If there is one thing I wished humans had, it would be the power to fly. That is why I decided to get a drone. But what is a drone, exactly?
Drones come in many shapes and sizes, but one thing they have in common is that they are all unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). This article helps you understand the intricate world of drones with their many designs and purposes.
- What Is a Drone?
- The Types and Sizes of Drones
- The Wild Range of Drone Prices
- How Do Drones Work?
- Drone Roles and Their Uses
- How Drones Revolutionised Aerial Videos
- So, What Is a Drone?
What Is a Drone?
The meaning of the word drone is not strictly defined. But most often, the term drone refers to something that flies in a controlled manner without a person on board. Another more descriptive term for a drone is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or unmanned aircraft system.
Drones can be controlled remotely by humans, or they can be controlled entirely by artificial intelligence. Many drones use both, with inputs from human pilots with software capable of navigation, obstacle avoidance, taking off, and landing.
Onboard sensors and GPS navigation are used in many drone systems to provide detailed information about flight paths and to assist in flying remotely.
Most people use the word drone to refer to all sorts of UAVs, from the hobbyist’s small four-rotor drone to the advanced military weapon the size of an airplane.
The Types and Sizes of Drones
Sometimes I’m surprised at the number of options available today, although some designs aren’t common in recreational drones. Let’s go over some of the major categories of drones with information on how each flies.
Single-Rotor Helicopter Drone
One design is the single-rotor helicopter drone. As the name suggests, this type of drone mimics the technology found on larger helicopters, such as a single rotor that drives propulsion and lift.
Just like helicopters, single-rotor drones have a secondary smaller rotor placed near the rear, known as a tail rotor. The tail rotor is responsible for controlling the direction and providing additional stability.
Single-rotor drones often use variable pitch rotors, which adjust the pitch of the rotors as needed during flight for stability and control. This type of drone usually performs vertical takeoff and landing.
A Single-Rotor Drone
Multi-rotor drones have more than two rotors and most commonly come with four. The additional rotors allow for a more simplistic design, as each rotor uses fixed-pitch blades. The control is provided by increasing the speed of each rotor for thrust and torque where necessary.
This type of drone comes in a range of options. A drone with three rotors is a tricopter, four rotors is a quadcopter, six rotors is a hexacopter, and eight rotors is an octocopter. The most common arrangement for recreational drones is a quadcopter design with four rotors.
There is also a rare bicopter arrangement. A bicopter is a type of drone that has two rotors, rather than the more common four or more rotors found on other types of drones. Bicopters are less common than other types of drones because they are generally less stable and less efficient at flying than drones with more rotors. However, they can still be used for certain tasks, such as carrying small payloads or providing aerial photography or video footage.
Most multi-rotor drones are powered by batteries connected to electric motors that turn the rotors and blades.
A Bicopter Drone
A Quadcopter Drone
Remember These Common Arrangements
- Two Rotors – Bicopter
- Three Rotors – Tricopter
- Four Rotors – Quadcopter
- Six Rotors – Hexcopter
- Eight Rotors – Octocopter
Fixed-wing drones are unmanned aerial vehicles that can be self-propelled, pure gliders, or a combination of the two designs, using proposition and gliding characteristics. Most self-propelled, fixed-wing drones utilize a single propeller turned by a combustion engine or electric motor.
As the name implies, these drones feature a fixed wing that helps create lift for flying.
This class of drones can use a wide variety of power sources – larger models and older models typically rely on a gasoline or diesel engine to power the propeller. But electric motors are becoming more popular overall and can be powered via batteries and solar power.
The takeoff and landing methods for fixed-wing drones depend on the model. Some can be launched via hand launching, while others require a runway. Vertical takeoff and landing are possible for some fixed-winged drones.
Remember the Harrier jet and its vertical takeoff and landing? That’s basically what a fixed-wing drone can look like if it performs vertical takeoff and landing. Although they usually aren’t jet-propelled.
A Fixed Wing Drone
The Wild Range of Drone Prices
Drones come in lots of different sizes, and the price depends on how big it is and what it can do. You can get a tiny drone for just a few dollars, but it probably won’t have a camera. If you want a bigger drone with a fancy camera, you’ll have to pay more. Some of the best brands on the drone market like DJI, Yuneec, and Parrot cost between $100 and $500 and come packed with drone technology. Just don’t fly it into your neighbor’s pool (unless you want to be the one to fish it out).
