Drones are being used in air forces around the world, but the future is looking much more varied for the remote controlled aircraft. There is a fast growing industry of autonomous flight that can both help and entertain the world, from rescuing people at sea to recording awe inspiring aerial videos.
Disaster relief, for example, is a major area where drones can make an incredible difference. They can fly over the scene of an earthquake, nuclear meltdown or bomb site and capture high-resolution pictures or video to help the team on the ground organise a rescue or clean-up mission. Drones such as the Trimble UX5 could be of enormous benefit as the 2.4-gigahertz modems in the craft and the tablet can communicate over a distance of five kilometres (3.1 miles), enabling mapping to take place with the pilot nowhere near potentially dangerous rubble and aftershocks.
When the Fukushima nuclear power plant malfunctioned in March 2011, clean-ups and analysis of the radiation was limited due to the health risks posed to helicopter pilots. Drones such as the Advanced Airborne Radiation Monitoring (AARM) system designed by Dr James MacFarlane at the university of Bristol could put an end to that. This particular craft is a hexacopter with gamma spectrometer attached which measures the amount of radiation being emitted from a chosen site. This can be done without a human anywhere near the area, so information can be received much more quickly and safely.
One of the most exciting commercial applications of drones is aerial photography and videoing. In the past, shooting any kind of media from the air required the hire of cranes or helicopters. Now, however, drone mounted cameras can be bought for as little as $50-$80, enabling amateur photographers and film-makers to capture amazing high definition footage for a fraction of the cost.
DRONE: A generic term for all UAVs
CAMERA DRONE: A drone (usually a quadcopter) with a camera attached
RADIO CONTROLLED / RC: Drones and model vehicles of all sorts that are controlled remotely
MULTIROTOR: A drone with several motors, or props
TRICOPTER: A drone with three motors, or props
QUADCOPTER: A drone with four motors, or props
HEXACOPTER: A drone with six motors, or props
OCTOCOPTER: A drone with eight motors, or props
NANOCOPTER: An exceptionally small drone
READY TO FLY / RTF: A drone supplied with all parts, ready to go from the box
BIND 'N' FLY / BNF: Ready to be bound to a transmitter and flown
ALMOST READY TO FLY / ARF: A partially built drone
UAV: Unmanned Aerial Vehicle
CAA: Civil Aviation Authority
FAA: Federal Aviation Administration
FPVUK: National governing body for FPV flying in the UK IAA:Irish Aviation Authority
AUTONOMOUS: A pre-programmed flight mode for a drone with no live input from pilot
ALTITUDE HOLD: Maintaining height in flight mode
BIND: Connecting a controller to the drone so it can pick up signals
BUILD: A completed, usually DIY drone built from pans or a kit
FIRST PERSON VIEW / FPV: Viewing the drones flight via a camera mount to goggles or a monitor, usually for racing
LINE OF SIGHT / LOS: Maintaining visual contact with your drone at all times: a legal requirement
PAYLOAD: The amount a drone can lift, aside from its own weight and batteries
PITCH: Front/back movement or tilt
RETURN TO HOME / RTH: A failsafe GPS option
ROLL: Rotation left or right without other movement
YAW: Rotation around a central point
ACCELEROMETER / ACC: Component that measures the G force/acceleration
BATTERY ELIMINATOR CIRCUIT / BEC: Device to allow the battery to power multiple components
CONTROLLER: See Transmitter
ELECTRONIC SPEED CONTROLLER / ESC: Conveys signal from controller to motors
FLIGHT CONTROLLER: Controls the movement of the drone
GIMBAL: Mount that steadies the camera's movement relative to the ground
GYROSCOPE: Device to allow the drone to maintain its level
LITHIUM POLYMER BATTERY / LIPO: Powerful, popular energy source for UAVs and RC aircraft
PROPS: Short for propeller, the rotating motor that the blades are fitted to
POWER DISTRIBUTION BOARD / PDB: Divides electrical power to the circuits
RECEIVER: Device that receives signals from the transmitter and sends them to the flight controller
TRANSMITTER: The control device that sends pilot commands to the drone's receiver
Shadow 200 Tactical Unmanned Aerial System - UAV: Shadow 200 unmanned drone is used for reconnaissance and drone surveillance with the ability to capture full-motion video during day or night operations which can be sent back the UAV drones ground control station at a range of up to 80 miles away. It has the ability to recognise targets on the ground while operating at an altitude of up to 8000 feet.
Each shadow 200 drone systems comprises of five aircraft, ground control stations, a UAV drone launch and recovery element with associated equipment, logisticts and unmanned aerial vehicle training. The Shadow 200 drone systems started service in Afghanistan in 2012 with the Australian Army.
