The Drones – The word “drone” has several different meanings, and it originates from the old English word drān, drǣn, which means ‘male bee’. When talking about a drone as an electric device, we are thinking of a missile or a remote-controlled pilotless aircraft.
Drones have been around for many years, they are used for several different purposes and can be very helpful in many areas. However, drones have become much more popular in recent times, and their application has increased rapidly in various fields.
What is a Drone?
A drone, in technological terms, is an unmanned aircraft. Drones are more formally known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or unmanned aircraft systems (UASes). Essentially, a drone is a flying robot that can be remotely controlled or fly autonomously through software-controlled flight plans in their embedded systems, working in conjunction with onboard sensors and GPS.
In the recent past, UAVs were most often associated with the military, where they were used initially for anti-aircraft target practice, intelligence gathering and then, more controversially, as weapons platforms.
Drones are now also used in a wide range of civilian roles ranging from search and rescue, surveillance, traffic monitoring, weather monitoring and firefighting, to personal drones and business drone-based photography, as well as videography, agriculture and even delivery services.
How Drones Work
A typical unmanned aircraft is made of light composite materials to reduce weight and increase maneuverability. This composite material strength allows military drones to cruise at extremely high altitudes. UAV drones are equipped with different state of the art technology such as infrared cameras, GPS and laser (consumer, commercial and military UAV).
Drones are controlled by remote ground control systems (GSC) and also referred to as a ground cockpit. An unmanned aerial vehicle system has two parts, the drone itself and the control system. The nose of the unmanned aerial vehicle is where all the sensors and navigational systems are present.
The rest of the body is full of drone technology systems since there is no space required to accommodate humans. The engineering materials used to build the drone are highly complex composites designed to absorb vibration, which decrease the sound produced. These materials are very light weight.
Drones require a controller, which is used remotely by an operator to launch, navigate and land it. Controllers communicate with the drone using radio waves, including Wi-Fi.
There are different variations in the frame and construction of drones, but the essential components that every drone must have is a waterproof motor frame, flight and motor controllers, motors, transmitter and receiver, propellers, and a battery or any other source of energy.
Yes, these small aerial acrobats are able to pack a lot of accessories into their metal or plastic frames. Most drones are ready to fly upon purchase. However, some people like building a drone themselves using kits, and to get more familiar with that topic, we suggest reading our article about the best drone kits and why are they are the best.
What makes these unmanned aerial vehicles remarkable is their great flight capability. Drones have ultra-stable flight, and they can hover and perform different acrobatics in the air. How far you can fly your drone depends on the space you are flying it, as well as the line of sight. You can certainly fly a drone beyond the line of your sight, but it increases the risk of hurting someone, crashing your drone, or damaging someone’s property.
When it comes to commercial drones for entertainment, they have a short control distance and can fly for just a few minutes. On the contrary, the advanced drones which are used in the military or mapping are able to hover for hours in the air and be controlled from a great distance. Military drones are often the most advanced, and in fact are a large source of innovation in drone technology.
Drones are used in many areas and have many applications, there is no end when it comes to their possibilities. Therefore, the areas of applications are numerous today and there is a growing use of drones all around the world. The technology continues to advance, and it’s a safe bet that drone usage will continue to grow as well.
Especially, the micro drones have become widely used these days due to their small size and convenience.
Main areas of applications:
- Search and rescue – Drones are very useful in searching and rescuing operations. For example, they are used in firefighting to determine the amount of the certain gasses in air (CO, CO2, and the like) using the special measuring equipment. Drones can often safely enter a space that humans cannot.
- Security – Many authorities use drones to protect people during various emergencies. For instance, they are able to help coordinate a variety of security operations and can preserve evidence alike.
- Inspections – Many systems such as power lines, wind turbines, and pipelines can be checked by drones. This can avoid the hassle and safety issues involved with sending a human to check things out.
