Here are some frequently asked questions about drones. If you have a specific question the best place to ask is within a community of specialists, such as DroneAccelerator.com, a global community of UAV specialists.
What are quadcopters?
Quadcopters, or quad rotor helicopters as they were known at the dawn of the Drone Age, are flying craft that are lifted and controlled by four propellers. The first manned quadcopters were created in the late 1920s and 1930s. They were designed to be an alternative to the helicopter, but there were a number of performance issues with limited control and poor stability that led to them being dismissed. Recently, quadcopters have been given a second lease of life as they have been used to drive UAVs (or, ‘unmanned aerial vehicles’).
What is a UAV?
A UAV, or drone, is a machine that can be flown remotely by a pilot or autonomously by a computer. As the name implies, they are unmanned, meaning they carry no human cargo.
UAVs are small, light and maneuverable and capable of doing risky jobs that may be unsafe for pilots in manned aircraft to carry out. Due to their small size, these craft can also operate indoors.
What are the benefits of using quadcopters as UAVs?
Quadcopters are very agile and easy to fix flying machines; they make perfect UAVs. Quadcopters, unlike traditional helicopters, only have one moving part – the rotor. The rest of the machine is static and does not move. As such, quadcopters are much more simplistic in design than other flying aircraft and are much easier to maintain.
Most small scale quadcopters have been also designed with enclosures that protect the rotors in case of contact, making them more rugged than other UAVs. This allows them to traverse environments with tough surroundings that may damage other craft.
Quadcopters also use smaller fans than helicopters. These fans operate at lower speeds and cause less damage when they make contact. This means that quadcopters are safer than other flying aircrafts for use in close quarter situations.
How do quadcopters work?
Quadcopters use four fans, or propellers, to push the aircraft up. By altering the speeds of the individual propellers, pitch, roll and yaw can be changed, allowing the quadcopter to easily maneuver in the air. The propellers are placed into a configuration of two pairs; one pair spins clockwise, while the other spins counter clockwise.
To move forwards, the propeller at the front is slowed down, causing the nose of the quadcopter to fall, thus pushing the craft forwards. Likewise, causing the back propeller to slow would cause the craft to move backwards.
To turn, both the front and back propellers are slowed, which causes the craft to turn clockwise. Turning off the left and right propellers would cause the craft to turn anti clockwise. To rise vertically, all four propellers would be operating at equal speed.
What are quadcopter & UAVs used for?
Traditionally, UAVs have been used by the military for a number of purposes, including reconnaissance and providing long range imagery.
As technology has improved and become more affordable, UAVs are now being used in increasing numbers for ‘civilian’ operations. Firefighters are using UAVs to put out blazing fires while oil prospectors are using them to scan areas of land for oil. Police have also started to use UAVs to carry out surveillance with sensors capable of scanning car license plates and carrying out facial recognition.
Due to their simple design and relative easy of construction, hobbyist craft makers have started to build cheap and affordable UAVs for mass consumption. Inexpensive drones with cameras attached are now available, often with smartphone apps that allow the unit to be controlled by an iOS or Android device.
What is the future of quadcopters and other UAV?
As research is carried out and the technology matures, quadcopters will continue to become smaller, more maneuverable and cheaper to build. The potential uses for quadcopterUAVs are endless. UAVs capable of constructing buildings and repairing machinery are already in the design phases while UAVs capable of playing tennis and ping pong are already a reality.
The future looks bright for quadcopters. They have the potential to greatly change mankind for the better; hopefully they live up that potential.
Can you describe a typical model of UAV?
Here’s a description of the Steadidrone UAV from a company based in South Africa. They have since been absorbed by ALTI UAS
Flying robots seem to attract rather more media attention than their terrestrial counterparts, and these futuristic, cyberworld ‘poster-boys’ are helping to revolutionise industry’s data-acquisition strategies. Forward-looking companies attracted by the quality and economic appeal of aerial data are increasingly turning to drones as the optimum solution across a broad range of tasks. Corporate best-practice dictates that the professionalism of any UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) supplier will always be an organisation’s primary consideration, and SteadiDrone, based in Western Cape, South Africa, will have no problems on that score.
