With the growing popularity of flying ‘drones’ as both a hobby and a commercial enterprise, there may still be many people who don’t know what a ‘drone’ is.
So, what is a drone? Simply put it is a type of aircraft which can be operated via a remote control by a person on the ground. A drone can also be pre-programmed with information that allows it to fly autonomously.
Often when we hear the word ‘drone’ we think of military operations. This is in fact where ‘drones’ originated from. The development of ‘drones’ for military purposes can be traced back to the 1930’s. This is when the British Royal Navy first developed a drone that could be used for gunnery practice. Prior to that balloons were used for bombing by the Austrians in the mid 1800’s. They were also used for aerial reconnaissance by the US during the American Civil War.
RPA OR UAV
Today’s modern craft are usually referred to as either Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA’s) or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV’s). This is to try and avoid some of the negative connotations often associated with the term ‘drone’.
Remote Controlled and Radio Controlled cars, helicopters and planes have been around for many years and enjoyed by many as a hobby. As technology has progressed so has the design and functionality of RPA’s. Todays RPA’s are at the point where they vary from something that can fit on the palm of your hand to something that can easily carry a large DSLR camera.
Many RPA’s have inbuilt cameras. For those RPA’s that don’t have an inbuilt camera, the camera of choice for many people who fly is the Go Pro Camera. This is because of it’s small size, light weight and the brilliant images it can take. These camera’s can be mounted on a gimbal which can be controlled by the RPA operator.
Possibly the most popular type of RPA for personal use are what we call multi-rotor copters. These include RPA’s like the DJI Phantom which is a quad copter. Larger RPA’s like the DJI F550 have six rotors. Larger ‘birds’ like the DJI S1000+ have eight rotors and are designed for use by professional photographers and cinematographers.
The bottom line is that these kinds of RPA’s along with the dozens of others that are available to the consumer are awesome fun to fly as a hobby but there is also a growing list of applications for them in the commercial arena.