Industrial drones are used in a variety of industries, including construction, mining, and oil and gas. These drones are typically larger and more powerful than consumer drones and are designed to withstand harsh environments. They can be equipped with a variety of sensors and cameras to gather data and perform inspections. Industrial drones can cost anywhere from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on their size, capabilities, and features.
Military dronesor military unmanned aircraft, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), are used by the armed forces for a variety of purposes, including surveillance, intelligence gathering, and targeted strikes. Military drones can range in size from small, hand-launched models to large, aircraft-sized drones. Some military drones are designed to be armed with missiles or other weapons. The cost of military drones can vary widely, but they are generally much more expensive than consumer or industrial drones, with some models costing millions of dollars (and you won’t find them on the typical drone market)
How Do Drones Work?
Teams carefully design and engineer drones to fly. They consist of a frame structure with a power source and the rotor(s) attached. These systems work together to fly in a controlled manner, usually receiving input from a stationary pilot.
Navigation and control are performed by a combination of onboard technology, including GPS and LIDAR sensors which are connected to the flight controller. This information is fed to artificial intelligence or a remote control operated by a human, and the aircraft maneuvers are based on the input provided.
The pilot or artificial intelligence will tell the drone to take off, maneuver, and land, using the rotors to provide thrust and control.
Either through artificial intelligence, human input through the remote control, or a combination of the two, drones take off after receiving the directive.
The most popular recreational drone, a quadcopter, almost always does a vertical takeoff and can be initiated by pushing a button or flicking a joystick. It can be a bit intimidating to initiate the flight sequence of a drone for the first time, but after some experience, it becomes a routine and simple task.
Maneuvering in Air
Once in the air, the drone can follow a preset path based on GPS coordinates, or it can be remote controlled by a human through the flight controller. The pilot typically controls the elevation, direction, and speed while also controlling the yaw (the way the front/rear face) and any cameras or other functions.
Drone pilots can follow the drone in flight through visual contact by looking at it in the sky or through a GPS-based navigation system on the remote control.
If you’ve never flown a remotely piloted aircraft before, it can be a thrilling experience. Many remote controls show you a bird’s-eye view, which gives you a glimpse into the feeling of flying.
Landing a Drone
Once done flying the drone, either due to a lack of battery or its purpose is complete, the drone needs to land. Much like taking off, one can land a drone through human pilot input, artificial intelligence, or a combination of the two.
Many popular recreational drones allow a user to bring the drone to a select landing area, then press a single button and the drone will land itself and shut off the rotors. Others require careful landing on runways or by human input the entire time.
Drone Roles and Their Uses
It is remarkable how many different roles and uses drones have. While I love my little recreational drone for having fun and taking a few photos, others have more specialized purposes and are flying tools packed with drone technology.
Based on my experience, most people you see with a drone at a park, in the forest, on the beach, or somewhere with similarly beautiful surroundings are using it as a sky-high camera to take photos or videos.
The unique drone perspective results in incredible photos, showing a side of reality that we can’t often see. When taking video, gimbels provide smooth, stable footage. And you can point the lens in many ways during flight to create photos and videos with a lot of character.
Imagine a video that starts with a shot looking straight down into crystal-clear water; then the drone begins to fly toward one side as the camera pans up, unveiling a stunning sunset over the sea. Those are the types of shots that drone photographers love.
Photography drones are also common in more mundane settings, such as real estate listings, event photos, and surveillance purposes.
Recreation and Having Fun
Some people fly drones purely for the thrill of it! Just like how some people love to go on amusement park rides or bungee jump, drone pilots get a rush from flying through tight spaces, performing tricks, and exploring new areas. And it’s not just hobbyists who enjoy flying drones for fun – even professional pilots love to take a break from their usual duties and fly a drone for the sheer joy of it.
In addition to flying drones for fun, some people also enjoy flying them using a technique called FPV, or First Person View. With FPV, the pilot wears a headset or uses a screen to see a live video feed from the drone’s camera, as if they were sitting in the cockpit. This gives the pilot a sense of being “inside” the drone and allows for a more immersive flying experience.
FPV drones are typically smaller and more agile than other types of drones, as they need to be able to navigate tight spaces and make quick turns. They often have a streamlined design and are equipped with high-quality cameras and video transmitters to provide a clear and stable video feed.
FPV drone racing has become a popular sport, with pilots competing to see who can navigate a course the fastest. These races are usually held in large indoor or outdoor spaces, and pilots use their FPV headsets or screens to guide their drones through the course. FPV racing can be intense and requires a high level of skill and concentration, as pilots have to react quickly to obstacles and other hazards.