- Surveillance – A drone allows recording and monitoring from the sky, and therefore, they are suitable to monitor public events, protests, or any suspicious happening without being heard and seen. A great tool for the police to monitor a large area with a flying camera from overhead!
- Science & research– Unmanned aerial vehicles help scientists a lot in research works to observe different occurrences in nature or a particular environment from the sky. For example, drones are used to document the archaeological excavations, in nuclear accidents (measuring contamination), in glacier surveillance, to observe a volcanic eruption, and more.
- Aerial photography & video – With a drone that is equipped with an HD camera, you can take the fascinating photos and shot footage of great quality from the sky. You can even use live video to stream things as they happen!
- Surveying & GIS (mapping) – Using multi-spectral cameras and laser scanners, drones are able to create high-quality 3-D maps. Therefore, they have found applications in various areas, including remote sensing, surveying & mapping, photogrammetry, precision agriculture, and more.
- Unmanned cargo system – Drones also serve in delivering of lightweight packages and bundles of all sorts. This way, you can have a safe, environmentally friendly and fast transport of goods by air, and you can find out more about this topic by reading
our article about delivery drones. Will this drone delivery revolutionize the industry for companies like Amazon?
In addition to these main areas of application, drones are also used in engineering, construction and pre-construction work, aviation, maritime, marketing, real estate (both residential and commercial), insurance, utilities, mining, meteorology, education, and more.
Today, many government agencies, private companies, and other institutions have their private drones. The applications of drone are vast and not showing any signs of slowing down soon, a great sign for drone manufacturers!
Beside these “serious” works, mini and micro-drones (especially, small micro quadcopters) are widely used for the entertainment purposes. Nowadays, the civil use of drones is a completely normal thing, and you can legally buy them over the Internet at an affordable price. Some people just want to buy a drone and fly it around, maybe take pictures, or maybe just to enjoy the remote control flying object at the tip of your fingers.
Drones are quite easy to control, and you don’t have to possess any driver’s or RC pilot’s license to fly them. This is a great source of fun, and people throughout the world enjoy flying drones. Even drone racing has become a huge thing. With people customizing the fastest, most agile drones to beat out the competition.
The Drones Classification (Types Of Drones)
Classification of the drones may sound impossible, due to the fact there are a lot of different models, with different features, sizes, and price. The most popular way to classify them is by size.
Single Rotor Helicopters
Single rotor helicopters look exactly like tiny helicopters and can be gas or electric powered. The single blade and ability to run on gas helps its stability and fly for longer distances. These UAVs are usually used to transport heavier objects, including LIDAR systems, that can be used to survey land, research storms and map erosion caused by global warming.
Multi-rotor drones are usually some of the smallest and lightest drones on the market. They have limited distance, speed and height, but make the perfect flying vehicle for enthusiasts and aerial photographers. These drones can usually spend 20-30 minutes in the air carrying a lightweight payload, such as a camera.
Fixed Wing Drones
Fixed wing drones look like normal airplanes, where the wings provide the lift instead of rotors- making them very efficient. These drones usually use fuel instead of electricity, allowing them to glide in the air for more than 16 hours. Since these drones are usually much larger, and because of their design, they need to take off and land on runways just as airplanes do.
Fixed wing UAVs are used by the military to carry out strikes, by scientists to carry large amounts of equipment and even by nonprofits to deliver food and other goods to areas that are hard to reach.
The Drone Uses
Probably the oldest, most well-known and controversial use of drones is in the military. The British and U.S. militaries started using very basic forms of drones in the early 1940’s to spy on the Axis powers. Today’s drones are much more advanced than the UAVs of yesteryear, equipped with thermal imaging, laser range finders and even tools to perform airstrikes. The most prominent military drone in use today is the MQ-9 Reaper.
The aircraft measures 36 feet long, can fly 50,000 feet in the air undetected and is equipped with a combination of missiles and intelligence gathering tools.