Offering a comprehensive array of retail sales, custom-design, manufacturing & development, and support services, SteadiDrone specialise in small unmanned aerial systems for commercial and industrial applications. Keeping up to speed with the latest UAV developments and related technologies is an important part of meeting customer expectations, and thus, in addition to providing flight-ready, turn-key products with pre-determined functionality, SteadiDrone’s developers and technicians are equally happy working with clients to develop custom specifications for cutting-edge applications.
Though the range of potential applications seems to expand continuously, the company regularly supply aerial configurations for imaging and mapping, surveys, and inspections. During these and similar tasks, onboard equipment is usually called upon to capture high-resolution images and fly-through video, or else to provide thermal-imaging, or perhaps collate a range of data to produce a 3D model.
Workhorses for courses
SteadiDrone supply three of their own drones developed as flexible, ‘fly-out-of-the-box’ solutions ready to handle a range of common assignments. Each is available in different variants to facilitate particular types of application, and the company’s overarching philosophy is to leave relevant aspects of each machine’s specification ‘open’ enough to allow the end-user to, for example, enjoy the benefits of using the latest digital-camera technology rather than having to get by with an inferior onboard fixture.
Designed for the challenges of everyday industrial wear and tear, the SteadiDrone Vader is built from premium-quality materials and offers sophisticated technological functions supported by a robust framework. SteadiDrone have designed this drone to ‘fly just about anything mounted underneath or right on top of the unit’, and recommend this as the machine of choice for serious aerial professionals. Though it can pack down into a compact storage case, the Vader can nevertheless carry heavy payloads and cope with flight durations of up to 40 minutes.
The Vader has four support arms and comes in five different versions: the Standard X4 and the Standard X8 models have one and two motors per arm respectively. The Vader-M series likewise has x4 and x8 options, and in addition, each of these models features a state-of-the-art onboard MicaSense RedEdge Multispectral camera plus a stabilising gimbal – a specification optimised to meet the particular needs of agricultural applications and capable of providing data capture features of the highest quality. Lastly comes the Vader-F, with a specification designed to facilitate professional-quality video filming and aerial photography.
SteadiDrone describe their Mavrik drone as ‘the most affordable high quality medium lift sUAS (small unmanned airborne system) available today, or tomorrow’. Designed with a fully adjustable, rail-supported gimbal driven by a brushless motor, the Mavrik is capable of deploying a broad range of front-mounted cameras, sensors, or other payloads, and can be vertically oriented up to an angle of 90 degrees.
The Mavrik can be used as a workaday aerial platform which is fully portable, and very quick and easy to assemble. Like its Vader stablemate, the SteadiDrone Mavrik is also available in different versions: two Standard models, respectively featuring an X4 and X8 complement of motors, and in each case benefitting from an ‘open’ specification which allows the flying of a variety of cameras. In addition, a pair of ‘M’ series Mavriks – the MX4 and the MX8 – each come equipped with a MicaSense RedEdge Multispectral camera, once again to meet the needs of aerial agricultural inspections and similar applications.
The diminutive Flare is the smallest member of SteadiDrone’s fleet and offers a nimble, ultra-compact platform suitable for capturing aerial data. Capable of carrying a range of smaller front-mounted digital cameras or sensors, the Flare can fly for up to 20 minutes and would prove invaluable in field locations were space is at a premium.
Like its more illustrious SteadiDrone peers, the Flare uses GPS navigation to guarantee intelligent and accurate field deployment and to gather reliable data in all operational conditions.
Though drones are set to dominate the future in most types of commercial aerial surveying, SteadiDrone report that their aerial platforms have also been charged with accomplishing a number of more down to earth tasks. Some clients, for example, have reported that drones have proved ideal for ‘chasing birds off airport runways’, and ‘delivering Pizza and beer!’