Drones have become more popular than ever. While the hobbyists, enthusiasts, and adventurists were already head over heels in love with drones, this UAV caught everyone’s attention when Amazon planned to deliver packages through drones.
Since then, there has been no looking back, and drones are now widely used in the military for security purposes, in the photography industry for clicking aerial images, in ecommerce industry for drone delivery, and the list goes on and on.
If you are a newbie or a curious head and want to know about drones in detail, you are at the right place. In here, we will have a look at what a drone is. Additionally, we will also understand how a drone works and have a look at its underlying technology along with covering various other finer details.
With that in mind, let’s get started.
First Things First, What is a Drone?
From clicking photos to recording videos, and even delivering packages, and performing surveillance activities, a drone can help you out in a range of ways.
Drone Types and Sizes
Drones come in varied shapes and sizes, depending on their uses and applications. Let’s have a look at some of the commonly available drone types and sizes.
Depending on Size
- Very small drones
You might find it hard to believe but drones can be as small as 50cm in length. Such kind of drones are known as micro or nano drones and are generally used in the military for spying on people or for conducting biological warfare.
These drones are specifically designed with enhance maneuverability such that they can fly flawlessly in smaller spaces.
- Small drones
These drones are bigger than nano drones, but overall, they are also quite small in size. Such drones have fixed wings and their length does not exceed 2 meters. They are very small size in size, and high powered, such that you can throw them into the air by hand and they will start gliding in the air easily.
- Medium drones
Next in the list are the medium drones which are bigger than small drones, but smaller than light aircrafts. They are still large enough and need to be carried by two people. These drones can weigh up to 200 kg.
- Large drones
As the name indicates, these drones are large enough. They are generally used in the military where they are sent to high-risk areas in place of sending fighter jets with officers in them.
Depending on Range
The range of a drone determines the distance it can cover while in the air. Depending on its range, a drone can be categorized into:
- Very close range
Toy drones have a very close range of about 5 km, though they can stay in the air for somewhere between 20 minutes and 60 minutes.
- Close range
Drones which can be controlled from up to 50 km are called as close range drones. When equipped with a powerful battery, these drones can stay in the air for up to 6 hours. These drones are widely used in the military.
- Short range
These drones have a range of 150 km and can fly in the air for about 12 hours. Due to their range and in-air time, these drones are most suitable for spying and surveillance purposes.
- Mid range
These drones are the most versatile ones and can be controlled from as far as 650 km. These drones are generally used by the meteorological department for collecting scientific data related to the weather.
Depending on Abilities
Drones can also be categorized based on the kind of tasks that they can perform. Let’s have a look.
Quadcopters are one of the commonly known drones. They use 4 rotors which are positioned at the ends of a square on the drone body.
- GPS drones
GPS drones are connected to satellites via GPS and use the data thus received from a satellite to decide their course of action, and direction of flight. Additionally, these drones are also capable of returning to the owner in case the battery dies.
- RTF drones
RTF stands for ready to fly. As the name indicates, these drones are ready to fly and do not require any assembly or anything. You can just take out the drone from the box, charge it up, and it is done!
- Delivery drones
Delivery drones are the ones made famous by ecommerce companies like Amazon. These drones have a basket attached to them wherein the package can be kept and transported through the drone.
- Photography drones
These drones have a camera attached to their body such that they can click high utility videos and photos from the air.
Now that we have a basic idea of drones, let’s delve deeper and understand how drones work.
How Drones Work?
This seemingly simple to fly UAV is actually governed by a range of physics laws and motions. The basic functioning of drones is based on propulsion and control.
Drones use rotors to fly, which work quite similar to a fan. The spinning blades of a rotor pushes the air down, and as a result, the rotor is pushed up in the air. This is how the drone gets its vertical lift. Accordingly, the powerful and faster the rotor is (in terms of spinning), the faster it can get up in the air.
This was all about the basic vertical motion of the drone. However, a drone can perform three movements in the vertical plane – it can climb, descend, and even hover at a place.
The basic principle behind hovering is kind of simple. If you know a bit of physics, if all the rotors pushing the drone up are equal to the gravitational force of the earth pushing it down, the resultant force on the drone will be zero, and this is how a drone is able to hover at its place.
What about moving up, also called climbing? In here, the speed of the four rotors is increased such that the resultant force on the drone in the upward direction is non-zero.