Read all about the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle - UAV Drones :: The Predator drones being one of the most famous US drones used in Afghanistan to stirke targets by remote control.
Although drones might seem the futuristic domain of governments, the military and serious enthusiasts, there are a number of extremely practical day-to-day applications they can be used for. Amazon and DHL are both deep into the testing stage of delivery drones. You may remember the end of 2013 when Amazon claimed drones would be delivering small packages within five years.
Currently the use of drones for commercial purposes is banned in the United States, but Amazon has petitioned the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) to relax their rules to allow small drones to carry payloads of 2.3 kilograms (five pounds) to customers. This weight, they say, makes up 86 per cent of their deliveries and would take big, bulky and dangerous delivery vehicles off the road. DHL has already flown test missions from the German mainland to the island of Juist, off its northern coastline.
Commercial drones are a far cry from their headline-grabbing military cousins, but they are every bit as exciting, packed with fascinating technology and the ability to perform tasks that makes our lives, and the world, a little bit safer and a whole lot more fun. The quality still allows for military operations such as forward recon, IED investigation and aerial tracking of the enemy!
Civillian drones for work or pleasure. Why not run a drone surveillance business at home or abroad, or use to find the enemy on operations, or game while hunting.
Drones are being implemented to help bring aid to widespread destruction in Nepal, which was hit by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake.
The charity Global Medic are using a number of drones to photograph effected areas, sharing information to ground teams such as where survivors are, landslides what roads are blocked out and much more, aiding in a faster response.
Drones and water do not usually get along but one prototype has been innovated to not only float but tests water quality.
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have been testing this floating drone which runs of swarm technology which enables collective drones to work together without collisions.
The team at MIT are hoping these drones will be able to test water and air cleanliness.
Small Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA), commonly known to the public as "drones" are revolutionizing productivity across America's economic sectors. Further to this positive outcome, is the rapid rise of new innovations that will advance the capabilities of this evolving platform technology and the new opportunities that they will now deliver, says Mark Xavier, CEO of V-TOL Aerospace Pty Limited.
A profound affect that this technology is starting to make globally, is the rise of research organisations wanting to collaborate and work with the commercial RPA industry. These include American Universities and Government Research organisations. The result should be a revolution in new products and processes designed to create further business value and reduced waste, he added.
Additional opportunities for industry will reside in the new services that can be provided to organisations resulting from technology improvements and new discoveries. V-TOL is one example of an RPA industry member pursuing collaborations with both research organisations and commercial businesses attempting to identify savings and improvements in their business processes.
Research is predominantly occurring in two ways, he continued. Much is 'applied research' where an organisation believes RPA will improve their business outcomes, but need expertise and the ability to test their own ideas without going through the risk and cost of RPA platform acquisition. The other is traditional research into a problem where a new technology is created and tested to provide a solution using the RPA as the platform to carry it.
The industry is looking extremely promising for those who collaborate and adopt an innovative approach to what they are doing. America has the potential to benefit greatly through this technology in its "core" economic industries while having the opportunity to export new knowledge, products and services to the rest of the world.
With the growing use of personal electronic devices like smartphones, cameras and laptops, it's not uncommon for these devices, and the batteries powering them, to get damaged.
Whether they're dropped, smashed, overheated or mistreated in other ways, lithium batteries can become unstable and have been known to ignite fires due to mistreatment.
If your battery displays any of these characteristics, it's time to dispose of it correctly and purchase a replacement from an authorised retailer.
It's also a good idea to never travel with your batteries fully charged. Keeping charge levels at 40-70 per cent will ensure the particles that store energy will be in their most stable state, minimising the risk of thermal runaway.
Batteries do not last forever and it's important to continually monitor the health of your battery. Continual discharges, over-charges and quick-charges will eventually reduce the battery's overall capacity and health. There are plenty of apps that monitor the battery health of your device.
The drones offering film-makers a whole new perspective...
Drones such as the Parrot AR and the DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ have added a thrilling new dimension to personal photography and filmmaking. These clever gadgets are becoming more and more affordable for amateurs looking to capture Hollywood-style footage from unique angles.
A Parrot AR.Drone, for example, will only set you back around $320 and has a built-in camera that can shoot 720-pixel high-definition video. It generates its own Wi-Fi hotspot so you can control it from up to 50 metres (165 feet) away via an app on your smartphone or tablet. The app also shows a live stream of the video being captured and lets you change its direction by simple tilting your device. It can even perform impressive flipsin mid-air, and you can program automatic movements to compose your film like a professional director.
