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Drones - No Longer Science Fiction

Posted November 02, 2015 7:00 AM by cheme_wordsmithy

Over the last couple years we've seen a dramatic increase in the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) by the private sector and the hobbyist. Major developments in batteries, sensors, and controllers have made made these flying machines, commonly referred to as drones, much more of a consumer reality. And let's face it, they are the ultimate high-tech toy, capable of much more than your kid's (or let's face it, your own) remote controlled helicopter or plane.

Drones use the same mechanism for propulsion as helicopters: angled blades that spin in a circle to move air and provide lift. What makes them mechanically unique is the use of four, six, or eight motor powered rotors instead of just one. This provides greater control and eliminates the need for a tail rotor to cancel out torsional moment. It also allows the drone to rely less on mechanical parts and more on electronic control.

The greatest asset of the drone, however, is that it is an intelligent machine. Drones employ a range of sensors (barometric pressure, compass, rotational speed, GPS, etc.) that help the craft take-off, fly, stabilize, and land itself. This is what distinguishes the drone from its predecessor craft. When a drone goes out of range, instead of crashing it will initiate an emergency landing on its own. When a heavy gust of wind or anomaly interferes with flight, it will attempt to auto-stabilize instead of relying on the pilot's adjustments to determine its fate. Instead of requiring the pilot to maintain visual contact while flying the craft, drones can transmit their GPS coordinates to the controller and display a visual of the flight through a mounted camera. This makes the drone so adaptive and functional.

Granted there are various levels of drone automation and capability, based largely on the price tag. Hobby UAVs range anywhere from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars, depending on the features and functionality you want. More expensive models will often have additional/backup motors, increased flight performance, more accurate GPS/sensors, extended range and battery life, and higher carrying capacity.

As more drones takes to the skies, however, we are seeing more concerns and controversy arise over the new, largely unregulated arena of drone flight. On the one hand, drones have the potential to be a major invasion of privacy, considering where they can fly and what they can capture on camera. On the other, more serious side, there are safety issues with UAVs using the same airspace as planes and helicopters. Just a couple weeks ago, a public service announcement released by Cal Fire (California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection) urged the public to keep hobby drones away from active fires. When drones fly, aircraft used to fight wildfires must be grounded to prevent the risk of a collision. In 2015, their have been at least 25 incidents of drone-related interference with firefighting and containment efforts.

Hopefully we will see the right steps taken to allow drones to be used safely and appropriately, in ways that are beneficial to our society. As it stands, the company Amazon is already preparing for the use of drones in its business to deliver small packages to consumers (dubbed "Amazon Air"). How soon these things will become a reality remains to be seen.

It is funny to note, however, that a little less than two weeks ago was October 21, 2015 - the day Marty McFly arrived in the future in the movie Back to the Future. On that day, coincidentally, there was a drone owned by USAToday taking pictures of a developing news story. And with all the drone use and development we are seeing today, this vision is no longer science fiction.

References:
Time - How Do Drones Work HeightTech - Drone Science

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#1

Re: Drones - No Longer Science Fiction

11/03/2015 2:59 AM

You might want to also look at a recent blog on CR4 as well:-

researchers-urge-aircraft-engine-hardening-to-protect-against-drone-strikes

Regards

Andy

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#2
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Re: Drones - No Longer Science Fiction

11/03/2015 8:08 AM

Aircraft and drones shouldn't be using the same airspace. Aircraft maintain a minimum altitude so that in the event of an emergency a suitable landing spot can be reached. (Altitude and airspeed are your friends.) Drones should be operated below this altitude and not near an airport where aircraft are at a lower altitude.

I would suspect that the chance of collision with a bird is much higher than collision with a drone. Birds are notorious for not complying with the law. I'm not sure the danger has not been hyped up by the news media.

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#4
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Re: Drones - No Longer Science Fiction

11/03/2015 9:31 AM

I fly a drone and bird strikes are a problem for drones too. Especially pissed off bird strikes! Here is an example (not mine but similar drone to mine):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AhMnPfJjVa8

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#5
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Re: Drones - No Longer Science Fiction

11/03/2015 9:35 AM

Thing is this is a problem for the bird. If those blades hit it they can do some serious damage to the bird. My blades are usually plastic, but carbon fibre blades are used for racing and they can slice and dice like a samurai. At 20K RPM it's like an inverted blender.

