What do you send on a mission that is too dull, dirty or dangerous for mankind? UAVs are the solution to this and they also have many other applications.
An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is also called an unmanned aircraft system or a drone. Although this was initially a device used by the military, it now has many applications in day-to-day life, including photography, filming, delivery, and observation. It is also a device that people build or buy as a hobby.
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The History of UAVs
The first idea for a UAV came from the Austrians in 1849. They used an unmanned balloon to transport bombs in an attack on Venice. Despite the success of this mission, drone innovations didn’t begin until the early twentieth-century and the main application of these was as targets used to train military personnel.
In 1915, Nikola Tesla an unmanned aerial combat vehicle and then A. M. Low made the first attempt at building a UAV. This was called ‘Aerial Target’. Further advances in this technology were made throughout World War I. During World War II, improved models emerged and these were used to fly attack missions and train aircraft gunners. The Germans also used UAVs throughout the war.
Until the Vietnam War, most drones were little more than remote-controlled airplanes. Throughout this war, the Americans used UAVs to a significant extent. It was a strategy to save the lives of airmen on high-risk missions.
By 2013, over 50 countries were using UAVs for military purposes. However, advances in drone technology mean that there are now wider applications for these devices.
What Are the Different Types of UAV?
UAVs fall into different categories. Sometimes, they are simply defined by their size, so there are very small, mini, medium and large drones. However, they are more often defined by their performance and divided into the following categories:
- Very close range drones- This is the most popular type of drone for those who are using them as a toy or for leisure purposes. They can fly for up to 45 minutes and have a range of five kilometers. They have a similar design to model aircraft.
- Close range drones- An operator can control these drones within a range of 50 kilometers and are often used by the military for surveillance missions. The high-power battery gives them a flight time of between one and six hours.
- Short range drones- These are often used by the military. They have a flight time of up to 12 hours and a range of 150 kilometers.
- Mid-range drones- As they have a range of approximately 650 kilometers and fly at high-speed, these UAVs are often used for surveillance or for collecting meteorological data.
- Endurance drones- These are the best type of drones available as they can reach a maximum height of 30,000 feet and have a maximum flight time of 36 hours. One use of this type of drone is high-end surveillance.
Types of commercial UAV drone:
What is Inside a UAV? The Components
A UAV is made of many components. It is important to understand what these are so that you can operate and maintain your UAV properly. It is also useful information if you intend to build your own UAV from scratch. Although each model is different, most UAVs are constructed using the following components:
- Frame- This is the basic design and structure that holds together the components. There are different frame types available. The most common of these include singlecopter, tricopter, quadcopter, hexacopter and octocopter.
- Propellers- Propellers are the component that gives your UAV lift. They are located on the sides of a drone and the number will vary depending on the frame type. If you are looking for a UAV for sale, you should always check the propellers before buying. If you are building an aerial drone yourself, then you should opt for low pitch propellers as these give perfect vibration and stability.
- Flight controller- Often referred to as the brains of a UAV, there are different varieties of this component. Gyro sensors are an alternative to flight controllers.
- Motors- The power system of a drone is dependent on the motor, so this is an important component. Brushless motors are most commonly used.
- Electronic speed controller- An electronic speed controller, or ESC, is provides electronically generated power to brush motors. These usually have a programming facility, including throttle range and battery mode.
- Battery- This is what gives the UAV its power. Lithium powered batteries are lighter and provide more energy than other types of battery.
- Computing- Computing technology for drones follows the advances of computing technology. It began with analog controls and then advanced to microcontrollers, system-on-chip and single-board computers.
- Software- The software used in a drone generally depends on its purpose and use. UAV software is called autopilot or the flight stack. These are real-time systems.
What is Drone Technology?
Drone technology simply refers to the continued development and evolution of unmanned aerial vehicles. The technology used on these devices is constantly changing and improving to make them suitable for a wide range of different purposes.
What Makes a Drone a Drone?
A common query is what the difference is between a drone and remote controlled helicopters. Strictly speaking, they are both classified as unmanned aerial vehicles according to the FAA. However, a drone usually has additional capabilities other than simply line-of-sight flight.
Who Should Use a Drone?
Most drones are used by the military for a variety of purposes, including surveillance, data collection, and deploying ammunition. However, the military are not the only people who can use a UAV as they now have a wide range of applications. Film and production companies also use drones for aerial imagery. Meteorologists use this technology to collect data about the weather. Some people who have an interest in remote controlled vehicles take their hobby one step further by building or buying drones for leisure purposes.
How to Use a UAV Drone
Before you fly a drone, you should always first check the rules and regulations in your country for their use. This will help you to avoid breaching any regulations and finding yourself in trouble.
