*What Is A Drone? – A drone is an aircraft that does not have an on-board human pilot. Although the word can be used to refer to land, water and space vehicles, we will focus on aircraft. However, many of the categories discussed below are equally applicable to non-flying drones.
*Most drones have some degree or autonomous operation. That is, at least some aspects of a drone’s operation is controlled internally. This requires an on-board computer and software. Vehicles that require a human to control every aspect of operation, such as a hobbyist’s remote controlled airplane, are generally not considered drones.
*Drone Intellectual Property- Innovators in the drone technology industry are taking steps to protect their investment in new technological products, and services. In most situations, patents are the best form of intellectual property to protect drone technologies and companies in the drone industry and have also been filing large numbers of patent applications. The trend will continue!
*Military Use- Most drones use a mixture of autonomous and human control. For example, many drones have the ability to automatically stabilize the aircraft by adjusting control surfaces and power settings, but a human may be needed to tell the drone where to go. Few drones are currently completely autonomous.
Aerial Drones Are Known By Several Different Names and Acronyms:
*Remotely Piloted Vehicles (RPV)
*Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)
*Unmanned Aircraft (UA)
*Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS)
*Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV)
*Drones have been around in one form or another since well before World War 2. The first drone was the Kettering Bug which was developed for the U.S. Army. It first flew in 1918. As is the case with many new technologies, the military has been the greatest driving force behind drone development. The military use of drones has received a great deal of attention recently.
*Civilian Use- As capabilities have increased and costs have decreased over the years, drone developers began to dream of more uses for drones. Engineers and scientists are now designing and building drones for a wide range of military and civilian uses. This is causing a rapid expansion in the drone industry with many new companies being formed. There has also been an explosion in drone technology! The FAA is currently working on civilian drone regulations and on establishing “drone test sites”.
*Drone Variety- One of the most interesting things about drones is that they come in such a wide variety. Drones can be as small as insects and as large as jumbo jets! Some drones can only hover while other drones can fly across oceans at great speeds. Some require constant human input, while others can operate autonomously from launch to recovery.
*Drone Technology Disciplines- Depending on the mission, drones can be extremely complex. Drone development involves many different disciplines. In addition to aeronautical and mechanical engineering, drone development can require expertise in electronics, computers, software, materials, communications, power, propulsion and operations.
*Drone Missions- The drone development process usually begins by defining the mission. Missions are extremely varied. military drones can fire deadly missiles and perform complex tasks while some civilian drones are intended as simple toys.
*Other Aspects Of Drones:
*Agriculture, Airborne Early Warning, Anti-Submarine, Cargo Transport, Communications Relay, Conservation, Decoy, Disaster Recovery, Environmental Monitoring, Fire Fighting, Intelligence, Meteorology, Mine Detection & Detonation, Natural Resources, Personal Transport, Photography, Reconnaissance, Remote Sensing, Search, Surveillance, Surveying, Target Designation, Traffic, Wildlife Monitoring, As Well As My Use For Cinematography!
*Each mission has a set of values, and variables that must be achieved by the drone. Once the mission is defined, designers turn to the mainframe. Drone air frame designs must address challenges in a number of different areas, such as:
*Endurance, Launch & Recovery Systems, Maneuverability, On-Board Systems, Operating Altitude, Operating Environment, Range, Scale Effects, Stability, Stealth, Transportation & Storage, Construction, Propulsion Systems, Electromagnetic Emissions, Infrared, Radar, Sound, Visibility, Launch & Recovery Systems, Communication Systems, Control Systems, Collision Avoidance, Navigation, Data, Sensors, Testing, & Support, Also, Transportation & Storage!