How Drones work and what is Drone Technology

A popular quadcopter with latest drone technology
In this article I will simply explain What is a drone ,  How Do drones work , what is drone technology and some of its usage .

What is a drone

and

 How Do Drones Fly?

Actually The word “Drone” has two different meanings:

One stands for continuous humming sound that is lower than loud and Other meaning points out a male bee in the colony of social bees , which does no work rather just fertilize the queen.

So , maybe the lazy bee is not the best one to resemble a UAV as UAV ‘s does a handful of jobs . But the humming sound is close enough to resemble a drone as it produces almost same sound.

I forgot to tell you the meaning of UAV .

It’s an alternative name of drone which stand’s for Unmanned Aerial vehicle .

In simple words, a drone is something like a multi functional flying robot and which can be operated with a remote controller.

Drone Definition / abbreviation : Dynamic Remotely Operated Navigation Equipment

UAV Types

Uav ‘s come in different sizes , designs and colors. Basically military drones are the biggest in size . Sizes and designs are based on the type.

If you want to buy one for yourself , you should check which type is suitable for you because not every type is suitable for every work.

There are three types of Uav available in market.

They are:

Multi-Rotor  – Best for Mapping , aerial photo and videography , photogrammetry

Fixed Wing – Best For delivery works

Rotary Wing / Single Rotor – Suitable for Long Distant Operations

How Drone Technology Works ?

These aircrafts are mostly controlled with a remote unit and pre programmed intelligent software along with some common sensors that helps it to fly accurately as directed.

The functioning system of a drone may look as simple as water but the flying device actually possesses a complex technology within its body .

An unmanned aircraft is created with light but solid materials to gain a light weight and increase its working speed. This also helps the drone to decrease noise by absorbing vibration .

The material i am talking about is actually carbon fiber or G10 (Epoxy-LaminateG10) and sometimes aluminium.

If you are creating a drone from scratch and on a tight budget then G10 is a good option as its slightly less expensive than carbon fiber. Plastic and Wood is also an alternative of these materials but these two are not lightweight.

For most of the drones , the clever multi propeller system installed is actually one of the main things and maybe the most important thing that increases this unmanned aerial vehicles efficiency and helps it to avoid crash landing.

The propeller system works with bunch of motors . If for some reason, one or even two of the motors stops working , the other motors can easily lift the drone and can even work efficiently without much problem.

The more motor a drone owns the more higher it can go and more loads it can take. Most of the times these motors are powered with easily removable and rechargeable batteries .

Drones can be equipped with extra sensors and equipment such as camera , infrared camera , GPS , lasers and many more.

Remote control , known as “The Controller” plays a vital role in drones flying system as this is the only system which creates connection between the pilot ( drone flyer ) and the flying device.

Controller works as a guide but the main work of the remote is to create a proper connection between radio waves and the controller. Pre installed GPS and WiFi helps with the connection process.

These equipments play a vital role to execute orders from the remote control.
They are like Eyes and brain for a Drone.

A well controlled and equipped Drone can also work as a spy and can also do many critical works. Therefore drones have become much popular in military .

Some basic drone sensors are:

Accelerometers

Distance Sensor

Inertial Measurement Units

Gyroscope

Current Sensors

Magnetometer

Magnetic Sensors

Barometer

Engine Intake Flow Sensors

GPS Sensor

So , basically a drone flies by the correlation between remote controller and other components .

Drone technology is improving day by day as more people using it for multiple purposes and more companies coming forward to make drones commercially .

Below, I tried to explain all the technology behind drones in simple words.
I have divided these technology into two sections.

1) Parts section

2) System software section

Parts and system software completes each other so dividing them isn’t the right thing to do.

But i have done this because some of these technology mostly relies on parts and some of them relies on system software.

Part’s Section :

Drone technology of gyroscopic stabilization 

Have you ever wondered how your drone flies so calmly as an aeroplane and why the photos and videos it captures are not at all blurry or shaky .

Well, the gyro stabilization technology does the work for you .

The main part of this tech is the “Gyroscope Sensor” . If any movement goes wrong , suppose if the drone gets order to fly still but for extreme air pressure it starts spinning then gyroscope reports about the problem by measuring angular velocity.

After a quick little process , drone stables itself again .

This is  Gyro stabilization and its a must have function for every unmanned aerial vehicle.

Gyroscope failure can turn your beloved flying machine into a pile of crushed trash. But gyroscope is not an independent part , it’s just a part of IMU.

Accelerometer

Accelerometer is also a sensor and part of inertial measurement unit . It measures the linear acceleration of your Drone.

Inertial measurement unit (IMU)

Inertial measurement unit also known as IMU is a small electronic device which works with assistant sensors such as Gyroscope , Accelerometer , barometer etc .

