Many people are being fascinated by drones. The high flying semi-autonomous vehicles are a breathtaking technological marvel that has transformed the world in amazing ways. They do everything from recording weather variables to aerial surveillance.
The Era of Smaller Drones
The 20th Century has seen the development of smaller, simpler and cheaper drones. There was a time when only the Air Force and large corporations owned drones but that rapidly changed when cheaper and easily navigable drones were developed. This also saw the coming up of drone hobbyists who used drones for recreation.
Drones in this century have been developed to perform simple tasks such as aerial surveillance, record weather, race (drone racing is picking up very fast), record aerial footage of events, i.e. sports and even espionage.
The quadcopter is a breakthrough in drone technology as it led to the manufacturing of cheap and fighter drones. It uses fewer resources, and it packs more powers in a very small space. Amazon and Google have test projects in place that involve the use of drones for retail good delivery. This will significantly reduce the delivery time of goods and services and also reduce traffic jams on the roads. Who knows, maybe the next traffic jam will be in the air (pun intended).
If drones didn’t exist, they would be a lot of gaps in the technology world. You wouldn’t be able to take those beautiful aerial pictures of terrain very cheaply. You would need to hire a helicopter every time which as you know isn’t that cheap. You will have to part with several hundreds of dollars to be able to do this. But now due to a drone that costs less than $2000, you can comfortably do this at your own comfort.
Have you ever asked yourself how these aerial vehicles came to be? Drone technology is not new to the world. It is however not that old either. Drones have been around for pretty much of the last few decades. The history of drone (UAV) technology is very intriguing. A simple war invention is what gave the pioneers of this technology that one can use an aerial vehicle to do what human beings cannot do while they are on the ground.
Terms in Drone Technology?
Drones can also be called Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) or Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) in technological terms. Basically, a drone is a robot or machine that is deployed aerially by remote control or sometimes autonomously. Small drones can only be remotely controlled since they do not have the power to be autonomous.
Larger and more sophisticated drones, on the other hand, can fly using a combination of remote control and autonomy. Drones can cost anywhere from tens of dollars up to millions of dollars depending on sophistication and function they are used for. Small drones are called quadcopters since they deploy the use of four rotors which help them to propel themselves up. More sophisticated drones like survey drones and military drones work in a similar way to airplanes, but the only difference is that they are remotely controlled and they.
The History of Drones
Drone technology has evolved through several eras which show a significant contribution to their improvement and adaptation in mainstream use. You have to note that the invention of the airplane is the most significant event in drone technology since, without it, drones would have never existed. Here are several phases that drone technology passed through.
The Austrian-Venice War
As I said earlier, drone technology has been around for several decades now. They were majorly used for military purposes often in activities and missions which were too risky for manned aircraft to carry out such as espionage and aerial bombardment.
In August 22nd, 1849, Austria used aerial balloons to launch an attack at the city of Venice. These unmanned balloons were loaded with explosives which dropped on Venice eventually achieving their target. Some of these balloons were launched from an Austrian ship called Volcano.
Apparently, the Austrians had been planning the use of these unmanned balloons for a long time prior to the war. A paper in Austria had published the details of the planned attack. According to the publication, five balloons were in construction. They were designed to drop a bomb from the air once they were in Venice.
As you can imagine, this tactic was successful to an extent as Venice did not anticipate such an attack. Although these balloons cannot be said to be drones (UAVs), they introduced the concept of the use of an unmanned aerial vehicle to the world.
The World War Era
The first documented use of remotely controlled aircraft happened during World War 1. The United States developed a radio-controlled aircraft which was called Kettering Bug in 1918. The vehicle was designed to carry bombs which would be used to assist soldiers in combat. Kettering Bomb was however not used in actual warfare. The US army had highly anticipated using the Kettering Bug in combat, but no suitable situations were suitable for its use.
Other developments were in place though. The “Aerial Target” was developed for the primary purpose of taking down the Zeppelins, but it was never successful. The “Aerial Target” proved difficult to go airborne, and its development and deployment were abandoned.
The Royal Navy developed its own “Larynx” in 1927 and “Queen” in 1931. These vehicles were rarely put into actual combat in the Second World War given the situation of the conflict.
The World War era saw the rapid development of drone technology to very advanced levels. NAZI Germany developed its own drones during this era. Drones became more instrumental in training antiaircraft gunners and as tools during the war. In fact, one year after the conflict is when the term drone was first used to refer to a UAV.