But it’s not just about the thrill of the flight – drones also provide a new perspective on the world. By flying a drone, you can get a bird’s eye view of your surroundings and see things from a different angle. This can be especially fun in places with interesting terrain, such as forests, mountains, or coastal areas.
So the next time you see someone flying a drone, don’t assume they’re just taking boring old aerial photos – they could be having the time of their lives!
Here is a helpful guide if you ever wondered how to fly a drone. Its worth giving it a go!
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has taken a cautious approach to the use of drones in order to ensure the safety and privacy of the public. As a recreational drone pilot you are allowed to fly drones weighing less than 250 grams (0.55 pounds) with a few exceptions. You can find out more here.
As drone technology continues to evolve, the Federal Aviation Administration will likely continue to review and update its regulations to ensure that drones are used safely and responsibly.
Agriculture and Wildlife
Drones are valuable tools for watching over large areas of land or packs of animals. Ranchers can use them to keep tabs on livestock herds, while farmers can complete field surveys or estimate crop yield.
Drones are also helpful tools for wildlife and environmental protection.
They can view and track endangered animals or provide deeper insight into the movement of large packs. Their ability to fly into isolated areas gives us an idea of what otherwise inaccessible areas look like, including forest growth or wildfire risk assessment.
It’s always incredible seeing new technology being leveraged to assist when disaster strikes, and drones have proven their value in this arena time and time again. If one thing is certain, it’s that drones are going to become even more useful as emergency tools.
Drones have spotted people buried in avalanches, provided gear and food to stranded individuals in dire need, and identified flood-impact areas. They have even been used to help fight fires.
The ability of drones to help out during emergencies is essentially limitless. They are not only eyes in the sky but also can carry vital equipment to first responders and rescue crews.
Rapid Drone Deliveries
We all love fast shipping, right? It’s amazing how we can place an order online and receive the package in just a few short hours or days.
Drones are revolutionizing the last-mile delivery needs of the world.
Rather than depend on fleets of trucks, drones could deliver relatively light packages, around 50 pounds or less, directly from a warehouse to your doorstep or backyard. Many retailers and logistics companies are currently testing this capacity.
Can you imagine a world where you order something from an online vendor and within minutes, it shows up at your doorstep? Maybe it’s a delivery pizza or perhaps a much-needed roll of toilet paper. Whatever the case, having drone deliveries could be an amazing way to increase delivery speed.
One of the key technologies behind this is called GNSS, or Global Navigation Satellite System.
GNSS satellites are a network of satellites that orbit the earth and transmit signals that can be used to determine the location of a receiver on the ground. By using GNSS signals, drones are able to determine their precise location and orientation in real-time, which is what allows the drone to fly autonomously.
So the next time you see a drone flying smoothly and accurately, you can thank the drone GNSS satellites for helping to guide it on its way.
Military use of drones in the air force has been going on for many decades, starting mainly as surveillance operations as early as World War II on remote-controlled unmanned aircraft.
Today, the military uses drones with sophisticated technology such as thermal imaging, laser range finders, and advanced cameras for many purposes. Their biggest benefit is that the pilot can remain far away from dangerous areas, while the aircraft can go nearly anywhere in the world.
Most controversially, military drones can be used to perform airstrikes.
Drones are revolutionizing the way we create 3D models! Gone are the days of having to spend hours walking around a site with a tape measure and a camera – now, we can just send in a drone to do the job.
Using specialized software and cameras, drones can capture high-resolution images and video of a site from multiple angles. This data is then used to create a 3D model of the site, which can be used for a variety of purposes, such as architectural design, construction planning, and site analysis. This is one of the latest development sin drone technology.
In addition to using cameras and software to create 3D models, drones can also be equipped with LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) sensors. LiDAR sensors work by emitting lasers and measuring the time it takes for the lasers to bounce back to the sensor. By analyzing the data collected from the lasers, LiDAR sensors can create high-resolution 3D maps of a site. So if you see a drone with a strange-looking laser beam on the front, you’ll know it’s not trying to take over the world – it’s just collecting data for a 3D model.
But it’s not just about saving time – drones also allow us to create more accurate and detailed models. Because they can fly at different altitudes and angles, drones can capture features that might be difficult or impossible to see from the ground. This means we can create models that are more complete and accurate than ever before.
So the next time you see a drone buzzing around, just know that it could be hard at work creating the next big 3D model.
