The most buzzing piece of technology would be the commonly known Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV). This piece of technology is more widely referred to as Drones. The implementation of drones is expanding along with the ever-expanding industries.
1. What are Drones?
The simplest drones are the ones we all made as children to play with. The paper-made rockets are the easiest and the simplest of the drones possible. In fact, it could be known as a UAV.
Does this make it confusing? Looking further.
2. Unmanned Vehicles versus Drone
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a drone as “an uncrewed aircraft or vessel guided by remote control or onboard computers. That is an accurate definition that also defines UAV, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, UUV, Unmanned Underwater Vehicles, and USV, Unmanned Surface Vehicles.
Although their definitions are the same, we have to understand that all UAVs, USVs and UUVs are drones but the vice versa is not true.
The basics are as follows. Anything that can fly can be called a drone while UAV/UUV/USV is a specific form of drone that refers to only Unmanned Vehicles that can either fly or swim or float.
Regardless of the technology’s young age, it has managed to reach just about anyone. Its uses are not limited to Military operations or high-tech surveillance or disaster relief. A cheap toy could also be classified as a drone. Let us look at some of the types available to us.
3 Types of Drones
This globalizing technology is of various types such as the most common quadcopter, octocopters, tricopters, multirotors, etc. Let us take a look at some of the existing pros and cons of each type and understand how they work.
3.1 Fixed Wing Drone
It has one rigid wing, one that doesn’t move. These drones work like an airplane. It uses forward thrust along with its aerodynamic shape, to generate the lift it needs and this makes it energy efficient. However, it does not hover.
These drones are used for surveillance and are great for climate monitoring.
3.2 Rotor Drones
This kind of drone can have anywhere between 1 and 16+ rotors generating the thrust required against gravity. Helicopters are also considered under this category. It can achieve Vertical take-off and landing.
These can hover making them energy inefficient. Especially with the existing battery technology.
Ideally used for photography, videography, inspections and thermal reports, and various other activities.
3.3 Unmanned Surface Vehicles
These vehicles may look like a motorboat, sailboats, or even a bathtub. Its design and features completely depend on its task or functions. Some are already available while you can get a customized one based on the functions necessary. They can use wind or wave energy, therefore, reducing the carbon footprint.
3.4 Unmanned Underwater Vehicle
Unmanned underwater drones are submarines without people in them. They are designed to handle underwater pressure. Of course, their features also depend on the required tasks.
4. Autonomous Drones – Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems
All the drones we have seen above are of two types. The first one is the remote-controlled ones. These need visual contact and a range needs to be maintained.
The second one, the main topic, Autonomous Drones are the UAVs, UUVs, and USVs that are powered by AI. These work under state-of-art technology. The controls, electricals, electronics, and operator, all of them constitute the UAS, Unmanned Aerial Systems. The system acts as the control room for both semi- and completely autonomous drones.
Semi-autonomous drones mostly do the task on their own but their take-off and landing have to be achieved manually. Autonomous drones do everything based on the already given instructions.
5. Technology involved in an Autonomous Drone
For a system to work without human intervention, it must have trained senses like a human does and the ability to make on-the-spot decisions. While the decision-making is not definable, we can collect data to enable the drones to learn the possibilities and react accordingly.
A tiny sensor that consists of a couple of spinning rings or discs that help maintain the drone’s orientation and find the exact direction of the drone. It helps move exactly how much is necessary.
LIDAR stands for Light Detection and Ranging. LIDAR scanning or 3D scanning helps look for objects crossing paths by sending out laser signals and timing the reflection of the laser to calculate the distance. This technology inspired the Bats’ movement, their sensing of obstacles.
This motion detector can track the speed at which a drone is moving. This will help keep track of the drone while adjusting the speed as necessary. It shows the device’s proper acceleration. In contrast, to coordinate acceleration, which is acceleration in a fixed coordinate system, proper acceleration is the acceleration of a body in its instantaneous rest frame.
We’ve all heard about GPS, Global Positioning System. This piece of technology uses the help of satellites which is a radio navigation system, to know the position of the drone concerning the planet. It has meter-level accuracy in three dimensions and 10-nanosecond precision in time, and it works around the clock.
The most important electrical component in any machine that is learning to think for itself is the processor. As the name suggests, it processes the instructions given to it thereby executing them with the help of flight controllers.
Most surveillance drones have cameras. The quality and the features of the camera depend on where it is mounted and its purpose. The ones with good quality are used for photography and videography, water-resistant ones are used in the UUVs and USVs.
Many sensors based on the function of the vehicle are installed. Some of the sensors are thermal sensors, biosensors, inertial measurement units, depth perception, and many more.
6.1 Autonomous Drones in Industries
The drones help industries in various ways. Building safety inspections, unmanned cargo transportation, deliveries, etc.
Drones are also being developed to move along in a fleet like the bees. This is a fascinating example of the scientific and technological advancements inspired by nature.