The Six Day War
The use of UAVs was however put into significant use by the Israeli Army when they used UAVs to attack enemy warships in the Arab-Israeli war of 1973. The use of UAVs was a useful tactic in this war as the Israeli had very few casualties in their Air Force compared to its enemies. These UAVs were also very important in air surveillance giving the Israelis Air Force an edge over their enemies.
UAVs were used by Israel in the war against Lebanon effectively as no casualties were reported on the Israeli Air Force in the course of the entire war. This was an eye-opening for other nations and led them to develop their own military UAVs. UAVs were so effective since they deployed stealth and had a three-dimensional thrust vectoring flight control.
The Vietnam War
When the Vietnam War seemed difficult to win in actual combat, the USA decided to deploy many drones o lead their war fronts. These drones were very useful as they could rout out the enemy forces out of their hiding and compel them to come into actual combat. In fact, drone technology, if used well is a good solution against guerrilla warfare.
The USA had hidden the use of drones in the Vietnam War but later admitted it later. The Persian War also saw the use of drones in mass numbers. Most of these drones in the Persian War were for surveillance, but some few were used to deliver Hellfire air-to-ground missiles. \
Drone technology was also used in pursuing and killing of Osama Bin Laden who was the mastermind behind the September 11th terror attack. Drones were used in surveying his whereabouts and severally used to launch aerial bombardment on his residences although most were unsuccessful.
The Modern Era
Drones evolved into the twentieth century rapidly, and they were being customized to do a whole range of things. The USA used drones to monitor its border with Mexico to survey illegal immigration. The September 11th, 2001 terrorist attack was the turning point in the mass deployment of UAVs in the USA. Ever since the USA has deployed thousands of highly sophisticated UAVs to fight Islamic extremists in the Middle East.
The Predator, which is the most sophisticated UAV the world has ever seen. This UAV can be armed with Hellfire Missiles which can be dropped in a target that is miles away. They are also controlled by remote pilots which puts them at no risk of death.
Have you ever been amazed by drone technology? If so, this is your stop for all the information about UAV technology or as it can also be referred to, drone technology. This technology has amazed human beings ever since its inception. Topics on this technology are getting interesting. UAVs are becoming the favorite toys of all tech enthusiasts. That is why I have compiled a very comprehensive article about drone technology.
This article is all about drones and how its technology works. Drones are not rocket science and understanding them is easy. Want to know how to operate drones?
• Drone aerodynamics
• Drone software
• Drone parts
Understanding the three areas above will largely improve your knowledge of drone technology. Drone technology is evolving very fast. This article is going to be outdated in some years since new discoveries are being made in this sector. Dozens of drone manufacturing companies are coming up with a unique approach to the design and workings of a drone.
What Is a Drone (UAV?)
A drone or UAV is simply an aircraft that flies without a human being on board. They are largely controlled by remote control. Some sophisticated drones have a very large range of control while smaller drones have limitations in terms of how they can be controlled.
Drones were initially designed to do activities which were dangerous and “dull” for human beings to do. That is still the case now, but the role of drones has changed largely in this century. They have evolved from sole use in the military in the last century to more wide application in the contemporary world.
As we all know, drones are now available for recreation and commercial purposes. They are also a lot cheaper, smaller, powerful and simpler in design and control.
Parts and Components of a Drone
are not that complicated. They are far simpler than any other machines that are out there and to understand them, and you will need to know how each of its parts plays a role in making it functional.
A simple personal drone is made up primarily of the following parts.
• The Frame
• The Flight Controller
• Electronic speed controller
• Power Distributor
• Remote Control
All these parts work together to put your drone in flight. Additionally, a drone uses software to coordinate all its parts an initiating control.
First of all, a drone needs a frame. All the other components on a drone mounts on a frame. The frame should be lightweight, and it is made of light materials most commonly carbon fiber. Carbon fiber is light and strong; therefore it minimizes damage when your drone crashes.
A drone is made of four motors or rotor blades. The blades are responsible for creating a force which lifts the drone off the ground. These rotors are controlled by an electric speed controller which is another part of the drone. Each motor should have its own electronic speed controller.
The power controller/distributor is connected to the battery and the four rotors. It distributes power from the battery to each of the four motors. They also control the voltage of the battery depending on the type of drone. The board also performs secondary functions such as transmitting video coverage from cameras to round but this is detailed we won’t look at it today.
