What is a Drone?

The best way to define a drone is an aircraft that is unmanned- or a flying robot-that one can control remotely. The drone has flight plans that are embedded in their systems, to enable them to use some software to fly autonomously. 

The drone system works hand in hand with GPS and onboard sensors. The military sector will commonly refer to them as UAVs, abbreviations for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. Due to the ability to control them remotely, they are also known as RPAS, abbreviations for Remotely Piloted Aerials Systems.

Some places will find the term “unmanned flights” to be too risky, and this makes the term “drones” more friendly.

The troops allow for security bodies to employ a troop to keep an eye on the sky throughout the week. Experienced pilots can also use drones to capture incredible videos. A drone will also come in handy to facilitate media coverage of events and happenings.

How to fly a drone

Consumer drones seem really easy to operate, and one can easily assume that its operations are as easy as the interface. However, this is not the case. The interface is intentionally designed to be as user friendly as possible, so that the user does not encounter the complexity of the physics behind the technology that makes the drone a possibility. 

It is essential to understand how the mechanical features of a drone works or how it actually flies. Here is how:

  • Connectivity

A drone gives its users the flexibility of controlling it remotely from their smartphone or tablet. An experienced pilot can use a wireless connection to view the drone as well as its environment from the perspective of a bird’s-eye view.

A drone also allows its users to pre-program its flight path and create an automated flight path for the drone. To make this a possibility, the users leverage apps using specific GPS coordinates. 

Drones use smaller batteries to keep their weight low, and therefore the battery charge can only last for a specific time.  One of the features that users find very critical is the ability to track their battery charge levels in real time. 

  • Rotors

Drones have a rotor which is connected to a motor to help it hover above the ground. To let it hover without fail, the gravitational pull on the drone must be equal to the downward thrust of the drone. The vertical motion of the drone is not possible without the rotor.  The drone climbs up when the pilot accelerates the speed of the drone such that it gains a force to overcome gravity and go upwards. The drone descends when the pilot reduces the speeds such that the drone produces a force that is lesser than the gravitational pull.

A drone has four rotors. For it to hover, the user should have two of the rotors move clockwise, and the other two anticlockwise. While at it, the user should maintain a balance on the sideways momentum of the drone. The user should then increase the speed of the other two rotors to ensure that the vertical thrust of the drone does not go overboard. 

To move forward and backwards, the drone should thrust its rotors while making sure there is a balance in the spin of the rotors.

The pilot needs to be skilled to keep the drone in proper control. The pilot controls the four rotors independently. Two of the rotors turn in opposite directions to each other. The other two that are in diagonally opposite directions to each other, turn in the same direction. 

Since drones do not move a lot of air, they need to move very quickly to move enough air. 

  • Accelerometer and Altimeter

The role of the accelerometer is to determine the changes in position and movement of the drone. It works hand in hand with its gyroscope. The accelerometer majorly comes in handy to read the linear movement along any axis. A gyroscope majors in reading the rotational movements of the drone. 

The accelerometer works together with the GPS technology to help you track your route remotely from your smartphone. This is an essential tool when you are travelling or you need to keep track of your travelling or running route.

Accelerometers play a major role in ensuring the drone keeps a balanced hover. When the drone is in the air, it encounters external forces such as strong winds. The accelerometer detects those forces against the drone and relays that information to the PID controller. In return, the controller alerts the motors to counteract that movement. 

The drone technology combines 3-axis accelerometer plus 3-axis gyroscope which gives what is known as 6-axis gyro stabilization. If you need to use the drone for photography or 3-D imagery, you cannot do without the 6-axis gyro stabilization.

The Altimeter calculates the height of the drone above the surface-either above sea or above surface level-giving the user the acceleration force of the drone.

The accelerator and the altimeter work together to ensure that the drone gets a slow and safe landing.  The combined technology keeps the drone safe from what is called a wash- an air vacuum- where the drone can sink in causing it to pull down in an unpredicted fashion.

  • Cameras

It is crucial for the drone user to be aware of where the drone is flying. Some drones have inbuilt cameras which allow the pilot to see where the drone is flying to even when they do not have a direct access of the device’s line of sight.

The cameras mounted on the drones enable one to see places that are generally hard to reach. This makes the drone such a valuable tool in search and rescue missions.

How far can a drone fly?

Several factors determine how far a drone can fly. One factor is the size of the drone. A large drone quickly drains its battery while a smaller one will maintain its battery power much longer. The propellers help the drone to fight against gravity, helping it to remain in the air. If the drone is heavy, the propellers will have to use double the energy to overcome gravity, and that will mean more battery charge will be used. 

The other consideration is the battery lifespan. The average lifespan of a drone battery is ten minutes. You will need to calculate the time the drone leaves the control and the time it needs to get back.  There are ways to prolong that battery life to increase the range the drone can fly. However, before you do that, be sure you want to go through what it takes to look for a lost drone. It is possible to find it, but no, its not fun at all!

Toy drones can comfortably cover 20 meters and the long-range ones can cover many miles. There is a direct relationship between how far a drone can fly and how expensive it is.

There are those drones that can fly up to 150 meters such as the Holy Stone drone, the HS300 RC range, and some others can fly up to 1.24 miles, such as the DJI Spark.

How high can a drone fly

The current commercial drones can fly as high as 20,000 feet high. However, there are laws that guide how high a drone is allowed to fly. In the US, the law permits up to 400 feet high while in the European Union, the allowed altitude is 500 feet.

However, if there were no laws limiting the altitudes a drone can attain, the commercial ones would go up to 6000 feet. The higher the altitudes, the thinner the air and therefore drones can easily go higher since the propellers will not overwork to overcome the gravity.

The higher we go, the cooler it becomes. The current batteries do not tolerate low temperatures and so the rotors end up rotating in a much slower motion.

How to spot a drone at night

When you look out into the night, you can, according to what you see, spot a drone. However, what you see are the lights attached to the drones. The lights are clearly visible at night. 

The navigational lights are usually green, red or white, while the anti-collision lights are always either red or white. The user can use both lights and that is what most pilots do.

When you fly your drone at night, it is advisable to have the lights on. However, when you need to take photos, its advisable to switch them off so that your photos can come out as amazing as you need them. You can then switch on the lights after taking the photos.

How much does a drone cost

To get a toy drone, it will cost you about $20 to $250. If you need camera drones, you will need to spend $300 and upwards.  Some other drones such as DJI Mavic Pro will cost up to $1000.

If you are a professional drone user, you will need to budget for a drone that is worth tens of thousands for you to get the best out of your flight time and also the best image quality.

If you are looking for a cheap drone, there are several available in the market. Click here to see my comparison review between the DJI Mavic 2 Drone vs Holy Stone HS720.

If you are curious or want to know how to build a drone then click here to learn more.