Delivery drones are usually autonomous UAVs that are used to transport food, packages or goods to your front doorstep. These flying vehicles are known as “last mile” delivery drones because they are used to make deliveries from stores or warehouses close by. Retailers and grocery chains all over the country are turning to drones as more efficient delivery alternative, instead of relying on delivery drivers with inefficient trucks.
These drones can carry an impressive 55 pounds of goods to your front door without you ever having to leave the house. Amazon, Walmart, Google, FedEx, UPS and many other big brands are all currently testing out different versions of delivery drones.
Sometimes it’s just not safe enough to send humans into a rescue situation due to the scope or severity of the disaster. That’s where drones come in. In the case of a capsized boat or drowning individual, officials can throw an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) into the water to assist in the rescue.
If there’s an avalanche, drones are deployed to look for those caught in the snow. Aircraft maker, Kaman, has even developed a pilotless helicopter, called the K-MAX, designed to carry more than 6,000 pounds of cargo. The K-MAX has already been used in China and Australia to assist in fighting fires.
NASA and the U.S. Air Force have been secretly testing out unmanned aircraft geared towards space travel. The X-37B UAV is the Air Force’s ultra-secretive drone that looks like a miniature space shuttle. It has been quietly circling the Earth for the last two years, setting a record for longest flight from an unmanned aircraft (more than 719 days).
Although vague, the Air Force has said “the primary objectives to the X-37B are twofold: reusable spacecraft technologies for America’s future in space and operating experiments which can be returned to, and examined, on Earth.” It seems that drones have been made a priority when it comes to the future of space exploration and innovation.
Wildlife and Historical Conservation
Drones are a cheaper and more efficient alternative to wildlife conservation. Tracking wildlife populations is nearly impossible with humans on the ground. Having an eye-in-the-sky allows wildlife conservationists to track roaming groups of animals, ranging from Orangutans in Borneo to Bison on the Great Plains, to get a better idea of the health of their species and ecosystems.
Conservation drones also make perfect tools in the fight against poaching efforts in Asia and Africa. Drones are also being used for reforestation efforts all over the world. These drones scour the forest floors of forests decimated by fires and drop seed vessels filled with seeds, fertilizers and nutrients that will help a tree rise from the ashes.
There have been around 300 million acres of deforested land since the early 1990’s. What would take humans around 300 years to reforest can be more efficiently completed via seed-planting drone technology.
Finally, UAVs are becoming instrumental in historical conservation efforts. Drones are being used to map out 3D renderings of historical sites like Chernobyl, the ancient Greek sites of Ephesus, Turkey and Jewish cemeteries all over Europe. The vantage point gives historical preservationists the ability to find clues about culture and architecture, while using 3D imagery to recreate lost sites.
How do you get medical supplies to people in hard to reach areas? What tool could you use to deliver organs for transplant patients? Drones are the answer to both of those questions. Right now, unmanned aerial vehicles are being used to deliver emergency medical supplies and cargo to off-the-grid communities in rural Alaska.
Instead of relying on dog sleds, snowmobiles or ambulances that can’t handle snow, Alaskans are relying on drones to quickly receive life-saving medical supplies. Drones are also being tapped to deliver donated organs to transplant patients. Just recently, history was made when a kidney was transported by a specially-made drone from one hospital in Maryland to the next in just under five minutes.
This could cut down on the alarmingly slow rate at which donations usually arrive (if they arrive at all). Usually, organs are delivered via chartered or commercial flights. Delays and lapses in judgement cause dangerous delays of two hours or more for 4% of all organ deliveries. Drones can cut the time down tremendously, while offering a safer and secure method of organ transportation.
Drones have been a boon for photographers, who use the UAVs to take expansive aerial photos. Ever wonder what it’s like to get a bird’s eye view of your favorite city, beach or building? There are drones made specifically for photography that provide a new way to photograph some of your favorite destinations from above.
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