Monday, January 06, 2014

Leonardo Torres y Quevedo Telekino


I have written before about the history of radio control and strongly invoked the hallowed name of Nikola Tesla. In 1898, Nicola Tesla staged the first demonstration of radio control. His invention (patent No. 613,809), took the form of a radio-controlled boat, a heavy, low-lying, steel craft about four feet long. At that time radio itself had not been officially patented yet! Tesla's own radio patent wasn't granted until March 1900!

But Tesla didn't do much more with the technology. He licensed his patent and moved on to his other projects. The next inventor to take up the cause was Leonardo Torres y Quevedo Torres. Three years after Tesla won is patent, Torres presented the Telekino at the Paris Academy of Science. In 1903 he did an experimental demonstration of his Telekino... a radio controlled robot  He went on to patent his robot in France, Spain, Great Britain, and the United States.

Torres Quevedo has been working on the idea since about 1901. The term "Telekino" comes from from two Greek words "tele" meaning 'at a distance' and "kine" meaning movement. So it means "movement at a distance" which is of course the whole idea of radio control. His Telekino turned the wheel of a tricycle forward and back and steered. By 1905 Quevedo was applying his ideas to remote control boats as Tesla had demonstrated 7 years earlier.

In 1905 Torres Quevedo organized a public demonstration of a radio controlled boat at a lake in Madrid. If that reminds you of Tesla, that's because it's what he had in mind. Tesla's boat mostly controlled the rudder. Quevedo had server control of the motor as well. He later did another more organized event at the port city of Bilbao was a success in some regards but tit didn't win him the government contracts he wanted. There would be no radio controlled torpedoes or war ships. He moved on to new projects and our dystopian future of drone warfare was delayed slightly.