Almost all of us are familiar with the word drone. Many of you have seen drones fly in real life, and many have seen them on TV. But do you know, what is a drone and how does it work? If you do not know about this, or want to know about drones, then today’s article can be useful for you. In today’s article we will try to discuss drones in detail.
A drone is a type of flying robot that is remotely controlled by humans. The main purpose of making drones is to make dangerous tasks easier for humans. Nowadays, drones are used for many purposes. Read the full article if you want to know more details about drone technology and working methods. So without further delay let’s learn about drones and drone technology.
What is drone – What is a drone ?
The word drone has many meanings, but the word drone is derived from the Old English word drawn, meaning male bee. Drones are also known as UAVs (Unmanned Arial Vehicles) or RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aerial Systems). In short, an unmanned aircraft is called a drone.
Drones are formally known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS). Drones are flying robots that are controlled from a remote location or fly automatically through a software-controlled flight plan. This Drongulo is an embedded system, which works with the help of sensors and GPS.
To common people like us, these are drones. And to the military or military personnel, these are UAVs ( Unmanned Aerial Vehicles ) or RPASs ( Remotely Piloted Aerial Systems ).
Drones are mostly used for military purposes. Because they are unmanned, there is no risk to the pilot’s life in combat. However, drones are currently being used for civilian purposes as well. For example, for search and rescue of people trapped in inaccessible places , for traffic and weather monitoring, photography, for monitoring any valuable object or place, for fire fighting. Currently, drones are being used for various tasks related to agriculture and home delivery.
Types of drones – What are the types of drones?
Drones can be divided into different categories based on size and use –
Types of Drones Based on Size:
Drones can be divided into 4 categories based on size –
- Very Small Drones (Nano Drones): – These drones are generally very small in size and designed to fit in very small spaces. They look like small insects and are only a few centimeters in length and width. These drones are commonly used for espionage.
- Small Drones: – These drones are also small in size, but they are slightly larger in size than nano drones. Generally, these drones can be lifted by hand and thrown into the air and then they move on their own. These drones are not more than two meters in length.
- Medium Drones: – These drones are much larger than small drones, but slightly smaller than small planes. The weight of this type of drone can be up to 200 kg.
- Large Drones: – Large drones are generally the size of medium and small airplanes. This type of drone is usually used for military purposes. They are used by the military to conduct high-level surveillance of war zones and sometimes to launch missiles. These drones are equipped with powerful cameras of the military, which can take perfect pictures of the desired object or place even from high up in the sky.
Types of Drones Based on Aerial Platform
Drones can be divided into 4 categories based on the aerial platform
- Multi-Rotor Drones: – Multi-rotor drones are generally very stable and are able to maintain a stable position in the air for long periods of time. They are designed with multiple motors, which help keep such drones stable in the air. This type of drone is usually used for surveillance and photography. Multi-rotor drones are the most common type of drones that are usually used for hobby purposes. Such as aerial photography, aerial video monitoring etc. Based on the number of rotors, multi-rotor drones can be further divided into several categories. These are tricopter (3 rotor) drone, quadcopter (4 rotor) drone, hexacopter (6 rotor) drone and octocopter (8 rotor) drone. Among these, quadcopter drones are the most popular and widely used drones.
- Fixed Wing: – Fixed wing drones are generally designed like airplanes. As a result, such drones cannot maintain a stable position in the air. Such drones continue to move forward along their designated flight paths. Most fixed wing drones have an average flight time of a few hours. Gas engine powered drones can fly in the sky for 15 hours or more.
- Single Rotor: – Single rotor drones are designed like helicopters. To control a single rotor drone, a rotor is mounted on the tail of the drone. Single rotor drones are much more efficient than multi-rotor drones. Single rotor drones are considered better than multi rotor drones due to their different capabilities. Such drones can fly along a linear path, they can fly much higher than multi-rotor drones, and they can also remain stationary in any position.