How Drones Revolutionised Aerial Videos
Undoubtably drones had the biggest effect on aerial photography and videography. But why?
In the past, hiring a helicopter or airplane for aerial videography could cost thousands of dollars per day. In addition, the pilot and crew had to be paid, and specialized insurance was often required. Drones, on the other hand, can be purchased for a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, depending on the model and features. Operating a drone does not require a specialized pilot’s license, and insurance is typically less expensive. As a result, drones have made aerial videography much more accessible and cost-effective.
Drones can fly in places that helicopters and airplanes cannot, such as at low altitudes or in tight spaces. This allows for the capture of unique and creative aerial shots that were not previously possible. For example, a drone could fly through a narrow canyon or hover close to the ground to capture a shot of a person running.
Using a drone to capture aerial footage is generally safer than using a helicopter or airplane, as there is no risk of pilot error or mechanical failure. In addition, drones are much smaller and lighter than helicopters and airplanes, which means they pose less of a risk to people and property on the ground.
Drone technology has come a long way in recent years, and it continues to evolve at a rapid pace. From small consumer drones to large industrial and military drones, there is a wide range of options available to meet different needs and budgets.
One of the key features of drone technology is the ability to fly autonomously and remotely, either through a controller or a computer program. This allows drones to go places that might be difficult or impossible for a person to access, such as high altitudes, tight spaces, or dangerous environments.
Drone technology also includes a variety of sensors and cameras that allow drones to gather data and perform tasks. For example, drones can be equipped with LiDAR sensors to create 3D maps of a site, or with thermal cameras to detect heat signatures. Some drones even have the ability to carry payloads, such as packages or equipment, making them useful for a variety of industrial and military applications.
The potential uses for drone technology are virtually limitless, and it will be exciting to see what new developments emerge in the future. Whether it’s for fun, work, or something in between, drones are sure to play a major role in our lives for years to come.
Here are a few of the most commonly asked questions regarding drones and their usage.
What is a drone in simple words?
A drone is a type of aircraft that is controlled remotely, either by a person using a remote control or by a computer program. Drones can be used for a variety of purposes, such as taking photographs, carrying goods, or conducting surveillance. Some drones are small and lightweight, while others are large and powerful.
Can drones carry humans?
There are some drones that have been designed to carry humans, but they are not very common. These types of drones are usually larger and more powerful than typical drones, and they are equipped with safety features such as a harness or a cage to keep the person secure. However, most drones are not designed to carry humans and are not safe for this purpose. It is generally not recommended to attempt to fly a drone with a person on board unless it is specifically designed and certified for this purpose.
What are drones used for?
Drones are aircraft that are controlled remotely and have a variety of uses, including photography and videography, delivery of goods, agriculture, surveillance, search and rescue, entertainment, and military and law enforcement operations. Some drones are designed to carry humans, but most are not and should not be used for this purpose.
Why is it called a drone?
The term drone originates from the Old English word for male bees responsible for mating with the queen bee. It eventually became a term for laziness, and then in the 1930s, the British military developed a remote-controlled aircraft called the Queen Bee. Some called it a drone that plays on the Old English definition, and the term stuck.
Are model airplanes also drones?
Model airplanes usually fit the definition of a drone, also known as an unmanned aerial vehicle or unmanned aircraft. Some people use the term drone only to refer to more modern designs such as battery-powered quadcopters, but remote-controlled model airplanes are technically drones too.
Are recreational drones really drones?
While the term drone doesn’t have a strict definition, most people do consider recreational drones to be real drones. Some of the confusion can come from the fact that the term for small recreational drones is shared by fixed-wing military aircraft, but both meet the common definition of drones. As long as it is an unmanned aircraft then its a drone.
So, What Is a Drone?
Isn’t it amazing how many different types of drones there are? They can be used for all sorts of purposes, come in an assortment of designs, and can be powered through many methods.
At their heart, drones are nothing more than unmanned aircraft that can be controlled by humans or artificial intelligence. Their designs can be single rotor, multi-rotor, or fixed wing, and they can be powered by gasoline and diesel engines, as well as battery power.
For me, there’s nothing better than using a small drone to have fun in the sky while capturing some fantastic photos. Others use them more as a tool, including many photography professionals, wildlife needs, and military purposes.
There’s no one right way to use a drone. Instead, there are a million purposes for these incredible pieces of technology.
Hopefully now you can easily answer the question “what is a drone” and impress your friends with this vast knowledge.