The Spectator

When was the world’s first drone attack?


Attack of the drones

The world’s earliest drone attack goes back further than you might think. On 12 July 1849 the Austrian military launched unmanned balloons over Venice, which they hoped to recapture after the city had declared itself a republic the year before. Suspended beneath each of the balloons were bombs containing up to 30lb of explosives, with timed fuses primed to deposit them over the city. The raid was not a success. Some exploded in mid-air, others failed to reach their target because the wind changed direction after the balloons had been launched. Some even blew back over the Austrian forces. A second attempt involving 200 balloons was launched on 22 August. A few exploded in the city but again most missed their mark. In spite of minimal damage, the Venetians surrendered two days later.

Damage limitation

Which are the best- and worst-behaved countries in Europe, judging by the damages awarded by the European Court of Human Rights between 2012 and 2022? (In euros)


Turkey – 151.8m

Italy 133.2m

Romania 74.6m

Albania 50m

Greece 21.9m

Slovakia 23.1m

Ukraine 20m

France 10.2m


Denmark – 135,000

Sweden 159,000

Ireland 178,000

Finland 270,000

Czech Republic 343,000

Netherlands 385,000

Iceland 417,000

Estonia 424,000

Source: Council of Europe

Crop tops

The NFU warned that wheat yields could be down by 15 per cent this year due to the wet winter. Is climate change affecting production? Average wheat yields over the past century (tonnes per acre):

1924-33 – 2.4

1934-43 – 2.5

1944-53 – 2.8

1954-63 – 3.7

1964-73 – 4.2

1974-83 – 5.3

1984-93 – 6.8

1994-2003 – 7.7 

2004-13 7.7

2014-23 8.2 

Source: Defra


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