- Fixed Wing Hybrid VTOL – The full meaning of VTOL is “ Vertical Take-off and Landing ”. These types of drones are hybrid versions of drones. That is, in this type of drone, the advantages of fixed-wing versions (such as long flight time) and the advantages of rotor-based drones (hovering – stability in the air) are combined. An attempt was made to test this idea in the 1960s, but it was not successful. But later, with the advent of new generation sensors (gyros and accelerometers), this idea was revived and succeeded. In simpler terms, Hybrid VTOL is a combination of automation and manual gliding. In this case, a vertical lift is used to lift the drone above the ground. Gyros and accelerometers work in an automatic mode to keep the drone stable in the air. Also, remote based manual control is used to guide the drone on any route.
Types of drones based on capabilities
The types of drones based on capabilities are given below –
- Quadcopters : – Quadcopters are drones, built in a square pattern and have four rotors. These types of drones are the most common types of drones in the market. These drones are mainly used for entertainment purposes. But many people use this type of drone for professional and official work as well.
- GPS Drones: – These drones are connected to satellites through GPS, which helps in determining the flight path of these drones. As a result, they can easily move from one place to another and if for some reason they get out of control, they can be tracked back to their owner with the help of GPS.
- RTF Drones: – These types of drones are known as ready-to-fly drones. These are more plug-n-play type drones. As soon as you buy it, this drone is ready to fly.
- Trick Drones: – Small, fast and maneuverable, these drones are usually used as children’s toys. They can perform barrel rolls, flips and other interesting activities in the air. They are very light in weight, as such drones do not carry any extra accessories.
- Delivery Drones: – These types of drones are becoming very popular with product delivery or delivery companies. An anchor or basket is attached to the bottom of the delivery drone.
- Photography Drones: – These types of drones have a single camera or video camera. These cameras are usually of HD quality, which can take clear and perfect pictures even from great heights. These drones, especially the accompanying cameras, are built to withstand damage caused by adverse weather conditions.
- Racing Drones: – Racing drones can fly at speeds up to about 70 miles per hour. These types of drones are used in various competitions and championships.
History of Drones
Drones are considered to be one of the most successful inventions of the human age. Through which very difficult work can be done very easily, quickly and without any risk to life. There is much disagreement as to who invented the drone first. According to one report, in 1849 Austria attacked neighboring Venice with pilotless balloons filled with explosives.
Percy Sperry flew a radio-controlled kite in 1907.
And from this people get inspiration to create something like drone. But many believe that the great scientist Nikola Tesla invented the first drone in 1915. Which was an unmanned automatic fighter plane. This plane could be used to attack distant enemy areas. This aircraft, made by Tesla, is considered the basis of today’s modern drones.
Efforts to develop drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, began in earnest around the time of World War I. The United States Army began developing aerial torpedoes in 1918 and conducted some tests of this device called the ‘Kettering Bag’. But before this technology was fully developed, World War I ended. However, attempts to create unmanned machines continued.
In 1935, Britain’s Royal Air Force developed a design for a radio-controlled and guided pilotless aircraft called ‘ The Queen B ‘. And this is where the word drone was first used.
Later, Germany’s Pinumun Army Research Center tested the ” B-1 Flying Box ” in 1942. At the same time, the US military also began using drones for targeting and training.
On August 6, 1946, a U.S. drone, the P-70 Flying Pottest , took off from Muroc Army Air Base. Later, during the Vietnam War, the U.S. Army deployed large numbers of unmanned aerial vehicles and used them to drop leaflets and conduct reconnaissance operations.
In 1986, the United States and Israel jointly developed the RQ2 Pioneer drone. The RQ2 Pioneer drone was used unilaterally by the US Air Force, Navy and Marines.
During the Gulf War in 1991, some Iraqi forces surrendered to a Pioneer UAVs!
General Atomics Corporation, developed the MQ1 – Predator drone in 1996.
In February 2002, drones were used for the first time to target a human. On February 4, 2002, the US intelligence agency CIA used a drone to target Osama bin Laden in Patkia province, Afghanistan. Although Osama Bin Laden was not there. At this time, military and spy drones were also developed in Iran and Israel.
