The Future of Drones: Will Machine Power Replace Manpower?

Since the technology that makes drones possible has advanced so much in recent years, the future of drones is on everyone’s minds. Drones are no longer a question of “what if,” but of “when and how.” In existence since the first World War, drone “pilots” used catapults to launch early models into the air to accomplish specific tasks. However, given the rate of failure of those early models, it is likely that no one from that era would have considered how bright the future of drones would be. More recently, more advanced drones started replacing humans and accomplishing tasks with precision and accuracy.

Drone Definition

A drone, in technological terms, is an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), or a craft that uses onboard computers to pilot it remotely. Also known as an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS), the pilot operates the device from the ground. The drone operator remotely controls the drone in real time, but alternatively could program a flight plan into it, or get it to perform a task. The GPS and sensors work hand-in-hand with the device’s onboard system to create the program.

During World War I, drones used to spy on enemy positions, and survey places of strategic importance. With the passage of time, the army started using drones as weapons on the battlefront. The device enabled armies to attack terrorists from a safe distance without putting their personnel in harm’s way.

What is a drone and how do you control one

A drone is nothing but a multirotor craft, meaning it is a motorcraft comprised of multiple rotating fixed wings enabling it to fly. A basic drone’s main components include propellers, a transmitter, and a flight controller. Every drone manufactured uses these essential components. Based on the number of propellers, the drones can be classified as tri-copters, quadcopters, hexacopters, or octocopters. The future of drones and advancement in design and development holds unfathomable prospects for the devices.

Let’s take a closer look at each of the components:

Drone transmitter

Drone transmitter to control the craft. The future of drones holds prospects to let user design his or her own transmitter

Image: CC by 3.0, by Foma39, via Wikimedia Commons

The transmitter is the remote device that enables the user to control the drone from a particular distance. A basic model has a left and right stick control to move the drone in the intended direction. The drone may come installed with a range of switches and buttons based on the purpose of its manufacture. Moreover, the user can program the transmitter to assign particular functions to the sticks and buttons.

Drone flight controller

The main processing unit called an inertial measurement unit (IMU) equips the device with its flying prowess, and is the drone’s flight controller. The controller houses the gyroscope, barometric pressure sensors, and an accelerometer, all of which enable the device to fly stably. To program and fly the drone automatically, the controller consists of a GPS antenna, positioning sensor, and compass sensor.

The controller communicates with the transmitter and determines the path that the device takes. Furthermore, the controller collects data from the surroundings and combines it with the transmitter’s input to keep the device stable.

Drone motors and speed controllers

The drone motor may or may not have brushes. In case of drones supporting heavy machinery, brushless versions are available while lighter devices use brushed motors. Moreover, brushed motors work to control the speed at which the drone travels.

Drone camera and gimbal

Drone camera and gimbal .The future of drones might see a transformation in the components to further increase the range of use

Image: CC 0, by anne773, via Pixabay

The drone operator receives real-time images and video from the drone’s attached camera. The future of drones holds a unique prospect for the utilization of its cameras. Some drone creators plan to equip the cameras with facial recognition to identify suspected criminals among crowds while being away from ground zero. To handle a camera with high specifications and to provide clear images and video, drones use a gimbal. A gimbal is a device attached to the drone that helps keep the camera in a stable, horizontal position while the drone travels and changes direction.

Propellers

Propellers are the key components of the multirotor system. The propellers rotate in opposite directions allowing the drone to maintain its position and ensure a stable flight.

Drone Regulations

Officials regulate drone flying on the grounds of security, safety, privacy and public nuisance. Let’s take a brief look at how drones can cause these issues.

Safety

Drones, being UAVs, can hinder the path of airplanes and result in accidents. The drone’s remote operator may not be aware of the path that a plane is on while landing or taking off. As a result, the drone could get in the way of an aircraft full of passengers, and endanger lives in the process.