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#3

Re: Drones - No Longer Science Fiction

11/03/2015 9:24 AM

Interesting video story about drone research at Carnegie Mellon: http://video.cnbc.com/gallery/?video=3000440603.

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#6

Re: Drones - No Longer Science Fiction

11/03/2015 5:18 PM

My greatest gripe is the term "drone". That term is synonymous with military, reconnaissance and surveillance. What we the public have access to is remote control flying vehicles using wifi/GPS. Yes, technology has made these units fly higher, further with greater accuracy and the possibility to capture images/video at a "affordable" price. But I feel that the media like to hype the "issue" and call it a "drone" to instill fear on people. On mass, if the majority of people feel they are being spied on, they will push to get some sort of action taken.

Yes there are twits out there doing stupid things with them, but to "regulate" a hobby is (in my view) a little over the top. Those flying them over beaches will "get-over-it" after the buzz wears thin (there are only so many footage of sand/water/people one would need/want).

For the record - I don't have one. I also feel I will get flamed because I did not have 10 or so flying over my backyard pool party.

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#17
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Re: Drones - No Longer Science Fiction

11/09/2015 7:18 AM

Drones should be regulated by the FAA and the AMA . Flying one should require insurance and only done in designated flying fields away from populated areas . RC aircraft are under these rules . So why are drones treated differently ? They shouldn't be if safety is the prime reason for the strict RC laws that has driven that hobby out into the boondocks . If drones are to be allowed to continue to fly in unrestricted spaces , I think it's only fair then , that I can drop my insurance and fly my Curtiss P-40 anywhere I want to ! But wouldn't that be stupid on so many levels , including interfering with air traffic ? But then again look at the mentality of your average drone enthusiast . Stupidity has to be factored in .

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#7

Re: Drones - No Longer Science Fiction

11/03/2015 8:08 PM

The only regulation should be a max height it will fly. Something on the order of 50 ft. There is far to much regulation now for the common person. GPS and autonomous return to the operator would keep the drones from wandering to far.

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Re: Drones - No Longer Science Fiction

11/03/2015 8:33 PM

The problem with autonomous return is trees. For that to work, the flight controller has to gain altitude, and then return, and then land. Also, it takes a much more expensive (10x plus) flight controller to do that. Most copters are small and use 20-50 dollar controllers with no GPS, barometer or compass for return-to-home processing.

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#9
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Re: Drones - No Longer Science Fiction

11/03/2015 8:37 PM

Well I didn't think it would be painless. I just think the men and women in the forest fire service need as much protection as possible.

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#10
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Re: Drones - No Longer Science Fiction

11/03/2015 9:18 PM

There should definitely be no flying around aircraft, but 50ft is to low a height to be practical. My 250 quad can go from 0 to 50ft in about 2 seconds. 400ft is the current regulation, and is still 100ft below the minimum height for aircraft. That seems good enough to me. But still there is the problem of flight controllers without barometers ($20 units), that do not know their altitude. I have both types of controllers, and would only fly high with one that has Baro, GPS, and Compass. Otherwise, 200ft is plenty for FPV playing around. That get's you over most trees. I live in redwood country and some of those trees are 400ft or more!

For most FPV racers, a sonar system is more useful. Sonar is good to 3 meters and most racing is quite close to the ground.

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#11
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Re: Drones - No Longer Science Fiction

11/03/2015 10:02 PM

Sounds good to me. I don't really know how low the planes/helicopters fly for fire service.

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#12
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Re: Drones - No Longer Science Fiction

11/03/2015 10:08 PM

If you are flying a $1000+ camera around a fire you are an idiot. And unfortunately you cannot regulate idiocy!

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#13
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Re: Drones - No Longer Science Fiction

11/03/2015 10:54 PM

Very true.

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#14

Re: Drones - No Longer Science Fiction

11/04/2015 4:11 PM

UAV's present a danger to aircraft. It will take a few fatal encounters with private, military or commercial aircraft to kill the use of UAV's. I don't see how Amazon plans to use UAV's to deliver packages to apartment or office buildings. I can see how it can be done for single family dwellings where there is some land upon which to land.

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#15

Re: Drones - No Longer Science Fiction

11/04/2015 4:36 PM

A ball will do

Ball vs UAV

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#16

Re: Drones - No Longer Science Fiction

11/04/2015 6:36 PM

Or maybe the "fear" should be directed at MAV's (Manned Arial Vehicles) - Or should it be PAV's (Personal Arial Vehicles) - in case the opposite gender feels discriminated

PAV's

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