In 2006, the Federal Aviation Authority granted permission to fly drones in US civilian airspace for the first time. As a result, the common people get the ability to fly drones.
In 2009, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) enacted new legislation. Where it is declared illegal to fly drones without control to protect the privacy and safety of other people. Which becomes a big obstacle in the commercialization of drones.
Parrot, a French drone manufacturer, launched the Parrot AR drone in 2010. This drone could be controlled through a smartphone. The Parrot AR drone was originally a small quadcopter. Which could be controlled or managed with the help of a smartphone app.
DJI, one of the best drone manufacturers in the marketplace, launched drones with smart computer vision and machine learning technology in 2016. These drones could track people, animals or objects besides avoiding obstacles and following GPS signals.
Where Drones Are Used – Uses of Drones
Today, when we look at commercial drone applications, we see very few uses of drones. However, the use of drones is becoming more widespread.
- military campaign or operation
- Professional Photography / Videography
- Land survey
- Building and Structural Inspection
- Forest Management and Monitoring
- emergency services
- Agricultural Development and Automation
- law enforcement
- Delivery of goods
- Journalism and Filmmaking
- Survey of buildings and construction sites
- Search and rescue
How does a drone fly?
To know how a drone flies, you need to understand the simple physics behind it.
Rotor Direction – The drone is a quadcopter that has 4 rotors and these rotors are connected to separate motors, which allow them to rotate at different speeds. Of these, rotors 1 and 3 rotate clockwise , while the other two rotors 2 and 4 rotate anti-clockwise (as shown in the diagram below).
These two opposite rotations balance the drone and keep the drone stable. Because if all the rotors start spinning in the same direction, a net torque will be created, causing the whole drone to start spinning.
When all the rotors spin at high speed together, they push the air down and the air pushes the drone up (according to Newton’s third law of motion) . When the speed of the rotor is increased, the drone starts to climb up and when the speed decreases, the drone starts to descend.
Drone rotation – If you want to rotate the drone in any direction, you need to increase the speed of any two rotors. For example, if the speed of rotors 1 and 3 is kept lower than that of rotors 2 and 4, the altitude of the drone will not change, but the angular momentum will change. Due to the increase, the drone will start moving clockwise. Similarly, if you want to rotate the drone counter-clockwise, it must be inverted. That is, then the speed of rotor No. 2 and 4 should be kept lower than that of rotor No. 1 and 3.
Forward and Backward – If you want to move the drone forward or backward, you need to increase the speed of the two rotors on one side and decrease the speed of the two rotors on the other side.
For example, if you want to move the drone forward, rotors 1 and 4 should increase the speed, while rotors 2 and 3 should decrease the speed. This will cause the rotors 1 and 4 to generate more lift, causing the drone to tilt slightly and begin to roll in thrust. Following the same process, you can move the drone backwards or sideways.
Remote Control – The speed of the rotors attached to the drone is controlled using the remote joystick. This increases or decreases the voltage from the battery to the motor, thereby increasing or decreasing the speed of the rotors. When the motor receives more voltage, the speed of the rotor increases. Similarly when the motor receives low voltage, the speed of the rotor slows down.
Also, drones usually use lithium-ion batteries , which are essential to keep the batteries in good condition. Because the better the battery, the longer the drone can be flown. Most of today’s drones have an internal GPS system, which allows the drone to know where it is now. If for some reason your drone is disconnected from your remote-control, the drone will automatically return to the place from where it took off.
How do drones work ?
Due to the joystick and GPS system , the experience of flying a drone and playing a video game is very similar. To create this user-friendly interface, an accelerometer, a gyroscope and some other complex technologies are used to make the flight of the drone as smooth and fluent as possible.
In such a situation, the question may come to your mind that how does this mechanical feature work or how does a drone work ? The answer to this question, in simple terms, is a little bit of wireless technology and a lot of physics. So let’s get to know the drone flying technique in detail.
