Modern unmanned aerial vehicles debuted as an important weapons system in the early 1980s, when the Israel Defense Forces equipped small drones similar to large aircraft models with trainable television and infrared cameras and with target designators for laser-guided munitions, all connected to a control station. Modern technology is advancing at a somewhat rapid pace. It's easy to forget the pillars that brought the unmanned aerial vehicle industry to where it is today. It's critical to appreciate the achievements of the past that helped usher in the modern era of drones.
Unmanned aerial vehicles can be designed in configurations other than manned aircraft, both because they do not need a cockpit and its windows and because there is no need to optimize them for human comfort, although some unmanned aerial vehicles are adapted to piloted models or are designed for piloted modes as an option. Military unmanned aerial systems (UAS) classify unmanned aerial vehicles based on the weight, maximum altitude, and speed of the unmanned aerial vehicle component. The record for the distance of a UAV (built of balsa wood and mylar skin) across the North Atlantic Ocean is held by a model of a gasoline-powered aircraft or UAV.