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Rise of the Drones

Posted August 02, 2015 12:00 AM by Texas Instruments

2015 is quickly becoming the year of drones. So what exactly is a drone? According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), a drone is an unmanned aircraft system comprising the unmanned aircraft (the drone) and all of its associated support equipment: control station, data links, telemetry, navigation equipment, etc. To fly a hobbyist drone (weighing less than 55lbs), you don't need the FAA's approval, as long as you keep it within your line of sight and away from populated areas/full-scale aircrafts. Flying a drone for business purposes does require FAA approval.

According to CBInsights, as of May 31, drone startups have raised more funding in 2015 than the previous three years combined (Figure 1). While the defense industry has used drones for more than a decade, they are coming into their own in the commercial space.

Figure 1: Drone Investment activity reported by CBInsights

So what exactly is a drone? A drone is an unmanned aircraft. An unmanned aircraft system is the unmanned aircraft (drone) and all of the associated support equipment such as control station, data links, telemetry, navigation equipment, etc. To fly a hobbyist drone that weighs < 55lbs, you don't need FAA's approval as long as you keep it within your line of sight and away from populated areas/full scale aircrafts. But, to fly a drone for business purpose, you do need to obtain FAA's approval.

What makes drones so attractive for business purposes? They have certain unique abilities that are opening up new applications and markets every day. Drones can overcome terrain challenges and are deployable anywhere. They can also carry flexible payloads (the lighter the load the longer the flight time) and can measure and record everything in their path from an aerial perspective. The convergence of advanced smartphone software and processing capability; very high-resolution, lightweight video-capturing equipment; and advanced flight-control algorithms are unlocking new possibilities for drones.

Commercial applications include:

  • Camera drones - to capture extreme sport enthusiasts' adventures.
  • Agriculture - noted as having the highest potential commercially. Drones further the precision-agriculture movement by identifying and applying pesticides and fertilizers exactly where they are needed, which is better for the environment and the farmer's bottom line.
  • Search and rescue - thermal-imaging cameras can locate missing people when the general search area is known.
  • Surveying/geographic information systems (GIS) mapping.
  • Unmanned cargo delivery - delivering that last-minute anniversary gift or your favorite pizza.
  • Riot-control drones - loaded with pepper sprays or paintballs designed to disperse crowds. (This one makes me uneasy.)

One of the challenges with drones is the flight time. Could you imagine having to stop a search effort or your pizza not making it all the way to your house due to low battery? Limited flying time in every application scenario leads to a less desirable outcome. Although there are a few gas-powered drones, most are powered by lithium-ion (Li-ion) or lithium polymer (LiPo) rechargeable batteries. The many ways to extend flight time include making the payload as light as possible, flying in the right weather conditions, and choosing a higher capacity/higher-cell-count battery pack. Mainstream drone batteries have evolved from 3-4 cells in series to higher capacity greater than 5 cells in series. TI has a variety of battery chargers, gauges and protectors to cover the spectrum of drone application needs, including a device that can perform charging, gauging and protection all in one package - the bq40Z60.

That was a quick overview of drones, their applications and outlook. Even though every new generation of drone increases run time, you always want to remember to carry an extra battery pack or two so the fun can continue uninterrupted. Stay charged!

To learn more about TI's battery management portfolio, please visit www.ti.com/battery

(Editor's Note: This is a sponsored post brought to you by Texas Instruments.)

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Guru

Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 39041
Good Answers: 1533
#1

Re: Rise of the Drones

08/03/2015 7:16 PM

AC drone is something that brings out the incredible stupidity and selfishness in many people.

I say shoot them out of the sky if they fly over your property.

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Commentator

Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 58
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#2
In reply to #1

Re: Rise of the Drones

08/03/2015 11:10 PM

Agree 100%. I can see the agricultural uses, as long as they remain in the farmer's airspace. The pizza-delivery scheme is the one that bothers me the most. Keep the things away from populated areas, and "populated area" includes any inhabited property, even if it's a cabin in the woods.

If package-delivery drones are approved, any drone with a camera should be required to retain all video images so that the anti-peeeping-Tom burden of proof is always on the drone operator. And require every individual drone to carry $100,000 in liability insurance, adjusted with inflation, to cover privacy-invasion damages as well as property damages.

To avoid hassles with firearms restrictions in populated areas, a small air-powered net-launcher might be the safest method to bring them down.

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Power-User

Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Rochester NY metro area
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#5
In reply to #2

Re: Rise of the Drones

08/07/2015 5:30 AM

I saw where Amazon is pushing for new FAA drone flight rules. 200-400 feet is for high speed drone operation. 0-200 feet is for low speed. So - I don't own the air space an inch above my lawn? Anyone can fly into it any time for any purpose? And if Amazon's drone crashes on my property while on the way to deliver something somewhere else (which inevitably will happen at some point), someone can just show up and trespass to recover it?

Well then I say there should be two more rules:

1) Like the "Do Not Call" list, there should be a Do Not Fly List. I can register my property on it. Then any drone that flies into my airspace lower than 100 feet without authorization can legally be shot down. And the pilot/owner gets fined. Say $1000/incident.

2) Whatever crashes on my property I own. Drone, data in the computer, cargo. No trespassing to recover. Negotiate to buy it back if you want it and its cargo.

There are a lot of good uses for these, but also creepy ones. By government and the private sector. Some privacy laws are needed to push back.

jhammond

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Guru

Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: Phnom Penh
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#6
In reply to #5

Re: Rise of the Drones

08/07/2015 6:07 AM

I'm sure that a variation of your rational approach will creep in some how.

Your property could easily be geofenced on the drone's on board map/terrain database. The conditions and right to defend or penalise would be similar to say an airport.

As for crashes, these would be the same as a car/truck crashing into your yard from the street. An accident.

Criminal or nefarious intent can't be totally controlled with laws.

Airspace licences will be another income stream for the government. Rental of a public resource.

Same as roads and vehicle taxes. Spectrum licence fees ( Drones will be yet another customer for a public resource),

If they followed road easements then the road owners could rent the space above.

It will happen.

I hope the first crash doesn't hurt anyone.

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Power-User

Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 458
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#3

Re: Rise of the Drones

08/05/2015 10:34 PM

There have been drones almost as long as there has been flight by machines. Didn't you want one of the radio controlled aircraft when you were a teenager?

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Guru

Join Date: Jun 2011
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#4

Re: Rise of the Drones

08/05/2015 11:53 PM

I dreamed of having an RC heli with a camera so I could do inspections at height without climbing. Easy now.

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Commentator

Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 58
Good Answers: 3
#8
In reply to #4

Re: Rise of the Drones

08/09/2015 12:43 PM

I have used binoculars for that purpose. Not quite as good for the job and a little more work getting different angles, but a lot less dangerous, invasive, and annoying.

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Guru
Technical Fields - Project Managers & Project Engineers - New Member

Join Date: Oct 2013
Location: Texas.Baytown
Posts: 697
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#7

Re: Rise of the Drones

08/07/2015 8:34 AM

Well i bought a drone at the mall that relays pictures to my tablet. Cost slightly > $100. Great toy but a limited range. Now i could fly it over my neighbors patio while his wife was sunbathing, but i do have standards, low that they may be.

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