drone in flight

Image by Capricorn4049 [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

A drone is an aerial vehicle without a human on board. Some drones are controlled remotely by a person, others can fly completely on their own.

Drones have many applications, including military, research, recreation, agriculture, surveillance, deliveries, photography, search and rescue, underwater exploration, selfie drones, toy drones, racing drones and more. In the near future, flying taxis hailed from smart phones will become a thing.



Types of aerial drone platforms

The three main drone types are Multi-Rotor, Fixed-Wing and VTOL (Vertical Take-Off and Landing).

What makes up a drone?

Body and Frame - the frame and body are usually made of lightweight but sturdy material. The frame holds the parts and the body protects the parts.

Electronics – the main electronics manages the system. A drone may also have motor controllers, speed controllers, flight controllers, power distribution boards, communication circuits, GPS Modules, and/or camera controls.

Power – most drones use rechargeable batteries. Micro drones may only have enough charge for a short flight. Long distance drones may use solar power or hydrogen fuel to recharge batteries in the air.

Motors – for smaller drones, coreless (brushed) motors are common. For larger drones, more expensive brushless motors are used for their efficiency and decreased noise level.

Propellers – props may look similar, but small differences in shape and angle make a big difference. This site is a good reference I found on drone propellers.

Cameras – Aside from providing a unique and fun perspective, drone cameras are becoming indispensable tools for surveying land, bridge inspection, real estate sales, and many other applications. A camera drone moving around a statue or building can create a 3d model of the object using photogrammetry, the science of making measurements from photographs

Sensors – sensors can be mounted on a drone that detect heat, chemicals, radiation, and air quality. Lasers mounted to a drone can create 3d models of large objects.

Adding batteries or fuel to a drone increases the weight and provides a longer flight time. Larger motors and props can carry more but will drain the batteries quicker. Using more efficient or faster charging batteries could increase the price. It can be a juggling act for drone designers and consumers choosing the best price, run time, and payload.

Autonomy - Fully autonomous drones can takeoff, complete a misson, and land on their own. Basic autonomy is created from cameras, sensors and artificial intelligence. Advanced autonomy calls for situational awareness and knowledge about the environment surrounding the aircraft.


Pros and Cons of Drones


There is a large list of applications where drones are a great fit, and sometimes better at a task than the current technology.

There many different types and sizes of drones that can be developed for an application.

Pilots are not in danger.

Can be easy to learn to fly.

Efficient in getting from point A to point B.

Takes a good photo, from a different perspective.

Can get to places that are hard to reach for people.

Battery powered lowers risk of explosion


Poses risk to other aircraft, birds.

Poses risk to humans and property when they fall from the sky.

They break easily.

They can get lost or fall in the water.

They are noisy.

You can’t fly them in certain areas.

Most have a limited range.

Does not perform well in wind or rain.

Privacy issues


Next up: Military Drones





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