Do you have questions or doubts related to Aerial Surveying or Drone Technology in general? Our answers to these FAQs should clear them all.
What is a Drone?
‘Drone’ is the word used in a more informal lingo. The word ‘Drone’ can refer to military drones and at the same time a male bee. It can also refer to a constant buzzing sound. The correct technical term for consumer drones is sUAS – Small Unmanned Aerial System. This is the term more commonly used in technical and research circles. However, the word Drone has been used so often in media and everyday discussions that this is the word most people identify with and this is the word we shall be using for all intents and purposes on our website.
Drones in the present context are typically fixed-wing or rotor wing aircrafts of varying sizes that perform various functions depending on what kind of equipment they are fitted with. Most consumer drones are typically flying cameras that are capable of 4K resolution video and have a host of flying modes such as ‘Follow Me’, ‘Point of Interest’ etc. Drones fitted with different kinds of sensors or other equipment can collect data like Thermal Images, NIR Images and more. Drones fitted with high-payload capable motors and propellers can lift quite some weight and can be used for delivery for emergency supplies (as is being done in Africa) or for logistics purposes. And then there’s these drones from Apellix that are tethered to a point on the ground and are capable of spraying large structures with paint and other such chemicals.
What are the current applications of this aerial technology?
Whatever you can imagine. That’s right. Each day, we hear about never before heard of applications for this aerial technology. While the current and potential list of applications are left to imagination, we shall try to list out a few we have heard off over the last few months:
- Aerial Photography and Videography
- Aerial Surveying
- Traffic Monitoring
- Disaster Relief
- Real-time Traffic Monitoring
- Law & Order Maintenance
- Construction Industry
- Military Surveillance
- Wild Land Fire Spotting
- Search and Rescue
- Power Line Inspection
- Project Monitoring
- Healthcare delivery
- FPV Racing
- Solar/Wind Plant maintenance
- Tracking Deforestation
- Pesticide Spraying for Agriculture
- Spray painting large structures
- Cleaning of high-rise buildings
And many more..
What can one expect from drones in the future?
We ourselves have pretty ambitious goals for the future of this technology. However, let us not get into the details of it now. Our understanding is that as the technology evolves, the first major breakthrough would be logistics in populated cities. This is expected to happen around the year 2020-2021 as per NASA’s UTM plan. Once this happens, once can expect a movement in the forward direction for manned drones – flying cars if you would like to call them so. Flying cars are not an unheard of technology. Atleast half a dozen companies including the ones such as U.S. based Terrafugia, Slovakia based Aeromobil are already working on prototypes and might soon come up with a market ready model.
While these potential applications are more on the logistics and personal transportation side, drones are poised to take up roles that are traditionally branded risky for humans. These include ones like painting/cleaning of high-rise structures. A couple of companies have already started working on these applications.
Is there a way to classify these Commercial/Consumer drones?
More than one. Some classify drones as Fixed-wing/Rotor-Wing. Some classify the more commonly used Rotor-Wing drones by the number of propellers they sport – Tricopter, Quadcopter, Hexacopter, Octocopter and so on. These kind of classifications are more based on the structure aspects. Having said that, there is no universally accepted classification for drones (sUAS) yet. Each country defines the categories in its own way while setting the regulations for usage of drones for Commercial/Non-Commercial purposes. Classification is usually done in these regulations on weight bases and the categories are one or more of the following:
Nano drones usually involve the small toy drones that one flies indoors or in low wind conditions. It can also include the experimental ones in R&D labs that are tested for surveillance purposes.
Micro, Mini and Small is where the majority of the consumer drones such as DJI Phantom, DJI Inspire, 3DR Solo, Parrot Bebop, GoPro Karma and more fall under.
Medium and Large category usually refer to the ones with heavy payloads and military drones that weigh hundreds of kgs.
Whichever way we define, we will end up being wrong if we put weight numbers for these categories. So, we will refrain from doing so. We shall however try to provide some country specific information in one of our blogposts. Check that out for more info on that.
How long, how far and how high can a drone fly?
This is again a subjective question. The amount of time a drone can fly for and the distance it can fly in that time depends on several factors such as:
- Aerodynamics of the aircraft
- Weight of the aircraft
- Battery capacity
- Motor specs
- Speed of the aircraft
- Altitude of the aircraft
- Flight style (hovering, straight line motion, zig-zag motion etc..)
Safety features that drone manufactures are now building into the drones limit the horizontal flight range which is limited by the signal range. The vertical range can be quite high (6000m above sea level) but the regulations in most countries prevent flight above 400-500ft (150m).
Fixed-wing drones are typically said to have higher flight times (more than an hour in typical cases) compared to their rotor-wing counterparts owing to their aerodynamics. Rotor-wing drones though have lesser flight time are capable of much more intricate maneuvering and precision hovering.
Stay tuned for more. Even better, ask us and we will add it to this FAQs section.