The Drone, also known as the UAV or Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, is an aircraft without a human pilot on board. The control of the drone is managed either through a preloaded program into the aircraft’s computer or through radio communication with the controller on the ground as well along with various sensors present in the drone itself such as radar, accelerometer, GPS, etc.
The first recorded use of a drone was in July 1849 as a balloon carrier (precursor to the aircraft carrier). Drones in the earlier days were majorly used as dummy targets by training military personnel from the mid-1910s.
Further development proceeded during the WW1 with the Hewitt-Sperry Automatic Airplane and Kettering Bug by Charles Kettering from Dayton, Ohio. Significant progress was also made during WW2 with both allied and axis powers developing their own UAVs. Post-war utilization for UAVs has mainly been in S&R operations and military sorties. UAVs have seen widespread use almost in every major war after the second world war such as the War of Attrition, Yom Kippur War, Lebanon War, the Gulf War, etc. Very recently, drones have seen popular adoption into the mainstream market.
Working of a Drone:
Drones have found vast utility in both the military and the consumer markets from recreational/hobbyist purposes to gathering intel on enemy positions. It achieves flight and navigation through having a lightweight airframe, rotors, propellers and a fuel source such, as a battery pack. They are made lightweight and durable through the use of materials such as aluminium or carbon fibre that also aids in increasing the drone’s manoeuvrability and range.
A more aerodynamic airframe for a drone is also a great advantage to have. as it has a smaller drag coefficient, thus facing less air resistance as the drone moves through the same, further bolstering its range as less energy is wasted in trying to overcome drag.
A simple drone is made up of a handful of parts. Such parts might include:
- Brushless DC Motors.
- Power Source
- ESC (Electronic Speed Controller)
- Flight Controller
Specialized drones additionally, might also use a vast array of sensors and equipment depending on what the drone is used for such as:
- GPS Module
- Ultrasonic Sensors
- Collision avoidance sensors
- Laser Distance Sensors
- Infrared Sensors
Types of Drones:
The drone platform can widely be classified into two categories:
- Rotor (such as Quadcopters, Octocopters, etc)
- Fixed Wing or Hybrid VTOL (Vertical Take-Off and Landing)
Based on the use case, drones can again be classified into three categories.:
Commercial/Hobbyist drones might include recreational features such as the capability to take aerial shots, record HD video footage, etc. Enterprise drones might include features such as powerful rotors for lifting heavier weights, the larger power sources for increased range, etc. The military makes use of the drone for surveillance or offensive purposes and as such might include features such as surveillance cameras, radar, weapon mounting hardpoints, etc.
Autonomous swarms of drones operating in a hive mind utilizing dense communication channels to relay information amongst one another, can survey, identify and track numerous targets/area which can be used for both military applications as well as in fault detection systems in a building, keeping human lives safer and optimizing human resources to function even more efficiently, thousands of times a second.