Technologies Used In Drones

Technologies used in Drones

1. Radar Positioning & Return Home:

The latest drones have dual Global Navigational Satellite Systems (GNSS) such as GPS and GLONASS. Drones can fly in both GNSS and non-satellite modes.

Highly accurate drone navigation is very important when flying, especially in drone applications such as creating 3D maps, surveying landscape and SAR (Search & Rescue) missions.

When the quadcopter is first switched on, it searches and detects GNSS satellites. High end GNSS systems use Satellite Constellation technology. Basically, a satellite constellation is a group of satellites working together giving coordinated coverage and are synchronized, so that they overlap well in coverage. Pass or coverage is the period in which a satellite is visible above the local horizon.

UAV Drone GNSS On Ground Station Remote Controller

The radar technology will signal the following on the remote controller display;

  • Signal that enough drone GNSS satellites have been detected and the drone is ready to fly
  • Display the current position and location  of the drone in relation to the pilot
  • Record the home point for ‘Return to Home’ safety feature

Most of the latest UAVs have 3 types of Return to Home drone technology as follows;

    • Pilot initiated return to home by pressing button on Remote Controller or in an app
    • A low battery level, where the UAV will fly automatically back to the home point
    • Loss of contact between the UAV and Remote Controller, with the UAV flying back automatically to its home point.

        2. Obstacle Detection And Collision Avoidance Technology:

        The latest high-tech drones are now equipped with collision avoidance systems. These use obstacle detection sensors to scan the surroundings, while software algorithms and SLAM technology produce the images into 3D maps allowing the drone to sense and avoid.  These systems fuse one or more of the following sensors to sense and avoid;

        • Vision Sensor
        • Ultrasonic
        • Infrared
        • Lidar
        • Time of Flight (ToF)
        • Monocular Vision

        Most of the latest drones have obstacle sensing on all 6 sides. The Drones use both Vision and Infrared sensors fused into a vision system known as omni-directional Obstacle Sensing.

        The Drone obstacle sensing system is top drone technology. The Drones will sense objects, then fly around obstacles in front. It can do the same when flying backwards. Or hover if it is not possible to fly around the obstacle. This technology is known as APAS (Advanced Pilot Assistance System).

        3. Gyroscope Stabilization, IMU And Flight Controllers:

        Gyro stabilization technology give the UAV drone its smooth flight capabilities.

        The gyroscope works almost instantly to the forces moving against the drone, keeping it flying or hovering very smoothly.  The gyroscope provides essential navigational information to the central flight controller.

        The inertial measurement unit (IMU) works by detecting the current rate of acceleration using one or more accelerometers. The IMU detects changes in rotational attributes like pitch, roll and yaw using one or more gyroscopes.  Some IMU include a magnetometer to assist with calibration against orientation drift.

        The Gyroscope is a component of the IMU and the IMU is an essential component of the drone’s flight controller. The flight controller is the central brain of the drone.

        4. UAV Drone Propulsion Technology:

        The propulsion system (motors, electronic speed controllers and propellers) are the drone technology, which move the UAV into the air and to fly in any direction or hover.  On a quadcopter, the motors and propellers work in pairs with 2 motors / propellers rotating clockwise (CW Propellers) and 2 motors rotating Counter Clockwise (CCW Propellers).

        They receive data from the flight controller and the electronic speed controllers (ESC) on the drone motor direction to either fly or hover.

        Top UAV drone motors and propulsion systems are highly advanced and include the following components;

        • Motor Startor
        • Motor Bell (rotor)
        • Windings
        • Bearings
        • Cooling System
        • Electronic Speed Controllers
        • ESC Updater
        • Propellers
        • Wiring
        • Arm

        The Electronic Speed Controllers signal to the drone motors information on speed, braking and also provide monitoring and fault tolerance on the drone motors.

        5. Realtime Telemetry Flight Parameters:

        Nearly all drones have a Ground Station Controller (GSC) or a smartphone app, allowing you to fly the drone and to keep track of the current flight telemetry. Telemetry data showing on the remote controller  many include UAV range, height, speed, GNSS strength, remaining battery power and warnings.

        Many UAV drone ground controllers use FPV (First Person View), which transmit the video from the drone to the controller or mobile device.

        6. FPV Live Video Transmission Drone Technology:

        FPV means “First Person View”. A video camera is mounted on the unmanned aerial vehicle and this camera broadcasts the live video to the pilot on the ground.  The ground pilot is flying the aircraft as if they were on-board the aircraft instead of looking at the aircraft from the pilot’s actual ground position.

        FPV allows the unmanned aircraft to fly much higher and further than you can from looking at the aircraft from the ground.  First Person View allows for more precise flying especially around obstacles. FPV allows unmanned aerial vehicles to fly very easily indoors, or through forests and around buildings.

        The exceptionally fast growth and development of the drone racing league would not be possible without FPV live video transmission technology. This FPV technology uses radio signal to transmit and receive the live video.

        The drone has a multi-band wireless FPV transmitter built in along with an antenna.  Depending on the drone, the receiver of the live video signals can be either the remote-control unit, a computer, tablet or smartphone device.

        Drones such as the HDRC and TXD 8S use integrated controllers and intelligent algorithms to set a new standard for wireless high definition image transmission by lowering latency and increasing maximum range and reliability.

        7. Internal Compass & Failsafe Function:

        Allows the UAV drone and remote-control system to know exactly its flight location. A home point can be set and this is the location the drone will return to, if the drone and the remote-control system stop connecting. This is also known as “fail-safe function”.