Basically it measures drones speed , rate of change in angular position , attitude along with almost all the information drone needs to fly accurately.

This component is a must for control and guidance system of any drone technology. Its like the mother or i should say the captain of the aircraft which gets all the measurement reports from its assistant sensors.

Tilt control by gimbal

gimbal Drone technology

Gimbal is one of the essential components you will need within your drone if you intend to use your drone for photography.

In this article I have already told you how gyroscope keeps the footage clean . But it is not the only one , gimbal also plays a vital role.

A gimbal is a supporting part which is designed to keep your camera at the same position it should be and rotate about its axis under any circumstances .

That’s why flight vibration cannot touch the camera and so images and videos remain keen.

Gimbals are like a stabilizer for drone camera.

Previously drone photographers had to buy this part separately but nowadays almost every drones are integrated with gimbals .

Drone With Zoom Camera technology

Cameras are common in drones but zoom facility wasn’t until some UAV manufacturers​ came forward.
Zoom facility really took the thing into a new level .

This technology helps drone cameras to shoot video or capture photos from a long distance without decreasing quality that much.

Normal camera drones have to go closer to the object to get a picture of it, sometimes that leads to collision and damage people’s personal property .

Though this tech is not available with every camera integrated drones .

But from 2016 to till now , a couple of drones came to the market with this technology .

DJI Inspire 2 Quadcopter with Zenmuse X4S , WALKERA VOYAGER 4 , DJI Mavic Pro ,  DJI Matrice 600 PRO Hexacopter these drones offer the best functionality of this technology.

Some of these drones can zoom upto 30x.

Full Dji inpire series UAV ‘s are integrated with drone camera. So it is visible that the drone manufacturer giant dji has set their eyes on it and surely they will launch more drones with this tech.

Fpv Drone Technology

Fpv drone technology

The distinct meaning of FPV stands for First person view . We ha played action games and have heard the word FPV a lot , but what it has to do with drones ?

Well , when we turn on fpv in action games , we become the game character itself and see everything from the characters own perspective and it’s almost same with the drones too.

With the revolutionary fpv drone technology we can see what a drone sees from its perspective . It may sound a bit ok kind of thing not the wow one , but believe me it feels amazing when you use this tech.

You  see everything from above just like a bird and when you use this technology with goggles , it almost feels like you are flying ; tremendous experience whatsoever. Its one of the reason drones are that much popular today.

But this is not just for the sake of enjoyment , fpv is pretty much important when you are flying your unmanned aerial vehicle further than your eyesight.

Let me tell you in a short brief how this drone technology actually works :
It works with four basic part , camera , transmitter , receiver and a display device.Transmitter transmits live footage from camera to receiver and receiver sends it to the display device .

This whole process happens within a blink of eye. Every drone has its specific transmission range . Fpv wont work if your drone goes higher or further than its transmission range . This range thing slightly demolishes all the fun , right ?

But don’t worry , there’s another fpv drone technology available for you to solve this problem .

It’s UAV cellular network technology and I have written about it in the software Section.

Obstacle detection and collision avoidance technology :

This drone technology is slightly more complex than it sounds but i really don’t want to make this article boring with all long theories, so will just stick with the basics.

Drones with this technology has the best ability to detect obstacles in almost every direction of flight and generally has high-flying range .

Previously this technology was only used in super expensive commercial and military drones. But as the components became cheaper , some less expensive UAV ‘s are also getting equipped with it.

Obstacle detection and collision avoidance technology consists of some major sensors like Ultrasonic, infrared, monocular vision , Lidar stereo vision etc.

DJIMavic pro , DJI Phantom 4 ,DJI Phantom 4 pro , DJI Mavic 2 Zoom , Walkera Vitus etc are the best example of drones equipped with this technology.

Here’s a video from DJi Tutorials describing this technology:

Return To Home / Fail Safe Mode Drone Technology

Unmanned aerial vehicles with RTH also known as Fail safe mode has the ability to return home automatically .

Actually “Return to home Technology” will not give your drone any kind of superpower that it will return to your home and land on the desk you keep it.

This tech just helps your unmanned aerial vehicle to automatically return home when needed.

If somehow radio connection between the drone and controller is lost then it will come back to the place it launched.

This tech saves the take off site and in the emergency like connection lose , it uses the information to get back to the owner.

There are two types of RTH tech available.

1) One Key return
2) GPS return to home

One Key return

The one key return RTH type is just a plain simple feature of cheap drones . You just have to press the return to home button and the drone will start flying backwards to you.

Main problem of this type is that sometimes it may not work as accurately as you want​.
To be fair this is not more than just an automated back button.

GPS return to home

These type of RTH drones are equipped with GPS module . This drone tech just saves the location where its taking off and when it gets the return call , it simply goes back to the place where it took off.

