Drones have come a long way from the spy planes used by the CIA to monitor military activity in the Middle East—today you can find drones doing everything from delivering parcels to spraying plants and keeping tabs on whale populations in the Pacific Ocean. Furthermore, since their inception, the technology has gotten cheap enough to take on the commercial market, with a quickly growing population of drone enthusiasts already making headlines with various stunts and blunders. Let’s take a brief look at the exciting world of Drones.
What is a Drone?
While there isn’t technically an official definition for drone aircraft, the US military which has pioneered most of the development of the technology has long called these aircraft unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), which is any aircraft piloted by remote control or onboard computers. The machines that people typically refer to as drones tend to feature both capabilities, that is the ability to both fly autonomously and be controlled by a remote operator. That autonomous component however is important, because it’s what separates drones from model aircraft, which have been used for over a hundred years. The military also makes a distinction between UAVs and munitions like missiles which are capable of autonomous flight. Coming in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, the most common types of drones used by citizens are quadcopters.
Why Buy a Drone?
Drones can cost hundreds and thousands of dollars, so many people may wonder why someone would want to make such an investment into what amounts to a remote controlled plane. The most simple answer, is that a drone is so much more than an expensive remote controlled aircraft—the onboard computers are much more sophisticated and the drone hobbyist often has a background or interest in electronics, DIY projects and robotics. Furthermore the uses for a drone are endless—many people have found innovative ways to use the technology to make life better for humans, whether it’s through environmental conservation projects or convenient mobile camera for the film industry. What’s more the price of drones is rapidly decreasing, with entry level models like the Parrot selling for as low as $300. If all you want is a quadcopter, you can go even cheaper, with something like the Odyssey X-4 Nanodrone.
Different Types of Drones
For a long time, the word drone conjured up images of armed miniature planes like the Predator or Reaper drones which have played a vital role in US military operations in the Middle East. Today however, you’re more likely to think of the quadcopters, hexacopters and octocopters that hobbyists love to use. In general they come equipped with a controller, a microprocessor, a stabilizer and a set of rotating propellers to help the drone hover and maneuver through the air. This type of drone is easier to handle and works great for mounting a camera, making it a popular choice among hobbyists.
Applications of Drones
If you’ve ever found yourself wishing you could sprout wings and capture a bird’s eye view of your neighborhood, you’ve already experienced one of the major reasons people buy drones. Drones have found their way into the agricultural industry where they are used to spray insecticides on plants, they’ve been employed in zoos to safely monitor dangerous animals at a distance, and Hollywood has even begun using drones in film to capture new angles in aerial cinematography. The things you can do with a drone are limited only by your imagination.