When you first get your drone, read all the instructions for setting up the device properly. Each model is different and it is important you follow each step carefully. Similarly, if you are adding any accessories, make sure they are attached in the proper manner in accordance with the instructions.
It is sensible to do a practice flight in a remote area, such as a place with no buildings or members of the public. This will give you the opportunity to get to grips with how the device works and learn how to operate the drone properly. If you are using a camera, it is also a chance to take a few practice shots before flying the drone for real.
Some tips to get the most out of your drone and make it an enjoyable experience include:
- Fly within range
- Do not exceed height regulations of air authorities
- Use the autopilot mode if your drone has one
Taking good care of your drone aircraft is essential for it to continue working at its best. The following tips will help you to maintain your drone aircraft properly:
- Before each flight, charge the drone fully.
- The props are important and you should check these before every flight. If there is any damage, you should fix or replace the props.
- Check each of the sensors as these ensure a smooth flight.
- Make sure the motor is aligned and functioning properly.
- Always make sure the controller board is clean.
How Much Are UAVs?
The cost of UAVs varies significantly. The cheapest option is to build a drone yourself if it is simply for use as a toy. If you are looking for drones for sale, you will be surprised and the vast difference between the cheapest drones for sale and the most expensive. The price typically reflects the type of drone, its size, its performance and its capabilities.
As a general guide, it is possible to buy a beginner’s drone for as little as $100. If you want a drone with a camera, the prices for these start at around $200, though professional models with features cost significantly more. More complex models with programmable features start at around $1,000. The most advanced models can cost thousands of dollars. Priced at $300,000, the ‘Ehang 184’ is the most expensive drone on the market at the moment.
How to Choose the Best UAV
The right UAV for one person is not necessarily the right UAV for the next. When deciding which is the best UAV to buy, there are several things you need to take into consideration. The first is how you intend to use the UAV. Are you simply buying a UAV as a hobby or do you have a specific professional purpose that is motivating your purchase?
Next, you should consider your budget. The price range of drones varies significantly when comparing the cheapest drones for sale to the most expensive. Decide if the type of drone you are looking for is available within your budget is if you must save before making your purchase.
Think about the different types of drone available and how each of them meets your personal needs. Are you looking for a UAV based on its size or its performance? If necessary, list the pros and cons of each type of drone as this may help you come to a decision.
Online reviews are also very insightful and a good way of learning more about what is currently available on the market. The advantage of reading online reviews is that they make direct comparisons between different types and models of drones. The disadvantage is they are sometimes biased and it is important to take this into consideration.
If you have friends or family members who own a drone, then speaking to them about their experiences is a good way to get a realistic view of the model they have. They can identify the pros and cons of their own model and this will help you to decide if you want something similar or not.
Forums are an alternative if you do not have friends or family that share your interest in UAVs. You can ask fellow drone enthusiasts for their opinions on the best drones for sale. They will have the necessary experience and knowledge to answer your questions and are less likely to be biased than online reviews.
There are accessories available that allow you to customize your drone so it meets your requirements and does the job you want. Some of the top accessories include:
- FPV system- FPV stands for ‘first-person view’. It is used so that a person can control their drone from their viewpoint via video images.
- Camera- You can use the camera on a drone to take aerial shots, record the flight and photograph specific objects.
- 3-Axis gimbal- A gimbal is a pivot that allows the rotation of an object. On a drone, these are generally used to position the camera.
- Extra batteries- Sometimes batteries will need replacing, so it makes sense to keep a few spares at home.
- Landing pad- If you want to dedicate a space to land your drone, then a landing pad is the ideal accessory.
- Telemetry system- This is a system used to collect and record data.
Is UAVs Safe?
One concern that many people have is how safe UAVs really are. The first point to make is that these are a technological device and all devices that rely on the proper functioning of the technology have the potential to fail due to a fault. However, this does not mean they are any riskier than any other technological device.
The unmanned aerial vehicles used in the military are the most advanced drones available and these are operated by experienced and fully trained specialists. Although their missions are risky, these do not pose any safety risks. They will only cause harm if this is their intended purpose and they have a specific target.
In terms of drones used for leisure purposes, it is human error that poses the biggest risk. For example, flying the drone for too long means the battery life may run out and then the drone could fall from the sky and injure a bystander. Careful and considerate use of the drone will greatly increase safety.
Unmanned aerial vehicles can serve either a practical purpose or can be bought for fun. There are many different types of UAV available and prices vary significantly depending on the size, the type, the performance and the functions of each drone. Drone technology is evolving all the time with new innovations to improve the performance of drones and customize them for specific purposes. It is possible to build your own UAV if you buy drone components separately. It is important that you maintain your drone well and check regulations thoroughly before flying to reduce any safety risks.