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 organize 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.
Avoid manned aircraft, and never operate in a careless or reckless manner.
The drone must remain within sight Alternatively, if you use first-person view or similar technology, you must have a visual observer always keep your aircraft within unaided sight (for example, no binoculars are allowed).
Neither you nor a visual observer can be responsible for more than one unmanned aircraft operation at a time.
You can fly only during daylight or civil twilight (30 minutes before official sunrise to 30 minutes after official sunset, local time). Operations during civil twilight require appropriate anti-collision lighting.
Minimum weather visibility is 3 miles from the control station, 500 feet below clouds and 2,000 feet horizontally from clouds.
Maximum altitude is 400 feet agl, or if within a 400-foot radius of a structure, 400 feet above that structure’s immediate uppermost limit.
Maximum speed 87 knots (100 mph).
You cannot fly a small UAS over anyone who is not directly participating in the operation unless the nonparticipating persons are located under a covered structure or stationary vehicle that can provide reasonable protection from a falling UAS.
Cannot be operated from a moving aircraft. Cannot be operated from a moving Land or waterborne vehicle unless it is over a sparsely populated area.
Operations in Class G airspace are allowed without air traffic control permission. Operations in class B, C, D and E airspace need ATC approval.
You can carry an external load if it is securely attached and does not adversely affect the flight characteristics or controllability of the aircraft. You also may transport property for compensation or hire within state boundaries.
You can request a waiver of most operational restrictions if you can show that your proposed operation can be conducted safely under the waiver.
To operate the controls of a small UAS under Part 107, you need a remote pilot airman certificate with a small UAS rating, or to be under the direct supervision of a person who holds such a certificate.
You must be at least 16 years old to qualify for a remote pilot certificate, and you can obtain it in one of two ways:
You may pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA- approved knowledge testing center.
If you already have a Part 61 pilot certificate, other than a student pilot certificate, you must have completed a flight review in the previous 24 calendar months and you must take the small UAS online training course.
Within the previous 24 months, a remote pilot must have passed an initial or recurrent aeronautical knowledge test. A Part 61 pilot certificate holder who has completed a flight review within the previous 24 months may complete a recurrent online training course instead of taking the recurrent knowledge test.
If you have a non-student pilot Part 61 certificate, you will immediately receive a temporary remote pilot certificate when you apply for a permanent certificate. Other applicants will obtain a temporary remote pilot certificate upon successful completion of a TSA security background check.
MODEL AIRCRAFT, AKA UAS, AND YOUR PILOT CERTIFICATE:
The FAA claims ownership of all airspace from the ground up and all "aircraft" that fly in it. The FAA's definition of "aircraft" includes virtually anything that flies in its airspace, including drones.
"If the operation of a model aircraft endangers the safety of the national airspace, the FAA may cite violations of applicable operational regulations in any enforcement action determined to be appropriate."
"A certificate holder [pilot] should appreciate the potential for endangerment that operating a UAS contrary to the FAA's safety regulations may cause [better than a nonpilot]. Accordingly, a violator's status as a certificate holder is an aggravating factor that may warrant a civil penalty above the moderate range for [even] a single, first-time, inadvertent violation."
If the model aircraft endangers safety, the FAA may site violations of FAR 91.13, 91.15, 91.113, 91.126-135, 91.137-145 and/ or Part 73.
In other words, if you're a pilot, you stand a much better chance of receiving a violation if you do something that, in the opinion of an FAA inspector, is a "potential risk to safety."
Which means, if you're a pilot, you could have your certificate suspended or revoked or even face fines if some persnickety FAA inspector doesn't like when, where or how you fly your toy airplane.
If you own a drone or other recreational model aircraft that weights more than 0.55 pounds (8.8 ounces), it must be registered with the FAA's UAS registry. The unique ID number you receive must be marked on all model aircraft you own. Registration is valid for three years.
FAA statute defines an aircraft as "any contrivance invented, used or designed to navigate or fly in the air." FAA regulations could change at any time. Please refer to current FARs to ensure you are legal.
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-programed 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 fail-safe 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 recognize 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, logistics 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!
Civilian 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 organizations wanting to collaborate and work with the commercial RPA industry. These include American Universities and Government Research organizations. 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 organizations resulting from technology improvements and new discoveries. V-TOL is one example of an RPA industry member pursuing collaborations with both research organizations 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 organization 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 authorized 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, minimizing 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 film making. 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 hot spot so you can control it from up to 50 meters (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 flips in 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 it yourself as all of the 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 meters (400 feet), away from airports and air traffic, and within sight of the 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 cinema goers, 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 is just 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 specialized 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 kilometers 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 center, 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.