This type of RTH may sound exactly like the other one but this works much more accurately and professionally.

Nowadays almost every expensive , mid budget and even the cheapest drones are equipped with this technology , so I will not go into any specific example.

The video below from DJI Tutorials explains how the RTH / Failsafe mode works.

Onscreen Real-Time Information

Drone technology of flight

This is one of the common feature for long-range drones. It’s actually a system technology or i should say “A system Application” which shows you every important information’s such as remaining charge percentage, drones flight coverage , signal status , SD cards space status , altitude , distance from the take off point and many more .

This is undoubtedly one of the most important function for any drone.

4k Camera Technology

This is another piece of platinum for drone film makers. Previously this tech was only common for mobile and digital cameras but just a dream for drones .
Thanks to the manufacturers , it’s not a dream anymore.

Now most drones even the cheapest ones are integrated with it. So making top-notch aerial videography is not hard anymore .

Settle your budget , go for the best 4k supported UAV within your budget and become a flying photographer / videographer. Its easy , cool and mostly pretty much affordable.

LED Light Drone technology

LED drone technology
Led lights are one of the common part of every drone . They are divided into two colors and sections .

Front section

and

back section .

LED shows the pilot which way UAV is facing so no matter if its day or night , so without even looking at the fpv you can easily detect if it’s facing in the right direction or not .

But this is not the only work it does. These lights also show if the aerial aircraft is low on charge or if there is any technical problem or problems its facing during the flight .

As an example if the rear section of your drone supposed to flash green light but its flashing red , it means there is a or some critical error like one or more motor(s) are not working properly .

This functionality is not hard to understand as we are familiar with the LED light in smartphones .

GPS Drone Navigation Waypoint Drone technology

GPS drone waypoint navigation is an advanced system that helps a drone to fly to any pre-planned places.

It can even set the speed , height and even the amount of time it should hover around the pre-planned place. This technology has opened a whole new world for drones.

E-commerce websites can easily make use of this tech to deliver their products to the customer and Amazon is already using it. Their drones package delivery service is called Amazon Prime Air . Amazon explained it in the video right below

Drone Propeller

Drone Propellers may look like a component without much significance but believe me it has more significance that you can’t even imagine.

Usually in a quadcopter there are four propellers available. Propeller is the part which lifts the drone and takes it to the directed place.

It’s size and design can affect your UAV ‘s flying accuracy . Right size and design and well compatibility with motor can give you an amazing experience with the flight and wrong one will give you a devastated one.

So when you are creating or customizing your drone , always try to choose the correct propeller and most importantly choose the one which is compatible with the motor you want to use.

Drone propeller and motor
drone Propellers and motor

Drone Motor

We all know about the significance of drone motors. Without them , the flying machine is just a showpiece .

Usually in a quadcopter there are four motors available. Two of them rotates clockwise and two of them rotates anti clockwise .

There are different kinds of motor available with Speed , size and capabilities. Some motors are best for Drone racing and some are best for aerial photography.

So if you are trying to make a drone for yourself then always make sure to buy the suitable motor and don’t just look for the cheap ones. Because motor is not just a propeller spinner it’s also an engine for  UAV.

Remote controller

drone remote

Remote controller is the component which orders the Drone when ,where and how to go and when to come back.

It creates the connection between the pilot and the Drone. Usually a controller uses radio waves to connect with the unmanned aerial vehicle .

Software Section

Drone Firmware updates

Drone firmware is the pre-programmed operating software which runs all the system and maintains their functions.

Almost every manufacturer releases regular firmware updates to fix current versions bug and add new features. This system is like the firmware updates we get on our Smartphones .

Open source drone software in Drone Technology

Every drone comes with preprogrammed system software created by its manufacturer. But they cannot be customized by the pilots .

Also if you are building or customizing a drone yourself then obviously you will need an open source project.

Luckily there are so many autopilot software and hardware projects available that you can easily use to rebuild and customize your drone for experimental purposes.

Let me tell you name of some open source drone project :

  1.  Paparazzi
  2.  Dronecode
  3.    PX4
  4.  ArduPilot
  5.  Tower
  6. LibrePilot
  7. AeroQuad
  8.  Flone
  9.  Solo
  10. OpenDroneMap
  11. Drone Journalism Lab
  12. operations manual
  13.  DronePan
  14.  Erle-brain: the open Linux autopilot Mission planner

I don’t want to sky-high this article size , so i didn’t write any distinct description of any of these.

But if you are interested to know about these projects then you should follow my latest article based on it.

UAV Photogrammetry For mapping and 3D modeling

UAV Photogrammetry Drone technology

UAV Photogrammetry is the process of creating measurements from photographs captured by drones.

