alexandra here, what we call “Civilian drones.”

And what kind of popular toy was the early version of those? Smarty Pants, take a guess.

Alexandra: Searching. Here’s something. Early civilian drones were remote-controlled planes, which became popular during the 1960s.

Narrator: Well, Donalexa, I mean, Alexandra, remote-controlled planes are fun, but they need to be constantly controlled by humans on the ground. They aren’t as useful as today’s UAVs.

Modern drones are operated with the help of computers and their multiple propellers, which can move independently at different speeds, allowing them to hover and zip around without much human guidance.

Many have sensors and GPS technology, just like your smartphone, which allows drones to use satellites in space, to find any point on Earth, and any spot in the sky without a pilot’s help. A person just types a location and the drone goes there. And the development of mini-cameras and smartphone technology have allowed humans on the ground to see what drones see in the air.

Smarty Pants, can you think of ways that might be helpful?

Alexandra: I can go places that would be dangerous or difficult for humans. I can fly into storms, find lost hikers, inspect a natural disaster, bring emergency aid, map hard-to-reach terrain, explore the upper atmosphere, take incredible aerial images and videos.

Bee: Yeah, yeah, yeah, but can you make toast better like with honey?

Narrator: Okay, okay, I get it. No, drones can replace creatures like bees.

Bee: Huh? Oh, no, I was wondering if this drone could get me some honey. This toast is too dry. Got any honey, Alexandra?

Alexandra: Searching.

Narrator: Wait, wait, wait. You’re a bee. Don’t you make your own honey?

Bee: Um, I’m not that kind of a bee. I don’t make much of anything.

Narrator: And how are you eating toast?

Bee: Uh…

Narrator: Oh, never mind. However, Smarty Pants, this bee is onto something here.

Bee: I am? I mean, yes, of course I am. Bees know a lot about honey. And, uh…

Narrator: No, it’s not the honey, it’s the delivery of the honey. Drones like Alexandra might soon help with that.

Alexandra: Walmart has delivered over 10,000 packages via drone. Compared to ground delivery, UAVs are faster, cheaper, and environmentally cleaner. We also don’t have to wait in traffic. And can travel to homes that are difficult to reach. Someday we may be used to deliver food, like honey or perhaps pizza.

Narrator: Imagine that, Smarty Pants, a drone delivering your next pizza. I’ll have one with extra pepper droney. Get it? Pepper drone-y?

Alexandra: In the future, drones like me will be everywhere.

Bee: Well, that’s not creepy at all.

Narrator: Yes, people would much prefer bees flying all around them?

Bee: Point taken.

Narrator: At the same time, Smarty Pants, that is a growing concern people have about drones. Do we truly want them everywhere?

Alexandra: We might become just as unpopular as bees.

Bee: Hey!

Narrator: Despite being a little scary, bees are essential to our environment.

Bee: Ha! Take that!

Narrator: Of course, some people believe civilian drones will be the same.

Alexandra: Right back at you.

Narrator: Simply stated, as UAVs do more things, they’re going to bother more people. Smarty Pants, can you think of any reasons why?

Well, many don’t want drone cameras spying on them. And drones might crash into things in the air and on the ground causing injury or damage. That’s why national and local governments have strict rules as to what can fly. And they’ve prevented drones from becoming widespread at the moment. But chances are, these safety issues will be worked out and drones will soon buzz around like bees.

Unfortunately, when that happens, many people who work in businesses like package delivery will be out of a job.

Bee: At least my job is safe.

Alexandra: Right now, drones like myself are also learning how to pollinate flowers.

Narrator: So yes, they might even do your job.

Bee: But that’s not my job.

Narrator: I’m sorry, what is your job? And why are you here?

Bee: I could tell you, but I’d rather just hang out. Got any more food?

Alexandra: Searching? I have an answer to your question.

Narrator: About the food?

Alexandra: About why he’s here.

Narrator: Great! Let’s hear it after this quick break.



Hey Smarty Pants, want to know one of my favorite sounds? Here it is. [Click sound] That’s the sound I hear when I’m learning a new language with Babbel. And if you want to learn a new language this year, I guarantee it’ll be one of your favorite sounds too.

Learning a new language has always been on my to-do list. And thanks to Babbel, I can check it off. But it’s not just about memorizing words, it’s about understanding a culture, connecting with other people on a deeper level, and expanding my horizons. With Babbel’s quick 10-minute lessons, designed by over 150 language experts, I was able to get the hang of the basics of German in only three weeks. Babbel is convenient, effective, and genuinely fun.