        8. LED Flight Indicators:

        These are found at the front and the rear of the drone. Generally, drone LEDs will be green, yellow or red. The front LED indicators light up to indicate the nose of the UAV. The rear LEDs flight indicators light up to indicate the various status of the drone when power on, getting a firmware upgrade and flying.

        It is a good to understand what the flashing LEDs on your quadcopter indicate. All drones come with a user manual, which list what each type of flashing LED mean.

        9. Range Extender UAV Technology:

        This is a wireless communication device which generally operate within the 2.4 GHz frequency. It is used to extend the range of communication between the smartphone or tablet and the drone in an open unobstructed area. Transmission distance can reach up to 700 meters. Each range extender has a unique MAC address and network name (SSID).

        10. Smartphone App Featuring Ground Station Function:

        Most of the UAV drones today can be flown by a remote controller or from a smartphone app, which can be downloaded from Google Play or the Apple Store. The app allows for full control of the drone.

        11. Smartphone App Featuring Ground Station Function:

        Most of the UAV drones today can be flown by a remote controller or from a smartphone app, which can be downloaded from Google Play or the Apple Store. The app allows for full control of the drone.

        12. Drones with High Performance Camera:

        The latest drones like Professional Drone S1 Pro Max and HDRC and other manufacturers now include cameras, which can shoot film in 4k video and can take 12 megapixel stills.

        The earlier drones used cameras, which were not fully suitable for aerial filming.  These aerial shots had barrel distortion because of the wide-angle lens.

        However, the latest 4k video drones such as HDRC and TXD 8S and Professional Drone S1 Pro Max  have a camera which is specifically designed for aerial filming and photography.

        Gimbals & Tilt Control

        Gimbal technology is vital to capture quality aerial photos, film or 3D imagery.

        The gimbal allows the camera to tilt while in flight, creating unique angles.  More importantly, the gimbal reduces camera vibration. These are mostly 3 axis stabilized gimbals with 2 working modes. Non-FPV mode and FPV mode.

        Practically all the latest drones have integrated gimbals and cameras.  The leader in aerial gimbal technology is DJI with their Zenmuse range.  You can read further on drone gimbal design here.

        Cinematography Drones Without Gimbals

        At CES a few years back, a company called Ambarella announced the H22 chip for cameras in drones. This H22 chip allows the camera to film in 4k HD video and includes electronic image stabilization, removing the camera gimbal.

        13. Drones With Sensors To Create 3D Maps And Models Using Sensor Fusion:

        Lidar, Multispectral and Photogrammetry sensors are being used to build 3D models of buildings and landscapes.  Low light night vision and Thermal vision sensors are being used on drones to  scan buildings and landscapes to assist in agriculture, firefighting, search and rescue.

        Drones can carry different sensors with the software combining the data together for better results.  This technology is known as sensor fusion and works as follows;

        Sensor fusion is software, which intelligently combines data from several different sensors such as a thermal camera and a regular RGB camera sensor for the purpose of improving application or system performance. Combining data from multiple sensors corrects the errors from individual sensors to calculate accurate position and orientation information.

        For example, multispectral sensors on drones can create Digital Elevation Maps (DEMS) of land areas to provide precision data on the health of crops, flowers, fauna, shrubs and trees.

        In 2016, drones using Time-of-Flight (ToF) sensors came on the market.  ToF sensors, also known as “Flash Lidar” can be used on their own or with RGB and regular lidar sensors to provide various solutions across the sectors.

        ToF depth ranging camera sensors can be used for object scanning, indoor navigation, obstacle avoidance, gesture recognition, tracking objects, measure volumes, reactive altimeters, 3D photography, augmented reality games and much more.

        Flash lidar Time-of-Flight cameras have a huge advantage over other technologies, as it is able to measure distances to objects within a complete scene in a single shot.

        For lidar and photogrammetry mapping, the UAV is programmed to fly over an area autonomously, using waypoint navigation. The camera on the drone will take photographs at 0.5 or 1 second intervals. These photos are then stitched together using specialized photogrammetry software to create the 3D images.

        DroneDeploy is one of the leaders in the creation of 3D mapping software.  Their mobile app and Live Map are being used in various sectors for creating 3D maps and models. They have a specialized solution for the agriculture sector and their software will work with most of the latest drones.

        Capturing high resolution images on a stabilized drone is very important. Using top photogrammetry software to process the images into real maps and models is just as important.  Some of the top drone mapping software is as follows;

        • DroneDeploy 3D Mapping Solutions
        • Pix4D Mapper Photogrammetry Software
        • AutoDesk ReCap Photogrammetry Software
        • Maps Made Easy – Orthophoto and 3D Models
        • 3DF Zephyr Photogrammetry Software
        • Agisoft PhotoScan Photogrammetry Software
        • PrecisionHawk Precision Mapper / Viewer
        • Open Drone Map
        • ESRI Drone2Map For ArcGIS

        You can read a review on the above drone mapping software in this article on best photogrammetry software for 3D maps.

        14. Anti-Drop Kit:

        Helps to keep the stabilizer and camera connected to the unmanned aircraft.

        15. Video Editing Software:

        Having an excellent quality video software is essential for post processing. Most of the latest drones can film in Adobe DNG raw, which mean that all the original image information is retained for later processing.

        16. Operating Systems In Drone Technology:

        Most unmanned aircraft use Linux and a few MS Windows. The Linux Foundation have a project launched in 2014 called the Dronecode project.

        The Dronecode Project is an open source, collaborative project which brings together existing and future open source unmanned aerial vehicle projects under a nonprofit structure governed by The Linux Foundation. The result is a common, shared open source platform for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV).



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