Ever since the NSA scandal came to light (thank you Ed Snowden), people all over the world, but especially in the U.S., have become afraid of drones. It conjures up images of the government spying on its people and, for some, it’s the realization of the classic book by George Orwell, 1984. But, just what is a drone, how do they work, and can they potentially be a force for good?
What Is A Drone?
A drone is basically nothing more than an unmanned aircraft. In fact, they are officially called “Unmanned Aerial Vehicles” (UAV). Drones usually fly using a helicopter-style rotary blade, but they can also take flight as miniature planes.
Most governments that use drones are using highly sophisticated versions of the consumer-grade vehicles and, while they can be armed with weapons, almost all drones have nothing more than a camera onboard.
Drones fly by remote control. That is, they are a very sophisticated form of remote controlled aircraft, similar to remote control planes, cars, and other toys.
Benefits Of Drones
Drones are often seen in a negative light, but they actually have a lot of benefits. For starters, they can be used in search and rescue missions. How? When a person is lost in rugged terrain, one of the most dangerous aspects of the rescue mission is not knowing where to look.
The rescue mission itself could pose a danger to those involved. For example, say there is an individual lost in the woods, or on a ski trip. If a rescue team is dispatched, there’s a risk they may not find the victim in time.
It’s a race against the clock, and a rescue team usually must move very slowly. But, a drone can move quickly, and can be fitted with special cameras that pick up heat signatures, making it much easier to spot human beings trapped under rubble or not visible to the naked eye.
Another interesting benefit of drones is their ability to be used in farming. Drones fly over farmlands, snapping photos of crops for comparative analysis. They can also be used to monitor fields for growing problems, improving the farmer’s profits and yield (farmers can catch problems much sooner than they otherwise would be able to).
Drones can protect wildlife by mapping terrain and following endangered species. For about $10,000, a conservation group can produce its own map that would otherwise take months and a lot of manpower. Moreover, the maps produce images that are 30 times more powerful than ones from satellite programs like Google Earth. Drones can also keep rangers and hikers out of harm’s way, by alerting them of migration patterns, mating season, and density of animals in a particular area.
3-D mapping is also a great use for drones. It’s simple and cost-efficient. Finally, organizations can use drones to hunt hurricanes without putting their own lives in danger. Drones can get closer to a storm than would be safe for a human being, and valuable data can be gathered than otherwise wouldn’t be available to researchers.
This data can then be used to improve our understanding of weather, weather patterns, and prediction models.
Finally, drones can be used for fun projects, like home-movies shot from the air. This is the idea behind go-pro-paired drones.
How To Get Started Using One
If you’re ready to take a leap into the wild world of drones, check out these drone reviews online before you make a final purchase. Most of the stuff you see out there right now are simple consumer-grade machines, often referred to as “RC drones.”
A favorite among many collectors and enthusiasts is the Walkera H500 Tali and the DJI Phantom 2.
You’ll need to learn how to operate them, of course, which can take a while to learn. You’ll also want to employ safety features for the device so that you don’t break your new toy. For example, use a blade protector so that, when you inevitably bump into something, it doesn’t spell “disaster” for your drone.
And, always abide by local and federal laws concerning drones. This doesn’t include drone etiquette, but it might as well. In other words, no snooping on your neighbor through her window or following random strangers down the street.
While drones can be fun, they can also be an expensive hobby. You’ll probably find yourself spending a fair amount of time (and money) on these things over time. Keep them in good shape, never over extend yourself, and oh yes, have fun.
Eric Markov is a drone enthusiast and RC builder. He has been flying model aircrafts for the past 5 years. He is currently developing advanced long range models and advancing FPV quality. He loves blogging about his hobby.