Although commonly referred as “drone”, these aerial machines are also often called UAVs, unmanned aerial vehicles. Here’s a quick walkthrough of how drones work.
Drones are really quadcopters, which have four rotors that can fly as high as 55 feet. They can be controlled remotely using an app that can send an emergency call, find birds in the area, or photograph distant subjects.
They could be seen as a sort of a toy or to be a practical piece of aviation technology. But also as a safety net, helping the police, fire service and military find out where crime and emergencies are happening.
Drones can be controlled remotely, often from a smartphone or tablet. They can take pictures or video, record short videos and listen to recordings of people’s conversations, surroundings or movements.
Drones are made of many different things. From plastics to batteries to electronics to transmission systems usually make up a typical drone. The main elements that make a drone fly are propellers, motors, electronics and flight controls.
Most drones are equipped with some form of Global Navigational Satellite System (GNSS).
Many have GPS modules built in, but some, like most drones, are also equipped with a Global Positioning System (GPS) and/or a Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS).
The GPS, in particular, allows a drone to accurately navigate through the world’s terrain, and the GNS gives the drone a way to connect to cellular networks.
While a consumer RC may have one or the other, a pro RC typically has both. Most flying platforms like quadcopters, ultralights, hexacopters, drones and similar flying machines all have one or the other.
Autonomous Flight Mode
GNSS technology enables a drone to carry out autonomous flight which can be activated by basic commands in the computer. And it is this tech that allows a drone to have a Return-to-Home (RTH) ability.
Because in this flight mode it does not need to be connected to an electronic control unit (ECU) on board the drone or GPS device. The ECU manages and controls the flight dynamics and to achieve safe flight the drone has to take into account the predicted GPS coordinates.
A drone relies on rotors for its vertical motion. Drones have two main rotors: a drive (lower-mounted) rotor that guides the drone through the air, and a stabilization rotor (upper-mounted) that makes it stable in flight.
Gyroscopes, described below, help steady the drones when flying. Drones also use GNSS positioning to correct for realtime navigation errors, the result of wind and drift to maintain a stable hover.
These are the most elemental of the range of sensors that make up a drone. They are generally inexpensive – and, therefore available in most drones – but play an important role in the navigation systems of all such flying machines.
Gyroscopes measure the pitch, yaw or roll of drones in flight, and when integrated with other sensors, enable stabilization in virtually all drones.
Hobby drones form a large part of the global marketand so do a host of smaller, low-cost drones from different manufacturers.
Most of these provide great night vision but at little or no cost. However, cheaper entry-level drones can be a bit hit-or-miss when it comes to particular features.
There are a number of companies that sell consumer drones, but the most popular and best drones are made by DJI, Potensic, Holy Stone, Parrot and Altair.
Specialization of drones continues grow and you can buy drones for fishing and also underwater drones from popular brands.