My love for drones started in 2011, when “Osama Bin Laden” was captured and killed. I saw the monumental task drones performed in the surveillance of the terrorist. As i watched top military personnel speak on the television about the incident and how drones have played a vital role in preventing numerous terrorist attacks and has made operations easier for the military.
However, I became more fascinated by drones this past few years as application of drones increasingly began to find use in several other sectors such as Photography, weather analysis, video coverage, commercial contracting, search and rescue, forestry etc
Drone source: pixabay
In recent times drones have become a part of the everyday life of some businesses and individuals because of the immense way it has contributed to the ease of operation of different professionals, businesses and hobbyist in their daily activities. This can be attributed to massive investment in drone technology especially the business and consumer drones which has led to the fast pace of drone technology.
Due to new innovations and the constantly evolving drone technology, drones basically come in different shapes and sizes depending on the use. From the largest and most advanced drones such as the Predator drone used for military purposes to the smaller drones which can be launched from the palm of one’s hand
At this point let me not fail to point out that initially drones were developed for the military to carry out surveillance and intelligent operations since it completely eliminates “human sacrifice” scenarios and lowers insurance. The drones were primarily created to eliminate risking lives of the personnels and perform various tasks such as providing tactical support, hacking purposes, to observe traffic, bomb detection, dropping missiles etc at the lowest risk possible.
With so much advancement in technology more variant of drones are being produced regularly and Drones are not only used in fields that involves risking lifes such as search and rescue, locating defects in structures, Carrying information to inaccessible locations.
Drones are now so sophisticated and depending on the state of the art feature of the drone, they have a wide range of activities in various Commercial fields that have facilitated productivity in ways that are unimaginable for example in agriculture drones are fantastic tool for commercial farmers because it helps them to monitor their vast fields and livestock’s
It also helps construction engineers see their projects from all the angles and help to spot errors and facilitate accuracy in their construction.
Drones are now a core part of film industry, News reporting, photography because it has made production easier for professionals.
once the drone is programmed with a GPS location, the drone could fly itself to the exact location and await further instructions while it holds its position or the drone can follow the user around by tracking the signals from the user’s mobile phone: this feature is called the “follow me mode"
In the field of electronics, aeronautics and robotics drones are one of the most advanced equipment and By now you would realize that Drones are combination of all advanced technologies, working perfectly together to deliver to the user a worthwhile performance for the different application it is used for.
What then are drones?
Technically drones are referred to as “Unmanned Aerial Vehicles” (UAVs). Drones are aerial vehicles which are controlled either by remote or control systems from the ground or it can work autonomously as per set mode.
In a simpler way I like to refer to drones as a flying robot or computer. The physical components of the drones are controlled by the intelligent software installed in the drones, and this software also help to effectively manage the drones from a remote unit.
Parts of a drone
Most drones basically consist of some similar system, so right before I discuss the operations of a drone I would like to give a brief insight about some of the basic components.
The Frame provide Support and add strength to the drone and it is basically made from carbon fiber or plastic, although carbon fiber is preferable because of its strength and light weight. There is different variation for the arrangement of the frame: it could either be tri, quad, hex or even octo arrangements.
Weight is a crucial element of the drone and to achieve the best flight characteristics, the center of gravity must be kept towards the center of the drone by putting most of the weight towards the center of the drone
The motors used by the drones are entirely based on the function of the drone as well as the power required by the drone. For instance, a Slower spinning higher torque motor would be suitable for a drone that is being built to have the best possible flight time and still carry heavy payloads.
Propellers simply keeps the drone flying and to maneuver by generating thrust and torque. Propellers can be made from plastic or carbon fiber, although carbon fiber is preferable and they come in different shapes and sizes depending in their use. FOR precise flight to take place propellers must be balanced.
Batteries are the power sources that drives all the systems on the drone and allows it to fly. Batteries come in different weight and capacities. The more the capacity of the batteries, the more the weight of the drone, so its mandatory to find the perfect battery capacity and weight that suit your drone and how compatible they are with the flight controller, motors and electronic speed controller.
Electronic Speed Controller (ESC):
The ESC dictates the speed and runs the motors of the drone. If motors move at the same speed, hovering would be inevitable so to avoid hovering the motors constantly spin at different speed and it’s the ESC that ensures this takes place smoothly. The amount of current constantly supplied to the drone’s motor system by the ESC is what determines their ratings.