Connectivity – Smartphones and tablets are used to remotely control the drone. And this drone is connected with smartphone or tablet through wireless. With the help of this wireless connectivity, the drone pilot can keep a bird’s eye view of the drone and its surroundings. Some apps can also set the drone’s flight path, making it automatically fly a pre-planned route. This requires GPS . The second important feature of wireless connectivity is real-time battery charge tracking. Because drones use smaller batteries to reduce weight.
Rotors – Rotors play the most important role in making the drone fly upwards. The rotor, which is attached to the motor and consists of a propeller . When the drone pilot, using a joystick or smartphone, increases the speed of the rotors, the rotors create a downward force in the air , which acts on the drone and lifts the drone upwards. As the rotors slow down, the drone begins to descend again. When the downward force or force generated by the rotors is equal to the gravitational pull or weight of the drone, the drone remains stationary in mid-air.
Accelerometer and Altimeter – The accelerometer informs the drone about its speed and direction and the altimeter gives information about the drone’s altitude. Also, these features help the drone land slowly and safely on the ground. Also prevents the drone from getting stuck in an air gap and going down unexpectedly.
Camera – Some drones have internal cameras , which allow the pilot to see where the drone is flying. Also, with the help of camera installed on the drone, the dangerous places for people can be reached very easily. That is why drones are widely used in search and rescue operations in hostile environments.
The engineering materials used to build drones are highly complex composites . They absorb vibrations generated during flight and reduce noise. Also these materials are quite light.
How is a drone made ?
Following are the materials needed to make a drone –
Chassis – The chassis is the main structure of the drone, to which all the parts of the drone are attached. While making this chassis, the capacity of the drone and how much weight the drone will carry (for carrying a camera or something) are kept in mind. Because the size of the propeller and motor of the drone is determined based on the weight lifting capacity.
Propeller – How much load a drone or quadcopter can carry depends on the propeller. Also, this propeller affects the drone’s ability to climb and move around.
The longer the propeller, the more lift it produces. But it requires more time to increase or decrease speed.
On the other hand, the speed of smaller sized propellers is easily increased. Also they are more manouverable. However, they require a much higher rotational speed to produce the same power as a long propeller. This puts a lot of stress on the motor and shortens the life of the motor.
Motor – Each propeller is connected to a motor. The rating of these motors is measured in ‘Kv’ or kilovolt units. The higher the speed of the motor, the more lift will be created. But good quality battery is required for motor to rotate fast.
Electronic Speed Controller (ESC) – It supplies regulated current to each of the drone’s motors, to provide accurate spin speed and direction.
Radio Receiver – The function of the radio receiver is to receive any kind of signal or command sent from the pilot.
Flight Controller – The flight controller is a type of onboard computer, which interprets the commands sent from the pilot and then sends the received inputs to the ESC. Through which the drone or quadcopter is controlled.
Battery – Lithium polymer batteries are used in most of today’s drones. These lithium-ion batteries offer longer flight times and faster recharging.
Camera – Camera, usually mounted on the underside of the drone. It helps in navigation and is used for aerial photography and monitoring.
The above mentioned things are essential for a drone. But currently, some additional sensors are used to enhance the drone’s various working capabilities and efficiency, such as gyroscope, accelerometer, GPS, barometer, etc.
Advanced UAV technology
As we have already told you, drones are also known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS). Some advanced technologies are used in these, which very few people know about.
Radar positioning and home return technology
New generation drones are equipped with dual Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) , i.e. GPS and GLONASS.
Drones can fly in GNSS and non-satellite modes. But some important tasks, such as – creating 3D maps , landscape or land surveying, conducting search and rescue operations require a precision drone navigation system.
As soon as the drone is launched, it first searches for and locates the GNSS satellite. The GNSS system uses satellite constellation technology . Generally, a satellite constellation is a group of satellites that work together to provide uninterrupted coverage and overlap with each other at the right times. Coverage is defined as the period during which a satellite is visible above the local horizon .
