How Drones Fly, Technical Features, Navigation, and Physics

Navigation

Software applications that can also be used to construct survey maps, 3D maps, and more are also utilized and may be very necessary for operations such as a search and rescue mission, agricultural purposes and more.

With most of the newly manufactured drones equipped with a dual Global Navigational Satellite Systems (GNSS), such as GLONASS and GPS, drones can now operate in both GNSS and non-satellite modes.

A group of satellites working together to give a coordinated coverage is referred to as a Satellite constellation. They are also effectively synchronized to ensure they overlap well enough in the coverage. A quadcopter with a GNSS system installed into it makes use of this High-end Satellite Constellation technology to search and detect GNSS satellites when it is first turned on.

The Return To Home system can be broken down into mainly 3 sections;

· The Low battery level; this type of system automatically turns the UAV around when the battery reaches an approximate level only enough for the return journey. This helps to avoid unexpected UAV crashes and air collision. A home point would have been inputted prior to the journey as this is the location by which the approximate battery level of the drone will be calculated. 

· During a journey, if there is a disruption in the transmission between the UAV controller and the UAV itself, the Drone will automatically turn back and fly back to the home point.

· A pilot can choose to suddenly decide to bring the drone back home without necessarily piloting it. Most of the most recent drone controller or app come to a button that will do just that. The drone will automatically head straight to the home point.

On the remote controller of the drone, there is a radar which will signal the following to its users;

· The Return To Home point which would have initially be inputted before the take-off, and its related features.

· The current location of the drone, and with respect to the exact UAV, the position may be displayed. This display is mostly always in relation to the exact location of the pilot.

· The remote controller also signals to the user when drone GNSS satellites have been detected and the drone is ready to fly

One of the most recent drones, the Mavic Air RTH has an embedded feature associated with the Return To Home system which helps the drone sense obstacles that may be along its flight path, while also attempting to maneuver around the obstacle. With regards to the lighting on the obstacle, these types of drones can avoid obstacles that may be on their part by; 

  1. Slowing down then going around it.

  2. It could also stop, before hovering around, then it will fly backward, after which it will go up until it stops sensing an obstacle around it.

Flight Controllers

Would you like to know what gives every drone the smooth flight capabilities they possess? It is the Gyro stabilization technology. The key component in the Gyro Stabilization technology is the Gyroscope. The gyroscope is what provides the drone controller with every necessary navigational information. The importance of a gyroscope in a drone cannot be overstated as it is always required to work equally to the wind force against the drone.

Also part of the Gyro Stabilization Technology is the IMU which is in charge of detecting every change that may occur in every rotational part of the drone such as roll, pitch, and yaw, all with the use of one or more gyroscopes. The IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit) works by determining the current acceleration rate with the use of one or more accelerometers. IMU with magnetometers can easily calibrate without the influence of orientation drift. 

A flight controller is sometimes referred to as the brain of the UAV, and IMU is one of the most important components of the drone.

Drone Motor Technology

The motor technology of a drone is exactly what gets it up in the air. Every drone must have a motor and propeller as they are what charges the drone into the air while ensuring it hovers when we want it to and it moves in the direction we tell it to. Commonly, as it can be found in most quadcopters, the motors and propellers work in pairs are referred to as CW Propellers and CCW propellers.

CW propellers (Clockwise Propellers) rotate clockwise, while CCW propellers (Counter Clockwise Propellers) work in an anticlockwise direction. Data is sent to them directly from the flight controller or from the Electronic Speed Controller (ESC) to fly in the direction you want, or hover.

You can easily keep track of your current flight telemetry as you can enjoy real-time onscreen flight parameters from your controller device or app, and also see through the eyes of your drone.

No Fly Zone Feature

This is a new feature that can be found in some of the most recently developed drones. This is a feature that was developed majorly to increase flight safety and prevent air collision or flights in restricted areas. 

Still, on the topic of a no-fly zone, there are majorly two categories, which are category A and Category B.There is also a new feature that is currently being embedded into new drones, this feature is more like a flight mode, also referred to as the Ready To Fly Mode. This mode can be activated after the compass of the drone has been calibrated and 6 or more GPS satellites have been found by the drones. 

Failsafe Functions

Drones are built with an internal compass which allows it, and the controller to determine and know its fixed location. During the calibration of the compass, users are required to input a default home point location (Discussed above). This system and more are what consist of the failsafe functions to avoid several accidents and damages.

First Person View Live Video Transmission

This is one of the major advancement in drone technology that has helped increase its demand in the market. The FPV is used to broadcast live video to the controller. The Video camera is placed on the UAV and sends a live video feed of the ground over which the drone is currently positioned.

The FPV has been designed to allow the drone to fly much further into the sky and also improved its sensitivity by allowing it easily avoid obstacles and hindrance.

This technology has also allowed drones to now fly swiftly and easily through obstacles, indoors, through forests, or through buildings, where it would have been impossible from the ground up.

