Drones. You either love them or hate them, but, you can't stop being curious about how they work. Drone technology continues to evolve at a rapid rate, but, the basic operational principles will always remain the same. So, how do they work? Well, to explain that we will need to use the example of a high end drone such as the Phantom series. The reason for doing so is that these models are loaded with a range of features, which makes it easier to cover the primary aspects of drone operation.
So, let's begin.
Getting to know your drone
We all know that drones are unmanned aerial vehicles, but, do we know what they are made of why certain materials are used to make them? Well, that's what we are here to find out.
Drones are made using composite, lightweight materials. The objective here is to obviously minimize weight and boost maneuverability. The composite material provides the drone with strength and keeps it flying at high altitudes. The composite materials used to build the drone are also vibration absorbing, which helps reduce noise.
Depending on the purpose it is meant to serve, each drone comes loaded with a host of features. For instance, military UAVs or drones come with laser aiming, GPS, and infra-red cameras.
The other thing you've probably noticed is that drones are controlled via remote systems. Of course, in the case of military drones, you need an entire ground cockpit. Anyway, getting back to the point, the remote control system is the most significant part of a drone after the drone itself.
There are sensors that detect the signals sent by the remote control and these sensors are located within the drone's general structure. In the case of military drones, you would find them at the nose.
Key Components You'll Likely Find in a Drone
A drone works the way it does because there are a range of tools and components helping it do so. For the sake of easy comprehension and better knowledge, we've given you a list of components that are found in most drone models.
- Return Home & Radar Positioning: A drone comes with radar that helps the operator determine the drone's location and position. If the distance limit is exceeded by the operator, the drone's in-built "return home" feature gets activated. As a result, the drone will return automatically to its original take-off point.
- Onscreen Real-Time Flight Parameters: This component helps operators receive visual information on their mobile devices. In other words, it helps them see what the drone sees. It also helps the operator keep an eye on the flight telemetry.
- Gyro stabilization and IMU: Ever wonder how drones maintain position effortlessly? Well, it's because the component known as Gyro-stabilization. It works to counter the forces acting against the UAV. It provides navigational instructions to the drone's central flight controller. The IMU or Inertia Measurement Unit detects the current rate of acceleration using an accelerometer. Sometimes there can be more than one accelerometer.
These are just a few of the core components. Now, it's time to get an idea of how drones actually fly.
As mentioned earlier, a drone requires a remote control system to help it achieve flight. This remote control system is what launches, navigates, and lands the drone. Remote control systems come in various forms. In fact, some drones are controlled via smart devices such as tablets and smartphones.
These controllers communicate with the drone using radio waves. In general, the radio wave frequency used is 2.4 gigahertz. Sometimes, Wi-Fi signals are sent out in the 2.4 gigahertz spectrum, which is exactly what allows smartphone or tablet based controllers to receive and send out instructions with ease.
There is a GPS inside the drone that communicates location coordinates to the remote control system. This is the same GPS chip that allows the Return Home feature to work. Similarly, using gyro stabilization and an altimeter, the drone can be instructed to stay at a certain height or remain at a certain position. Even when there are counter forces acting on the drone, the GPS chip ensures that the drone remains in the z and x axes. Some high end drones can withstand wind speeds of up to 50 miles an hour.