If you do happen to crash the drone while filming a daring action sequence, then you can have a go at repairing ityourself as all ofthe parts and instructions are available online. Due to the relatively recent advancement of commercial drone technology, many countries are still developing laws regarding their use in public spaces. In the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration currently limits drones to be flown below 122 metres (400 feet), away from airports and air traffic, and within sight ofthe operator.
Using drones in a professional capacity requires a certificate of approval from the FAA, but it has recently granted six movie and television production companies permission to use drones on their sets. Some big blockbusters, such as Sky fall and the Harry Potter movies, have already been shot using unmanned drones for aerial footage, but filming took place in countries where this was allowed.
We are already seeing more and more drone-shot sequences on the big screen. Not only is this great news for us cinemagoers, as we will be treated to more creative camera angles, but it will also save the production companies a lot of money on helicopter and crane bills as they try to get above the action while filming.
Although commercial drones are mainly being used by specialist industries, consumer companies certainly haven't failed to notice their potential. In the not-so-distant future, the skies above us could be swamped with a network of drones delivering our shopping, or even fast food,straight to our front door. Many big companies are testing this new delivery method, but it is likely to be several years before the idea becomes reality. Many countries, including the United States, do not allow drones to be flown at low altitude over residential areas, and the autonomous aircraft currently have no way of avoiding obstacles en route.
Amazon is already developing and testing drones for delivering packages weighing up to 2.3 kilograms (five pounds) to customers within 30 minutes of ordering.
The retail giant isjust waiting for permission from the FAA before it can roll out the new system, which was expected to happen in 2015. As yet this hasn't been rolled out, but it has now been tested. We are also seeing the possibility of pizza deliveries - a'la drone style!
Logistics firm DHL is the first company to launch a drone-based delivery service. Their intention is not to completely replace the existing system though.
Its 'parcelcopter' is currently being used on trial to deliver small parcels to the German island of Juist in the North Sea.
A restricted flight area has been established for the service, which mainly delivers medication and other urgently needed goods focusing on speed and remote locations.
The Burrito Bomber is a Mexican food-delivery system that lets you place your order via an app. We are not to sure if the bird population is going to impact the service, parachuting food seems like easy pickings to us! We hope the packaging is "bird proof".
A drone will then fly to your location and parachute your snack down to you in a custom-made Burrito Delivery Tube. It should be up and running - in the US, at least - once the FAA updates its regulations.
Given the flexibility and unique accessibility that drones offer, a case can be made to use them in inspecting HVAC systems on rooftops in high-rise buildings. In that context, what's the uptake? Ali Seto, Marketing Manager at Falcon Eye Drones, said that drones for the purpose have not gained the desired momentum.
Seto said, "If HVAC contractors use drone technology to inspect rooftops of high-rise buildings, they will be saving a lot of time and manpower costs to send their teams to physically inspect the equipment installed on high-rise building roof-tops".
Speaking on the benefits of adopting drone technology, he said: "There are different drones for various applications. If it is a general inspection then one can hire a standard zoom-camera drone, but in cases of specialised inspections for gas leaks or overheating of coils, one can use special infra-red camera drones, which give accurate information of the situation and pinpoint the exact location of the problem."
Speaking at the World Government Summit in Dubai, Matter al-Tayer, the head of Dubai’s Roads & Transportation Agency said “I am glad to inform you that hopefully we will be able to have these drones available starting from June 2017.
The Prime Minister of the UAE wants 25% of all passenger trips to be made in driverless vehicles by 2030.
I love drones and I have been a witness to astonishing advances in the relatively short time since they have come into existence, but I had not imagined the general public being able to hitch a ride on one in the very near future.
We are still struggling to integrate autonomous drones in our cities to deliver pizzas whilst navigating flight zones and safely avoiding other aircraft and obstacles. To see drones carry real live people through a major city with skyscrapers and helicopters everywhere by mid this year seems a little ambitious to me.
Dubai is however, a cashed-up nation unafraid of pushing the boundaries and laying claim to many world firsts. If anyone is going to make this vision of the future a reality, it is going to be Dubai.
Many people will be watching to see how they make this work from a logistics and safety point of view and, if successful, it will no doubt become a model for the rest of the world.
Revealed to the world at CES in January 2016, the Ehang 184, produced by Chinese company Ehang was in development for 3 years before its launch and promised a future of safe private air travel for the uber rich. They must be pretty chuffed that within a year they are signed on to implement a citywide air taxi service for Dubai.
With a range of 40-50 kilometres and about 30 minutes of flight time, it can carry about 100kg and has a luggage compartment for a small suitcase. It can only carry 1 passenger, and hopefully has room for a parachute.
Monitored by a command centre, a passenger will be able to call a taxi-drone with an app like Uber and then use another app inside the drone to set their destination, hit GO and take to the skies. It all sounds very exciting.