Transmitter and Receiver:
As their name implies the transmitter basically transmits the signals, the receiver on the other hand is connected to the flight controller and it delivers the signal it receives and also delivers the response to the motors to take action. The combination of the transmitter and receiver make up the remote control that helps operate the drone.
The channels required by the drone for operation is what determines the type of transmitter to be used. The more the features of the drone the more the channels that would be required.
How do drone works
Now that we know the basic parts of the drone, I can now show you how these parts work together to achieve flight and smooth operation.
The navigation systems and sensors in the drone are located in the nose of the drone and depending on the size of the drone, they can either be launched easily by hand or they would require a short runway for it to take off
To reduce weight and ensure increased maneuverability, drones are mostly made up of light composite materials that can absorb vibration which in turn decrease the noise, the strength of this materials ensures determines the altitude to which the drones can fly.
The launching, navigation abilities, landing and general movement of the drone is determined by the controller. Proper communication channel between the radio waves and the remote unit’s communication is established by the Controller. For example, some controllers a boxy unit with two thumb joysticks and a collapsible antenna and use 2.4gigahertz radio waves or some look like a gamepad or some could use software programs on smartphones, tablets or computers.
Drone controller source: pixabay
When power flows from the batteries of the drone to the rotor motors, the propellers start spinning Each spinning propeller creates its own torque and they create a Lift for the drone, the more lift the drone has the more weight the drone can carry and the higher and faster the drone would move. The lift of the drone is determined by the rotors. The more rotors a drone have, the more lift the drone has.
The drone keeps moving higher and higher and continuously overcome the force of gravity as the rotors are Rev up. Once the rotors of the drone are Rev up.
However, if the Lift of the drone is really small the drone would moan, groan and eventually crash and in some cases the drone might not get off the ground.
The direction and altitude of the drone is changed by the spin of each propeller relative to the other.
For forward motion to occur in the drone, the propellers at the front would apply less power while the propellers at the back apply more power: that way forward motion is achieved and the same applies to the various roll motion of the drone.
For the drone to make an upwards or downward motion, power is simply increased to the whole propeller system to make an upward motion or decreased to make a downward motion
For the drone to tilt to one side, this can easily be achieved by creating more lift on the side of the drone we want. So basically for the drone to tilt two of the rotors spin faster on side, when this occurs some of the upward lifts turns into a sideways force. At this point the drone can now move forward or backwards.
I am sure by now you understand how drones make certain movements, but you don’t need to worry about all the details because the algorithms and code built into the drone does all this automatically at the push of a button and apply the necessary power to each propellers when required to make movements.
For the drone to maintain its orientation in space, drones make use of Accelerometers and gyroscopes, without this instruments in place the drone cannot fly safe and can easily crash to the ground or even injure the user or any unsuspecting individual. This instruments detect all the directional cues such as linear acceleration, tilt etc and ensures the drone doesn’t crash.
The sensors on the drone determines the speed, altitude and motor rotation as well as help the drone stay in the air for long period and adequately ensure the drone maintains the required height and in the required direction.
The drone makes use of specially designed multi propellers to reduce failure such that if at any point any motor in the drone stops working, the drone keeps flying regardless because the drone gets its support from the propellers working in groups. The multi propellers is thereby a key component that ensures the drone is independent. However, nowadays drones come with automatic features that help reduce risks and simplify some of the difficult aspects of flying drones such as the landing assistance.
Lastly, most drone have removable batteries to ensure they fly longer…. Drones with powerful batteries can fly longer and cover large distances, so the flight time of a drone can be increased simply by using more powerful batteries that would not compromise the weight of the drone itself.
There is no doubt that drones are truly an engineering spectacle, it is the combination of all advanced technologies, working perfectly together to deliver to the user a worthwhile performance for the different application it is used for.
Drones are useful equipment for professionals, companies as well as the military. However, drones are more or less like flying computers, with an operating system, main boards with programmable code, flight controllers and they can also be hacked if proper structures are not put in place, so if you intend buying a drone anytime soon be sure to protect your priced possession from hackers.
New innovations and modifications are constantly being done on the structure and internal electronics of a drone and all the latest drones have advanced intelligent flight controllers and fantastic modes like the follow me feature, Active tracking, Waypoints and the Return To home modes etc