Let’s find out how this technology works
This technology displays the following signals on the remote controller or smartphone display held by the drone pilot –
- The signal indicates that the drone has detected the GNSS satellite and the drone is now ready to fly.
- Shows the current location of the drone to the pilot.
- Records the home point for the ‘ Home Return ‘ security feature.
Home return technology used by drones
There are 3 types of return to home technology used in today’s drones, which are as follows –
- Pressing the home return button on the remote controller or smartphone app starts the drone returning to the pilot. After pressing this button, the drone automatically returns to the pilot.
- When the battery level gets low, the drone automatically returns to the home point.
- If for some reason the connection between the drone and the remote controller is disconnected, the UAV automatically returns to the home point.
Obstacle detection and collision avoidance technology
Today’s high quality drones are equipped with Collision Avoidance System . Drones with this technology use obstacle detection sensors to scan the area around them . In this case, software algorithms and SLAM technology create images within 3D maps. This allows the drone to sense the obstacle in front of it and avoid it to avoid accidents. The following sensors are used to detect and avoid obstacles –
- Vision sensor
- Ultrasonic sensor
- the leader
- (ToF) Time of Flight
- Monocular vision
Using the sensors mentioned above, the drone can easily detect any obstacles in front of it and save itself from them.
How the drone completes the process of returning home, avoiding all obstacles in its path.
- Whenever the drone senses an obstacle in front of it, it slows itself down.
- After that it settles down and starts hovering. Then it slowly rises upwards. It climbs up until it thinks there is no obstacle ahead.
- Then the return to home process starts again and thus the drone automatically returns to the pilot.
Gyroscope stabilization, IMU and flight controller
Due to the gyroscope stabilization technology, the drone can fly smoothly. This gyroscope acts instantaneously on the forces acting against the drone and helps keep the drone stable. The gyroscope also supplies important navigational information to the central flight controller .
The full form of IMU is ” Inertial Measurement Unit “. It measures the current rate of acceleration with one or more accelerometers. The IMU detects changes in rotational characteristics such as pitch, roll, etc. Some IMUs also have a magnetometer installed. which helps to calibrate it against orientation drift.
Gyroscope is a part of IMU and IMU is a very important part of drone flight controller. And the flight controller is the central brain of the drone.
Real-time telemetry flight parameters
Almost all types of drones have a ground station controller (GSC) or a smartphone app, which allows the pilot to fly the drone and track real-time flight telemetry. Telemetry data displayed on the remote controller includes the drone’s range, speed, altitude, GNSS power, battery charge and alerts.
Many drones use a ground controller called FPV ( First Person View ), which sends video from the drone to the controller or mobile device.
GPS ready to fly mode drone technology
When the compass is calibrated, it starts searching for satellites. It allows the drone to fly in ready to fly mode after detecting more than 6 satellites.
No fly zone drone technology
To increase flight security and avoid accidents in restricted areas, today’s drones include a “ no fly zone ” feature.
No fly zones are regulated and classified by the FAA (Federal Aviation Authority) . By updating the drone’s firmware , the drone’s no fly zone drone technology is changed or updated.
Internal compass and failsafe function
This function informs the drone and the remote control system about the current and exact position of the flight. A home point can be set in this. When the drone is disconnected from the remote control, the drone automatically returns to this home point. And this function is also known as ” fail-safe function “.
Firmware and flight assistant port
The flight control system communicates with the PC assistant via a micro-USB cable. Also allows for drone configuration and firmware updates.
In simple definition, a drone is a type of flying computer. which are equipped with various sensors and cameras. Like computers, drones also have software firmware. Drone manufacturers regularly publish firmware upgrades to add new features and fix bugs to the drone’s remote control unit or software.
LED flight indicator
These LED flight indicators are found on the front and back of the drone. Drone LEDs are usually red, green and yellow.
The front LED indicators light up to indicate the nose of the drone . And the LEDs on the back indicate the various statuses of the drone such as – power on, receiving firmware upgrade and fly mode etc. All drones have a user manual, and in this user manual all types of LEDs are explained.
