Drones for Dummies

The popularity of drones has skyrocketed over the last few years. Although more and more people are using drones for personal and commercial reasons, not everyone is aware of their existence. What is a drone? What is its purpose? How can we benefit from drone use?

Drones definition

The original definition of a drone means a preprogrammed unmanned aircraft. Rather than a pilot, flight instructions are coded into the drone’s system. It flies in a straight direction or in a circular motion, depending on the programmed flight plan. The drone continues to fly until it runs out of fuel. Once the system detects a shortage of fuel, the drone will automatically land.

Unmanned aircraft

Nowadays, “drone” has now become an umbrella term for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that are either preprogrammed or controlled from a remote location. The generic term encompasses all types of robot, whether air-based, land-based or water-based. The most common, or widely known, type of drone is the aerial type – both as a remote piloted aircraft (RPA) or as an unmanned aerial vehicle.

Take note that the aforementioned terms are used or coined by civilians. Government agencies like the United States military have their own jargon plus a range of complex terminologies for drones and drone usage.

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Remote Piloted Aircrafts

There is a need to highlight the differences between RPAs and UAVs. Besides having contrasting control systems, their specs are also different. RPAs can be piloted using a short-range remote control (if flown around short distances) or a remote base station, which is more comprehensive and allows for long-range piloting. Remote-piloted drones share striking similarities to helicopters. They can have different sets of rotor blades, usually from 1 to 8.

RPAs with 1 pair of rotor blades are called helirotor. Those with 2 sets of blades are known as Dual rotor. Drones with 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8 sets of rotor blades are referred to as Trirotor, Quadrotor, Pentirotor, Hexirotor and Octorotor respectively. Most commercial and military drones are quadrotor and octorotor.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

No pilot is necessary for UAVs. A flight program containing a list of tasks and flight directions will be inserted into the UAV’s control system prior to take off. These drones mimic the structure of a plane and are usually used by the military for surveillance and covert missions.

What is a drone used for

You can use aerial drones in several ways, including the following:

1. To control crowds

Drones used for this purpose are harmless and not equipped with dangerous weapons. Military and law enforcement personnel use drones to sort out heavy crowds in a safe and organized manner, thereby preventing a stampede.

2. To deliver goods or equipment

The military, certain government agencies and large companies, mostly in the shipping industry already use preprogrammed and remotely piloted drones to deliver goods and other items to a target location. Some logistics firms are now using drones to cut back their operational costs (it’s safer and faster than driving).

3. To monitor

Monitoring or surveillance drones have infrared cameras that allow them to survey and capture the landscape of a target area. These drones can also glide their way through inaccessible areas and provide graphic data as programmed.

4. To take pictures

Most commercial drones are used for photography purposes that may include taking selfies and groupies. Their main purpose, however, is to generate aerial photographs.

5. To attack

The drones are equipped with dangerous weaponry (e.g. missiles and bombs) and are exclusively controlled and programmed by the military for air strike purposes.