Security

The unmanned flying vessel can be used to transport explosives to crowded places. Although highly volatile explosives are hard to get and are often heavy, the drones can be used to orchestrate attacks. Terrorist groups could use drones to survey an area and use the images and video to determine where to attack so they can maximize damage.

Privacy

The privacy of an individual is in danger as drones with cameras can invade personal space. The availability of drones to consumers offers a tempting prospect to those who are what the American Civil Liberties Union calls “bad apples,” or people who would use the technology for criminal or abusive purposes. Such purposes could include such things as identity theft and blackmail.

Public nuisance

This is the biggest concern for any drone operator. A drone may be prohibited to enter into airspace because of certain hazardous conditions that could harm property and life in that region.

Due to each of these reasons, it is necessary to regulate the flying and usage of drones to a certain extent. Moreover, the future of drones and their respective regulations is quite unsteady as activists continue to pressure governments worldwide to frame laws against the flying of the devices.

The Global Drone Regulation Database provides drone regulations laid out by governments worldwide. The user can select his or her region to identify the conditions you have to meet before flying a drone. Drone operators in the United States can find laws on flying drones in the Master List of Drone Laws, which is sorted based on the state in which they live.

Commercial Drone

A commercial drone is simply a typical UAV used for commercial purposes, including filming, spraying farms, and delivering goods, among other things According to the Economist, more than 110,000 drones were sold in America in 2017 for commercial purposes. Furthermore, experts expect the figure to go even higher with India and the USA legalizing the usage of UAVs for commercial purposes in 2018.

Individual drone operators and those who work for organizations using commercial drones need to fulfill certain requirements to use them for commercial purposes, including the following:

  1. The drone should weigh less than 55 pounds.
  2. Inspect the drone before every trip it makes between two points.
  3. Report any damage of $500 or more caused by the drones to the Federal Aviation Administration(FAA).
  4. Aircraft carrying live people get priority over drones when in the same airspace.
  5. The operator can only fly the drone after getting permission from the air traffic controller.

Future of Drones – Power to Change the World

Tech pundits predict that the future of drones will change the world for good. Apart from Military and surveillance purposes, the future looks exceptionally bright since the FAA cleared the use of drones for commercial purposes.

Since the FAA allowed UAV use for commercial purposes, people could soon expect their deliveries to drop from the skies. Farmers could use drones to spray pesticides over their fields while operating the device from the comfort of their homes. Moreover, filming of movies and live sports will never be the same with drones providing a range of angles from every possible position.

Here is a list of instances that stand out when it comes to the future of drones:

Unmanned flying vehicles

The future of drones is here with the unmanned cab service in Dubai

Image: CC by 2.0, by Ben Smith Via Flickr.

Dubai, in the United Aram Emirates (UAE), could become the first ever city to implement a driverless hover-cab service. The passenger traveling in the drone will only be allowed to carry a small suitcase with the vehicle being a single-seater. Moreover, the traveling passenger should weigh 100kgs or less to travel in the drone. The first test run of a Chinese prototype, the EHang 184, was successful, so it is just a matter of time before we see others in action.

Drone submarine

This type of drone can operate underwater for about two months. This type of drone travels across the ocean floor to survey the area for research. The submarine hosts the drone until it reaches a specific depth, and then deploys the device to the ocean floor. The drone then returns to the parent sub after collecting and sending the required data.

Drone waiters

Diners can soon expect to see machines serving them their food rather than human waiters. The Timbre group based in Singapore is planning to cope with a shortage of humanpower by employing drones instead of humans. The drones will be able to serve 4.4 pounds of food while using infrared sensors to navigate around the restaurant. Infinium Robotics is the tech firm is credited with the discovery of the drone and will be testing their first craft soon.

Technological advancements solved some of the older issues with drones, especially with their crashing. Drones do have plenty of potential problems, such as security and privacy issues. The benefits that drones bring to almost every area of our lives, personally and commercially, are too significant to ignore, and the future of drones looks very bright indeed.

Featured Image: CC by 0, by DroneImageNation, via Pixabay

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