High performance camera
The updated drones have high resolution cameras, which are capable of taking high quality pictures and shooting videos. These cameras can shoot up to 4k resolution videos. This type of camera is mostly used for aerial photography or shooting movie scenes.
Gimbals and tilt control
Gimbal technology is a breakthrough for drone photography. Drones play an important role in capturing high resolution photos, films or 3D imagers . This allows the camera to be rotated in any direction while flying. Also, the gimbal reduces camera vibration, resulting in clearer images. Gimbals and cameras are installed on almost all new drones these days .
What are the applications of drones ?
For Military Surveillance – Drones were originally intended for military use only. In the 1940s, the British and US military used drones for reconnaissance. Today’s drones are much more advanced than the previous ones In the military, they are used to collect various types of information, including the perfect location of the enemy during battle. Also, currently missiles are being launched by entering the enemy’s borders with the help of drones. In this situation, there is no risk to the pilot’s life and spying and surveillance can be done very easily.
During Live Events – Over the past few years, drones with cameras have been used to capture live events. Drones are being used for live recording of politicians’ speeches, rallies, concerts and sports. Drones can show people scenes that are not possible with any other technology.
Dangerous Area Survey – With the invention of drones, it has become much easier for humans to explore dangerous areas. For example, geologists can easily complete their work by reaching unique and dangerous places on Earth.
For home delivery services – Nowadays, many big companies are using drones to deliver products to their customers. Drones used for home delivery services are capable of carrying a lot of weight. For example, drones are used for home delivery of fast food (eg pizza) in many countries.
For law enforcement – this is one of the best uses of drones. Police use drones to find hidden criminals or terrorists. Also, drones play an important role in planning rescue operations. Besides, if necessary, the police can shoot any criminal with the help of drones.
Wildlife Monitoring – To stop wildlife killing and protect them, it is very important to monitor them. Drones are currently being used to monitor these wildlife.
To monitor traffic – Due to the drone’s speed and ability to cover large areas, it is being used to monitor traffic. They are being used for traffic guidelines, traffic activity analysis, individual vehicle identification, tracking and license plate reading etc. HD and thermal cameras are used in such drones, so that surveillance can be done at any time of the day or night.
What precautions should be taken while flying a drone ?
Some precautions are important to take while flying a drone –
- 1. If your drone is powered by a lithium-powered battery , use it sparingly in cold environments Because extreme cold has a negative effect on the lithium battery and the battery discharges very quickly.
- 2. On the other hand, even if the temperature is high, the drone should not be flown for a long time. This is because the motor has to work harder to produce lift in a hot environment, which causes the battery to discharge quickly. After use, let the battery cool down first and then recharge it.
- 3. Do not fly the drone when the wind speed is high. Because, in such a situation, a lot of energy will be required to stabilize the drone in any place and also the possibility of an accident will increase. So always try to fly the drone in a normal environment.
- 4. Avoid flying the drone during rain or excessively humid weather . Because if it gets wet, the flying time of the drone decreases.
- 5. If your drone has guards, be sure to use them when first flying the drone. Because they protect the drone from damage in case of an accident. But at the same time they increase the weight of the drone. So when you are experienced in flying the drone, remove the guard from the drone and use it.
- 6. Do not fly the drone at high speed for a long time. Because doing this will discharge the battery of the drone quickly.
- 7. If you don’t want to use the drone for a few days, keep your drone battery fully charged. Store it in a dry and ventilated area.
- 8. Never add unnecessary add-ons to the drone . Use only the add-ons you need
If you fly the drone by following the above-mentioned precautions, your flying time will increase and your drone will be safer as well.
Drones are a blessing of science. Drone technology is constantly crossing new stages and it is playing a revolutionary role in various aspects of our life. But at the same time it is very important to ensure that it is used only for the welfare of mankind. In today’s article we discuss, what is a drone and how does it work? I have tried to discuss the issues in detail. If you have any questions or comments about the article, let us know in the comment section. thank you