Parrot has confirmed the addition of two quadcopters to its ‘professional’ fleet of craft. It’s unveiled the purpose-designed Bluegrass offering a bespoke quadcopter for agriculture users, along with the Bebop- Pro Thermal, an amended version of the Bebop 2 which is geared towards helping the construction industry and rescue services carry out thermal inspections in safety.
The Bebop-Pro Thermal was originally announced back in May and is a modified version of the Bebop 2, with a rear mounting for the 36.5g, FLIR One Pro thermal camera, with a built in 1440 x 1080p RGB sensor and 160 x 120p thermal sensor. In addition to the drone and a decent bundle of the usual accessories - SkyController 2, three batteries, two chargers and a backpack - the system comes with access to the FreeFlight Thermal app, which enables the FLIR One Pro to be used with three imaging modes.
‘Standard’ mode displays thermal images from red to blue, allowing for quick identification of hot and cold spots; ‘Dynamic’ offers a similar function but adapted to the ambient temperatures; and ‘Hotspot’ is designed for fire safety and emergency search and rescue specialists, highlighting only the highest temperatures combined with the RGB image. Estimated thermal temperature readings for an area can be gained by accessing the app on your smart device - which is a free Android download, but only compatible with the Bebop-Pro Thermal.
Despite the additional weight of the FLIR camera and its housing, we’ve been assured by Vanessa Loury at Parrot that “there is only a minor impact on flight time” with the projected 25 minutes a little down on the 30 minutes offered by the recent Bebop 2 Power.
Vanessa also told us that Parrot has been collaborating with firefighters for several years, and that during the 2016 summer floods in Paris, the French manufacturer’s drones were used by firefighters to survey the severity of the flooding in real-time, thanks to the live streaming functionality available on the craft. The information gathered then allowed for the quick decision to evacuate some 4,000 residents from the area.
As well as being a useful and very portable tool for firefighters and other emergency services, the Bebop-Pro Thermal and its companion app also targets the work of architects, builders, real estate agencies and other professionals in related fields. Examples include roofers checking for thermal losses without putting themselves at risk, as well as accessing hard-to-reach places when inspecting buildings for a full thermal analysis.
Launched at the same time was the Bluegrass, Parrot’s first quadcopter designed specifically for use in the agricultural industry (not counting the fixed wing Disco or eBee Ag models the company also owns). The craft comes equipped with two monitoring systems: a front facing Full HD video camera and a Parrot Sequoia multispectral sensor, which allows for the collection of images over four distinct spectral bands.
This combination enables users to carry out low level and precise monitoring of farm land and infrastructure, as well as spotting potential problems with crop fields. With a 25 minute flight time, it’s able to cover up to 30 hectares of land at an altitude of 230 feet (70m). The system also comes equipped with the Pix4Dcapture flight planning app for ease of operation, as well as access to the AIRINOV FIRST+ mapping and analysis platform for processing the collected data.
We asked Vanessa about Parrot’s move into agricultural quadcopters and she explained: “We wanted to design a drone capable of transporting a payload (the Parrot Sequoia multispectral solution) while offering the right flight time to flyover a needed area. We also wanted Parrot Bluegrass to be a multi-purpose tool, so it has a front camera in addition to the multispectral sensor.”
Vanessa added: “Parrot Bluegrass is a multi purpose quadcopter solution for smart farmers or small agriculture cooperatives that helps them to detect problem areas in all type of crops.” She also stated that the Bluegrass is able to fly at low altitude (and up to 2km or 1.2m), whereas its fixed-wing sibling, the Disco-Pro AG is able to cover larger areas whilst flying at higher altitudes.
Although the Bluegrass appears to be a new design that is optimized for different tasks to the Disco, we’re told is does inherit a lot from Parrot’s fixed wing projects. Vanessa says the new model “is designed around Parrot C.H.U.C.K. (Control Hub & Universal Computer Kit), the advanced autopilot also included in our fixed wing drone Parrot Disco.”
We were also told that Parrot’s experience with fixed wing systems, together with its ongoing interest in understanding how professionals work and the feedback they receive from them, has enabled it “to identify areas in professional activities where our drones - associated with a complete solution - would be able to save time, perform better and generate more business.”
The Thermal package is priced at $1,500 (£1,226) with the Bluegrass at $5,000 (£3,755). Details on both can be found at Parrot.com with current prices and specials on Amazon here: Parrot Bebop.