Types Of Drones
Last Updated on June 1, 2021 by Gabriel Goddy
Are you looking to get a drone? That is a good idea. The thing with drones is that they can be used by virtually anyone. In this guide, we’ll be telling you all you need to know about drones. You’d be surprised at some things you never knew about drones.
What is a Drone?
Drones sometimes referred to as “Unmanned Aerial Vehicles” (UAVs) are meant to carry out tasks that range from the mundane to the ultra-dangerous. These robot-like vehicles can be found assisting the rescue of avalanche victims in the Swiss Alps, at your front doorstep dropping off your groceries, and almost everywhere in between.
With a joystick and a GPS, the operations of most consumer drones seem no more complex than playing a video game. However, behind the easy user interface are an accelerometer, a gyroscope, and other complex technologies working to make the mechanics of drone flight as smooth as possible.
Originally developed for the military and aerospace industries, drones have found their way into the mainstream because of the enhanced levels of safety and efficiency they bring. These robotic UAVs operate without a pilot on board and with different levels of autonomy. A drone’s autonomy level can range from remotely piloted (a human controls its movements) to advanced autonomy, which means that it relies on a system of sensors and LIDAR detectors to calculate its movement.
Different drones are capable of traveling varying heights and distances. Very close-range drones usually have the ability to travel up to three miles and are mostly used by hobbyists. Close-range UAVs have a range of around 30 miles.
Short-range drones travel up to 90 miles and are used primarily for espionage and intelligence gathering. Mid-range UAVs have a 400-mile distance range and could be used for intelligence gathering, scientific studies, and meteorological research. The longest-range drones are called “endurance” UAVs and have the ability to go beyond the 400-mile range and up to 3,000 feet in the air.
Because drones can be controlled remotely and can be flown at varying distances and heights, they make perfect candidates take on some of the toughest jobs in the world. They can be found assisting in a search for survivors after a hurricane, giving law enforcement and the military an eye-in-the-sky during terrorist situations, and advancing scientific research in some of the most extreme climates on the planet. Drones have even made their way into our homes and serve as entertainment for hobbyists and a vital tool for photographers.
TYPES OF DRONES
- 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 help 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
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.
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 are 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 decreases the sound produced. These materials are very lightweight.
How does a drone actually fly? A little wireless technology and a whole lot of physics.
Drones can be controlled remotely, often from a smartphone or tablet. Wireless connectivity lets pilots view the drone and its surroundings from a birds-eye perspective. Users can also leverage apps to pre-program specific GPS coordinates and create an automated flight path for the drone. Another handy wirelessly-enabled feature is the ability to track battery charge in real-time, an important consideration since drones use smaller batteries to keep their weight low.
A drone relies on rotors for its vertical motion. Drones use their rotors—which consist of a propeller attached to a motor—to hover, meaning the downward thrust of the drone is equal to the gravitational pull working against it; climb, when pilots increase the speed until the rotors produce an upward force greater than gravity; and descend, when pilots perform the opposite and decrease speed.
To hover, two of a drone’s four rotors move clockwise, while the other two move counterclockwise, ensuring that the sideways momentum of the drone remains balanced. To avoid throwing its vertical motion off-kilter, the other two rotors on the drone will increase their spin. The same principle applies to moving forward and backward—the rotors of the drone must apply thrust while making sure the spin of the rotors keeps the drone balanced.
- Accelerometer and Altimeter
An accelerometer feeds the drone information about its speed and direction, while an altimeter tells the machine its altitude. These features also help a drone land slowly and safely, preventing it from sinking into an air vacuum called a wash that could pull the aircraft down in an unpredictable way.
Some drones have built-in cameras on board that allow the pilot to see where the drone is flying without having a direct line of sight to the device. Drone-mounted cameras help users see difficult-to-reach locations and can be a game-changing tool for first responders, especially in search-and-rescue scenarios.
The intricate engineering that goes into building drones means that pilots don’t need to worry about balance, thrust, and other complexities, and can just enjoy the act of flying them. The ultra-responsive nature of the machines, which will only be heightened with 5G, even allows experts to race drones through high-speed obstacle courses.
Drones are versatile pieces of equipment that harness the power of wireless technology to do everything from taking video to assisting in emergencies. And their utility is only going to grow as the technology evolves and the world becomes more connected.
USES OF DRONES
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 1940s 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 “the 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 a 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.
- Emergency Rescue
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.
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).
Drones have been a boon for photographers, who use 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.
Drones are a headline-making piece of technology, capable of capturing incredible video in the hands of skilled pilots and providing some serious internet entertainment.