The live videos are transmitted and received with the use of radio signals. The fast rise in the drone racing league also owes its fast development and achievement to the FPV Live video drone technology.

With regards to the specific drone and its manufacturer, live videos can be received on the controller itself, or on the app which could be on a smart device. A multi-band wireless FPV transmitter, along with an antenna are also major parts of the drone in order to also ensure its efficiency.

The quality and strength of the video will be with respect to the distance between the controller (receiving device), and the drone itself (transmitting device) Strength of the signal between the ground control on the drone. Currently, 7km (4.3m) is the longest possible distance between a drone and its controller.

By lowering the latency, and increasing the maximum range and reliability, drones like the DJI Mavic Pro use integrated controllers and intelligent algorithms to set a new standard for wireless high definition image.

Firmware

Most, if not all UAV comes with a USB port which is majorly used as a communication bridge with a PC assistant, thereby used to configure the UAV and upgrade its firmware.

Like every other technological device, a drone is no different. A drone is a machine with the ability to fly remotely and has a camera and sensor attached to it. The software of a drone is what connects the controller to the drone, while also initiating and completing commands. 

The software of drones may vary and contains so many amazing features.

Indicators

Drones also come with indicator lights that can be found on a few parts of the drone and on the controller itself. The indicator lights are in form of LED lights and the ones found at the front are major to indicate the nose of the drone, and the indicators at the back are used to indicate the back of the drone, therefore, showing the position of the drone.

Controller

The controller is the only connection between the pilot and the drone. It is a crucial part of making an unmanned aerial vehicle possible. Varying with manufacturers, the controllers may use up to 5.8 GHz and a range of up to 1 mile.  Most controllers have been paired with its drone from the factory. The receiver of a drone can mostly be found at the bottom of the unmanned aerial vehicle.

Range Extender

The range extender is a device used to increase the range of possible and effective transmission between the UAV and the controller. This device is used to enhance and extend the communication range between drones and the controllers that are far from each other or in an area with lots of obstruction.

There are several range extenders, each with a unique MAC address and network name (SSID).

Drone Apps

A drone can now either be flown by a default remote controller or with the use of a smart device app. These apps can be found online and downloaded in stores like Google play and apple store. This application gives the user full access to the drone and its capabilities.

Every drone manufacturers have a recommended app.

Gimbals Technology

Drones fly at a very high altitude but still capture the best set of imageries. The gimbal technology is what helps with aerial 3D imagery, film or photos as it stops any vibration from reaching the camera itself. The gimbal technology is what also helps pilot control the camera, thereby tilting it to capture several angles. Most gimbals are of 3 axes with 2 major modes; Non-FPV and the FPV mode.

Basically, most of the recent drones have gimbals to help improve the efficiency of their cameras.

Hurdle Detection Technology

Most, if not all the newly manufactured drones now have an integrated system which is now embedded with a hurdle detection technology. These drones also have a vision system which uses a sensor to scan its surrounding while a software technology actively produces a 3D image for the controller to sense and avoid obstacles.  Some of the systems used to sense and avoid obstacles are;

  • Monocular Vision
  • Vision Sensor
  • Ultrasonic
  • Infrared
  • Lidar
  • Time of Flight (ToF)

Operating Systems of a UAV

Most Drones comes with a Linux operation system or an MS Windows operating system. Having covered almost every aspect of a Drone, we shouldn’t be surprised that a drone can be hacked into. With regards to the drone, in particular, every drone has its own security system that keeps it safe from being hijacked. The development of this technology has been a big step in the technological sector.

Drone Research and Development

We are witnessing rapid growth in the role that UAVs or drones as they are widely known. Drones are being applied everywhere, and it is what is going to run the world in many years to come. It is with no surprise that very breathtaking research projects are being carried out all over the world. Some countries such as Israel, USA, and Switzerland are spending significant amounts towards research projects in the word of UAV technology. These countries are set to gain massive benefits in terms of economic and military gains.

Currently, drones are being used in very many economic sectors. However, we are going to witness the mass application of drones in the future due to numerous innovative ideas from people from all over the world. Drone technology is now becoming the new bigwig in the tech industry. The corporate world is also very involved in making sure that drone technology becomes the brightest technological subject.

Trends in Drone Technology

Many trends and subjects are currently rocking the tech world, and a good percentage involves drone technology. These trends are aimed at making drone technology more useful to human beings more than it is now and if they are well applied, they will greatly provide numerous solutions to the problems facing the tech world. Let’s have a look at the breathtaking research projects and projects that are changing the drone tech world.

NASA Air Control System

NASA is currently working on a pilot system that will see the use of drones to establish an efficient air control system which is run with assistance from drones. The space agency is partnering with tech giants Google and Amazon to see this system through. The two companies are currently forerunners in drone technology and will help NASA is the development and installation of this system.

The system was necessary since more drones are joining the airspace in the USA and they need some control, regulation, and assistance. The system will run just like the one in place for road traffic only that it will apply to all drones commercial and recreational in the American Airspace.