Best of all, Babbel has equipped me with real-life conversation skills, making it easy to order food, ask for directions, or shop in stores. Plus, Babbel’s speech recognition technology has been a game changer for my pronunciation, helping me sound like a local, or close to it. [Dankeschon, Babbel!]

Here’s a special limited-time deal for our listeners. Right now, get 50% off a one-time payment for a lifetime Babbel subscription, but only for our listeners at Get 50% off at Rules and restrictions may apply.


This message is sponsored by Green Light.

Hey, parents and guardians, let’s talk about something crucial, “Financial literacy for our kids.” It’s a conversation that’s as important as any other childhood milestone. When I was a kid, I’d earn money doing chores with little to no understanding of what to do next. I’d stash my cash in a piggy bank but didn’t know why. I certainly didn’t know much about saving or budgeting. If only Green Light was around to give me the opportunity for hands-on financial learning.

You see, Green Light is a debit card and money app designed specifically for families. You can send your kids instant money transfers, get real-time notifications of spending, manage chores, and automate allowance all while they learn how to handle money responsibly.

With Green Light, kids learn about saving for goals, budgeting for their wants and needs, and understanding the value of money, yep, much better than just sticking money in a piggy bank. So, stop putting off the money talk and start putting your kids on the right path.

Sign up for Green Light today and get your first month free at That’s to try Green Light for free.


Now back to Who Smarted?

Narrator: Smarty Pants, when do you think people started calling UAV’s drones? Is it

A-In the 1940s.

B-In the 1960s.

Or C-In the early 2000s.

The answer is A. The first use of the word drone for a UAV was in 1946 and it may have stemmed from the name of a remote controlled UAV developed by the British in 1935.

Can you guess what it was called? Was it

  • The Royal Biscuit.
  • The Queen Bee.

Or C-The 007?

Bee: Let me guess. B—the Queen Bee.

Narrator: If that was your guess too, Smarty Pants, you’re right.

Bee: Ha ha ha ha! We drones aren’t just useful, we’re royalty.

Narrator: But Drone bees are not Queens, they’re Male bees.

Alexandra: Here’s something I found on the internet from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Drone bees have a mindless, driven existence. They don’t gather honey, they don’t defend or maintain the hive, and their only purpose is to impregnate a Queen bee. And most don’t even get to do that.

Bee: Wow, that’s cold. Yes, but yes, it sounds about right.

Alexandra: UAVs were called drones because they have no mind of their own, and like bees, they buzz around.

Bee: Oh boy, things have taken a turn here.

Narrator: Hold on, drones are getting way smarter and going way farther than ever.

Bee: Ha ha, there you go.

Narrator: The UAVs, not the bees.

Bee: Oh!

Narrator: Smarty Pants, can you guess the farthest location a drone has ever explored? Is it A, Antarctica. B, The Moon. Or C, Mars. If you said C, Mars, you’re right.

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter is the first UAV to fly on another planet.

Alexandra: Ingenuity took its first flight on April 19, 2021. It’s a drone specially designed for Mars’ thin atmosphere. NASA planned to demonstrate this new technology by having Ingenuity take five flights above the Martian surface.

Narrator: But that’s not quite how things worked out. Smarty Pants, do you know how many flights Ingenuity did take? Two? Four? Ten? Or more?

The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter has far exceeded expectations, having flown over 68 times. And it’s sending back video, which you can see on the NASA website. NASA believes this little, powerful drone will pave the way for other drones to explore Mars, and hopefully other space objects.

Bee: Yes, but can it get me some honey?

Alexandra: Searching. Scientists do not believe there is honey on Mars.

Bee: Oh well, I guess I could go find some myself. But that’s too much work. Dry toast it is.



A big shout out across the ocean to Oliver in Uxbridge, United Kingdom, thanks for smarting with us, Oliver. We’re so glad you have fun listening and learning to smart it. And yes, we’ll get you an episode on the Botesvoid soon.

This episode, “Drones,” was written by Dave Beaudry, and voiced by Jenna Hoban, Sheffield Chastain, and Jerry Goldberg. Technical direction and sound design by Josh Hahn.

Who Smarted is recorded and mixed at the Relic Room Studios. Our associate producer is Max Kamaski. The theme song is by Brian Suarez, with lyrics written and performed by Adam Tex-Davis.

Who Smarted? was created and produced by Adam Tex-Davis and Jerry Kolber. This has been an Atomic Entertainment production.