Drone Laws and Regulations
You cannot just buy a drone, and take it out for the first flight. It is necessary to ensure that flying drones is legal in your region, and moreover, you need to abide by certain rules and regulations.
Australia Drone Regulations
Flying drones is legal in Australia, according to Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), however, there are certain important rules you must stick to:
- Fly drone only during your day, and keep it within your visual line of sight. This means that your drone should be at a range where you are able to see it with your naked eyes.
- You must fly your drone at a maximum height of 120 meters or 400ft from the ground.
- Your drone must be at least 30 meters away from the people.
- Flying drones in an area where emergency operations are undergoing without prior approval is not allowed. Thus, you cannot fly them when search and rescue operations are going on, the car has crashed, or police operations are in the process.
- You can fly only one UAV at a time.
- It is necessary to respect the personal privacy of people, and you must avoid clicking photos or recording videos without their consent. If you continue to do so, you are breaching the state laws.
Licensing: As long as you are flying a drone which weighs lesser than 2kg, you can fly your drone keeping the above laid out regulations in mind.
However, if you want to fly outside these operational conditions, you will need to have a license from CASA.
United States of America Drone Regulations
Flying drones in the US is legal, however, you need to keep certain rules in mind:
If you are flying for recreational purposes:
- When flying for recreational purposes, you must fly for hobby and recreational use only. No side jobs allowed.
- You must get your UAV registered with FAA
- The drone must be within your visual line of sight while flying
- Your drone must weigh lesser than 55 lbs.
- If you are flying within 5 miles of an airport, it is necessary that you inform about this to the airport traffic control
If you are flying for commercial purposes:
- It is necessary to obtain a Remote Pilot Certificate issued by the FAA
- Your drone must be registered with FAA
- Your UAV must weigh lesser than 55 lbs including any payload that it might have
- Commercial drones are allowed to fly only in Class G airspace
- Your drone must be within visual line of sight, below 400 ft, and it must fly at a maximum speed of 100 mph
Licensing: If you are flying a commercial drone, it is necessary to obtain a Remote Pilot Certificate from the FAA. To acquire the certification, it is necessary that you must be able to read, write and speak English. Additionally, you should be at least 16 years old and be in a sound mental and physical condition. You are also required to pass an Aeronautical Knowledge Test along with Transportation Safety Administration screening.
United Kingdom Drone Regulations
Although flying a drone in the UK is legal, here are a few rules you need to follow:
- If you are flying a drone commercially, you must obtain the required permission from the CAA.
- All commercial drone operations need insurance
- Your drone must fly within visual line of sight, below 122 meters or 400ft from the ground, at all times.
Licensing: To obtain permission to fly commercially (PfCO), it is necessary to complete the CAA’s online application form and provide all the required details.
Applications of Drone
Drones have taken the world by storm, and there is probably no industry which cannot be benefitted with the useful applications of drones. Let’s have a look at some of them:
- Delivering packages
We have already talked about this aspect of drones before in this article. Drones are playing a crucial role in facilitating same day delivery. Big names like Domino’s and Amazon are already running pilot runs to check the feasibility.
- Border patrolling
Drones are widely used by defense purposes. Border control agencies are employing drones for border and coastline patrolling. Very recently, the Australian government adopted drones to make their borders secure.
- Inspecting buildings
Drones are finding an array of applications in the architecture and construction industry as well. Drones are widely used to inspect non-accessible parts of the building which are in bad condition. Using drones not only saves time but also protects the inspectors from any harm.
- Assisting search and rescue teams
Drones can provide virtual eyes and ears to search and rescue teams in dangerous terrains, thus assisting them in unforeseen situations.
- Monitoring wildlife
Undoubtedly, applications of drones are unlimited. They can also be used to monitor wildlife from a distance. This concept was first tested by Indonesian scientists wherein they used drones to spy on an endangered group of apes to know more about their state of being and habitat.
- Covering sporting events
Drones can also be used to telecast sporting events. This is all because they can provide views from varied angles, and provide seamless coverage. This concept was first tested in the Olympics and it came out to be pretty cool.
That said, it is easy to conclude that drones are assisting us in a range of ways. From recreational to commercial and security purposes, drones are not only saving time and money but are also protecting concerned officials from any harm.
What are your views on this? Do you have a drone? Share your experiences with us in the comments below.