Suppose you want to create a 3D model of your house . For that you will need to take photographs of your house from every angle .

Then just by dropping these into a photogrammetry software , you can easily make a 3D model . This process is mostly used in mapping and surveying.

Previously photogrammetry was done by manned aircrafts . But it was hard , sometimes impossible for a manned aircraft to enter obstructive areas and take photos.

But after the invention or i should say using drones for Photogrammetry , it became much easier .

Also, manned aircrafts are pretty much expensive , needs time to get ready and works slowly . Doesn’t even work as correct as a UAV .

So in that case surely UAV is much suitable .

FPV over cellular network technology

As the range thing killed all the fun , Sky drones came up with a technology that
uses 4G/LTE mobile networks .

It works with sky drones app , the mounted camera connects with the app which receives the video feed and displays it.

The best thing about this drone technology is , no matter how far your drone goes the transmission speed will always be the same and video quality will not decrease that much. This technology is best suitable for racing drones.
Cool, isn’t it?

No Drone-Zone” Drone Technology

This is a latest drone technology from DJI and other UAV manufacturers to prevent unauthorized flight in restricted places.

It’s actually a system which shows if the place you are entering is restricted or not .
You may think Why on Earth would I stop my Drone from flying anywhere i want and why should I care if it’s restricted or not ?

Believe me , you should care.

Cause entering into a restricted place may cause you a huge amount of fine and in most cases you can lose your unmanned aerial vehicle too.

There are plenty of  free apps along with manufacturer provided ones , just to tell you if you are flying in legal place or not.

So get one and fly legally and safely.

Aerial detection system drone technology

DJI , the drone manufacturer giant has invented a Detection system named AeroScope which provides information to the authority about any drone entering or roaming in the restricted area so that they can check it easily.

This is not the first aerial detection system but it’s more effective than any other system available.

AeroScope can detect even the tiniest drones extremely fast and gives the authority of the restricted place all the info’s they need to take security measures against it.

“Counter drone” Drone Technology

Counter drone technology is not about improving your drone but to maintain regulations .

I have already mentioned about the safety instructions and warnings we get if we go near a restricted place.

But these warnings and drone detector systems can be easily bypassed .

So , what if a pilot enters in a restricted zone on purpose to spy on restricted properties and vip personnel?

Besides Drones are hackable , so criminals can easily take over a drone and can carry out their evil act without even costing their money.

There have been many serious incidents almost like this.
Therefore , counter drone technology is pretty much important.

So , is there anything like that available?

Of course .

The most used counter drone systems are GPS interference , radio interference, and software disruption.

Some companies are offering h@cking services to take control of any drone . There are also some “Hardware’s” available like a “anti Drone” drone that goes near the unauthorized one  burns it with flames thrown from a nozzle .

Above mentioned counter Drone technology is not the only tech’s available, there are plenty of others too and new tech’s are also coming.

Therefore always be beware of what you do with your UAV and always maintain the rules and regulations.

Here’s a video from TomoNews US , describing a newest anti drone technology .

  What Is A Drone Used For ?

Drones are used for so many important purposes and Some of the uses are:

Drone technology In Agriculture :

Believe it or not drones can be used in in agriculture too . There are a handful of drones ,  just for this work.

Dji Matrice 100 ,

Dji T600 Inspire 1 ,

Ebee SQ – SenseFly ,

Lancester – Precision Hawk and many more .

These drones are especially made for agriculture .

But to be fair , agricultural drones are not yet that much affordable .

Surveillance Drones For Law Enforcement 

Drones are used in some countries by their law enforcement agencies as these drones are good for risky operations . I am not writing any specific models as the most of  high-end UAV can be used as surveillance drones .

Drones For Security And Surveillance

We can use drones for Personal security and surveillance too.

Justthink that you heard a sound so you have to check your backyard in the middle of the night , but it’s too risky right?

Howabout if you just send a drone to do the work for you.

Drone technology For Rescue Operations :

Drone technology Can also be used in search operations and many rescue agencies are already using it .

Sometimesits too risky or sometimes even impossible to enter into narrow or risky places. Drones are super handy in this matter.

Military Uses Of Drones

Drones have been an important part of military operations for long time . Some of the best military drones are :

PREDETOR C ,

AVENGER  MQ – 9 REAPER ,

BAE TARANIS ,

X-47b PEGASU,

IAI EITAN etc .

Heres a video Explaining Top 5 military Drones

Drones are also used in photogrammetry , aerial photography , documentary , film making and many more .

Time For Final Thoughts:

Drone technology have evolved since the day of its invention . If we look at the first and the latest Drones, we can see that the advancement is massive. So it’s obvious that the future UAV (s) will be much richer with various new and impressive technologies.

Nisad Tushar Author