The flight controller is the main control part of the drone. It receives wireless signals from the remote control device and uses them to control the motors. The wireless radio receiver primarily receives wireless signals from the remote control device, and the flight controller interprets them.
The handheld remote control is the device that you use to control your drone. You send wireless signals which are interpreted by the flight controller.
The battery is the power source of the drone. It is usually a rechargeable Lithium Polymer battery. The power of the battery usually depends on the power needs of the electric speed controller. A 4000mAh is usually good enough for a light personal drone, but more sophisticated drones need more powerful batteries.
Types of Drones
Drones come at various sizes and prices. They vary vastly according to the purpose and the technology that each is equipped with. Here are the types of drones;
• VTOL Drones
VTOL stands for “vertical take-off and landing.” As the name says, these drones are ready to land and take off vertically. They do not need to be elevated in order to take off, and they function in the same way as helicopters do. A good example is the DJI Mavic Air.
• Military drones
These drones are very sophisticated, and they are equipped with the latest technology. They are used by the army for surveillance and for guiding Hellfire missiles to their targets. Only the army is allowed to possess these drones. An example is the Predator.
1. Radar Positioning and Return Home
This is used to describe the technique used by drone to help drones find their position using satellite technology. Many latest drones are equipped with a dual Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) which means that they can use both GPS or GLONASS to find locate themselves.
These tow navigation systems are very important when there is a need for high accuracy in a task i.e., creation of 3D maps and search and rescue missions. When a quadcopter is switched on, it searches for a GNSS constellation to provide accuracy in its positioning. The drone is ready to take off if enough GNSS constellations have been registered. It then records a return point using this constellation. A return home point is a location that is set in drone in which the drone should return to in case it encounters any problem or its experiences low battery.
There are three types of return point situations;
• A return to home situation initiated by the pilot
• A return to home situation initiated by low battery
• A return to the home situation the drone initiates in case it loses communication with its remote control
In any case, any of these situations occur, the drone will go back and land to return to the home position set by the pilot.
2. Obstacle Detection and Collision Avoidance Technology
Drone technology aims to reduce the number of crashes, and that is why an obstacle detection and collision avoidance technology was developed. This system will automatically detect obstacles in the drone’s path and device a way to avoid the obstacles using several set mechanisms. This is important especially when the drone is out of sight or if it has lost communication with the pilot.
In order for this system to detect obstacles in the drone’s path, it uses one or a combination of the following;
• Vision sensor
• Time of Flight
• Monocular vision
Latest drones have the ability to sense obstacles form all sides.
Onscreen Real-Time Flight Parameters
This is a technology that allows you to see what your drone is recording in the air using its camera. This is usually done using smartphone apps and cameras attached to the drone.
Gyro Stabilization. IMU and Flight Controllers
This technology is meant to give the drone a smooth flight by averting the strength of forces working against the drone’s movement. This system is made up of a gyroscope and an IMU. The Inertia Movement Unit (IMU) records the drone’s acceleration using a set of accelerometers. Using this information, the drone can slow it down to keep the drone stable during flight.
Internal Compass and Failsafe Function
The drone is equipped with an internal compass which always tells the drone its current location. The compass needs to be calibrated frequently – before any take off to set a home point for the drone. A home point helps the drone to land safely without the pilot’s instructions which is why it is referred to as a failsafe function.
FPV Live Video Transmission Drone Technology
Drones that take aerial videos need to be equipped with a video camera. The camera then broadcast the live feed which needs to be sent to the ground for the pilot to see. FPV refers to First Person View. This is important since the pilot doesn’t have to look at the drone but rather use the feed to control it. This is possible by special goggles that are worn on the head or a screen like that one of a smartphone.
FPV technology is particularly important in drone racing whereby looking at the drone will lead to crashes. FPV technology uses radio signals to transmit a live feed to the pilot, and a weak signal can lead to inconveniences. Most drones have an FPV transmission range of about 3 miles. The newer drone has a bigger range with the DJI Mavic Pro having a range of 4.3 miles.
Firmware and Flight Assistant Port
Many drones need to update their firmware regularly. Firmware is software that comes with any computer, and it is previously installed by the manufacturer. In order for you to make any modifications to this firmware, you need to connect it to a PC, and this is where the firmware assistant port comes into place. This connection can be done by linking the drone with a Micro-USB cable. You can now fix bugs in the drone’s firmware and update it.