6.2 Autonomous Drones in Film-making
This application is one of the most widely known. Professional photographers use drones at weddings and other functions to capture moments from a higher viewpoint and many people such as travelers, use them to capture the beauty of our planet.
6.3 Autonomous Drones in Agriculture
Drones help with soil analysis, fertilizing, irrigation and even harvesting sometimes. These make the work of the farmer much easier and the routine surveillance will help detect plants that are affected by a certain disease providing a headstart on treatment.
6.4 Autonomous Drones in Disaster Management
Drones are a blessing when it comes to disaster management. They can be deployed as the first response to a disaster.
They can help spot wildfires and watch their movement giving people time to get safe. Every second matters when intervening on behalf of others. Due to their versatility in navigating challenging terrain and their capacity to take detailed pictures, drones are becoming more and more significant. UAVs using high-resolution cameras can detect people in need of assistance who would not have been observed otherwise.
The drones can even deliver food, water, and other supplies to people stuck in a disaster area till a way to get them out of there is figured out.
6.5 Autonomous Drones in Military
The military has the most use of drones. They use all kinds. Before now, search and rescue operations had employed unmanned aerial aircraft.
UAVs are being incorporated into security companies’ operations as a way to provide their clients with stronger services. They use UAVs, some of which have streaming capabilities that start up as soon as an alert is raised. When an alarm is activated, other UAVs that function in conjunction with alarms fly over to the troublesome area.
Drones are also used in a tactical sense. These use infrared cameras for surveillance. The reconnaissance drones are known as High Altitude Long Endurance Drones (HALE) and Medium Altitude Long Endurance Drones (MALE), and they may be launched from the ground.
The combat drones use laser-guided firing systems to fire out missiles. They are also employed for target surveillance and attack.
6.6 Autonomous Drones in Hunting
The potential benefit of using drones to monitor storms and their evolution has been recognized by meteorologists. Hunting hurricanes can help us understand them better.
The drones are also used for sport hunting. Spotting animals and hunting them down when it becomes necessary for livelihood makes it all the easier on the hunters.
6.7 Autonomous Drones in Entertainment
Drones are also used for creative expression. A fleet of drones is either remotely controlled or coded to follow a certain pattern to enable a light show. Rumor is, that drones might replace fireworks. This process will need enough communication redundancy to make sure the show goes on. Currently, many applications have been developed for this purpose.
7. Ethical Challenges
Multiple answers to new and enduring problems across sectors are provided by drones. Many people have expressed displeasure about being photographed without their permission since drones depend on cameras to function, which frequently allow operators to take photographs and record movies.
Drones may frequently be difficult to detect on air traffic radars, creating additional challenges for pilots of airplanes and helicopters as they fly. With their short battery life, quick-spinning propellers that create lift, and propensity to fall from tremendous heights, drones pose a significant risk to people, property, and the environment as their use expands.
Hackers can intercept data being communicated between a drone and its remote controller as well as provide a drone with erroneous GPS coordinates to take control of it.
It is unclear how autonomous weapons should be conceived of or what impact their “autonomous” character will have on them as moral actors. It will be claimed that the limitations of autonomous weapons’ coding prevent them from functioning as entirely ethical agents.
It is crucial to distinguish between autonomous AI weapons and an AI that has autonomy since doing so raises two unique ethical issues for their use. Due to their limited agency and machine learning, autonomous weapons are nevertheless accountable for their acts, unlike their human counterparts, who are unable to influence or intervene in those decisions.
Looking further, we might hear the buzz of drones everywhere. They might take over our shipping procedures on their own, probably by generating QR codes. Future drone technology is now experiencing revolutionary, steady advancement since drone technology is always changing. The next major advancement in drone technology will be smart drones, which will provide new options in the transportation, military, logistical, and commercial sectors.
Smart drones will also include built-in protections and compliance technologies, highly accurate sensors, and self-monitoring systems. Drones have enormous technical potential, and their applications will continue to expand over time.
Drones are also helpful as inspection tools, swiftly scanning a field or bridge for defects. Pretty soon, the same drone will probably be used to address such issues. It’s a great spectator sport since you can watch from a first-person perspective and feel as though you’re actually flying, and drone racing is expanding quickly.
There are a lot more science-fictitious attributes that can be whipped by simply thinking about the possibilities. Although most drone talks, currently, are limited to aerial vehicles, we might soon overcome the situation as more people become aware of surface and water vehicles.
It’s important to note that anti-drone technology is developing at the same rate as drone technology. It is currently possible to purchase a drone that catches other drones, a shotgun bullet that disperses weights and nets to bring drones to the ground, or even a radio-frequency jammer that stops drones from taking off at all.
A type of arms race has developed between drone manufacturers and those who want to keep them on the ground as a result of the argument about what should be done about a drone’s capacity to invade people’s privacy or personal space.
Exciting to look forward to an advanced future!