NASA has a team in France which is working in developing the software and another logistical requirement for the system. There are other players also involved in this project namely; Airbus, Delair-Tech.

Once the system is in place, it will direct and control traffic in the airspace reducing collisions among UAVs which has been a problem since drone technology picked up.

Drone Delivery Systems

This idea has been in the testing phase for years, and we might just see its success in the coming few years. Last year, Amazon announced the first ever successful drone delivery. A drone delivered several bottles of sunscreen for some attendees of the famous MARS conference in California. Although it is not the first drone delivery, the delivery marked a huge milestone for drone delivery since Amazon has spent a lot of funds in research to make this project a success.

Drones Use in Search and Rescue Missions

Another research that is in place concerning the use of drones in search and rescue missions. Police officers, firefighters, and volunteer rescue teams could use drones to help them in making search and rescue operations easier and effective. Recently, police in the Fremont Police Department used a drone to search and find a lost teen. The case gave optimism for the use of a drone in the future.

Research is currently underway among several large manufacturers of a drone to make specialized drones which will contribute more in more policing activities;

Search for suspects and missing persons

Accident or crime scene investigation

Disaster and emergency analysis

Drones in Agriculture

Current research on drones will allow for the application of drones in the agricultural sector. One group of researchers from Virginia has tested drone equipment which could largely help farmers grow stronger crops and hence save money. These drones are equipped with cameras, thermometers and other sensors which could assist farmers to grow and monitor their crop seedlings without hassle easily.

Using such drones, farmers could easily gather information on crop performance without having to roam the vast fields of crops which saves effort, time and money.

Drones in Post-Disaster Management

Research is in place to increase the role that drones could play in post-disaster management. In July 2018, the National Disaster Management Authority announced that they are working with other stakeholders to see how fleets of drones can be deployed to various disaster areas and provide an assessment of the situations.

Drones can access areas which are hazardous for human beings to be in at times of a disaster. They can collect information and take clear HD pictures which will aid in making accurate and informed decisions regarding response and mitigation.

Autonomous Flights in UAVs

The Penn State College of Engineering is conducting a research program that is aimed at developing fully autonomous systems in UAVs. According to the college’s website, the research focuses on path planning, control, state estimation, and data fusion all which will increase a UAVs ability to be completely autonomous. Although it can be argued that drones are autonomous to a certain level, their ability is not that useful to human beings.

The research focuses on improving the following flight aspects to achieve full autonomy.

Improve perception of the UAVs surroundings

Improve the UAVs length of time it can remain on station

Further, efficient algorithms are being developed to fuel the UAVs software so that full autonomy is achieved. Given the success of autonomy in other vehicles such as cars and manned pilots, we are not far from witnessing fully autonomous drones.

Underwater Drones

It might seem like something out of a sci-fi movie, but drones are going underwater. Drones have been developed that can go underwater just like a submarine. These drones can navigate waves and take breathtaking pictures of marine environments while being entirely waterproof. They are not only water venturing drones as they still do what they were meant to do – fly.

The Spry is an American innovation which is an astonishing piece of technology. This drone can capture video underwater at 30 frames per second at 12 megapixels. It was commercially available for commercial use last year November. The developer of the drone has said that his company is in work to improve this great innovation.

Drones in Wildlife

A new opening in the usefulness of drones is the wildlife sector. There are already drones used in monitoring and gathering of data in wildlife preservation areas and other reserves. Drones have already proved to be more instrumental than other forms of other ground data collection methods. Biologists need to collect and record information without actually being present, and drones have proved to be the best solution to this.

Flying Taxis

The most controversial subjects in drone research are drone taxis. That’s right, in the future, you are going to board a taxi across your metropolis, and it will be completely autonomous. American aerospace company Bell Nexus is one of the pioneers in this idea. However, this idea doesn’t look feasible as it has very many shortcomings concerning issues concerned with a flying taxi system.

Many cities do not have enough space for construction of small drone helipads

There is a concern about which drones will be given landing priority

The cost of these flights will be very expensive given the current logistics

Although this idea seems like it needs a lot of time before it materializes, technology is constantly improving, and players in the drone tech world are optimistic that the future is bright for flying taxis.

Going with the Current

Drones are being developed to glide with the wind and emulate the creatures that inspired air travel, birds. Researchers from Italy and California are training drones using artificial intelligence to help drones fly in thermals just like a bird would do. An algorithm that uses machine learning techniques teaches the drone how to use air currents to stay in the air for longer.

The Future of Drone Technology

Having seen how drones could positively impact human activities, we are an optimist that drones are the technology of the future. More and more innovations and inventions are being made in this area of drone technology.

Airbus is setting the trend for drone innovation, and they recently launched an innovation center in Shenzhen, China. This center, although specified as an aircraft innovation center, will focus on searching for innovative ideas for drone technology. The future is bright in drone technology.

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