Technology has been rapidly advancing in fields that were previously inaccessible to consumers. Specifically, fields like 3D printing, consumer drones and virtual reality. The advancement of the aforementioned technologies is largely due to the decreased price of integral components necessary to create these advanced devices. Largely, we have our smartphones to thank for this. The ubiquity of smartphones has drove down the price of their components, such as displays, batteries and memory, which can then be utilized by other innovators and start ups. This week I’ll bring you up to speed on what drones are capable of.
Drones Achieve Flight
If you’re unsure of what you get with a modern day consumer drone, simply put, you get a glorified RC helicopter. However, unlike RC copters, most drones achieve flight via four or more rotors, earning them the nickname “quad” or quad-copter. A quad has amazing maneuverability and can perform some pretty outstanding ariel acrobatics. This is because each of the four rotors produces it’s own thrust and torque. Because of this, one rotor can increase it’s rotation, while the rotor opposite of it decreases it’s rotation, thus, making the quad turn. Varying speeds of rotation on separate rotors allows you to achieve a good bit of speed as well as precise control while steering. If all four props are rotating equally, the quad simply hovers.
Drones ‘Come Home’
Most consumer quad copters come with their own transmitter to control the drone itself and a mounted camera on the drone. These transmitters are usually equipped with an on board touch screen tablet computer which serves a variety of functions. A transmitter with integrated GPS gives you the option of plotting a route for your drone. Simply trace a path on the touchscreen map, and your drone will fly that path. If you’re flying your drone manually, and you get lost, the GPS in the transmitter and the GPS in the drone can talk to each other, and guide your drone safely back to you. Car company, Renault, has taken this idea a step further with the Renault Kwid. The Kwid is a concept car with drone that deploys, flies around and checks out traffic, and then returns back to the moving vehicle. I believe aggregated crowd traffic data probably works just as well, but that might just be me.
Drones Can See You
Most drones are equipped with HD cameras that pipe video back to their transmitters, as well as record locally on an SD card, allowing you to see the spectacular views your drone sees. Using this technology, and the screen on your transmitter, you can feel like you’re flying the drone in first person, as if you were flying yourself. To take this sensation a step in the more immersive direction, you can wear FPV goggles. Now literally, all you see is what the drone sees, giving you the sensation of zipping through the skies.
Any hobbyist will tell you how much fun quad copters are. From flying them, to capturing beautiful video, you can get a good bit of enjoyment out of your drone. However, a drone’s utility goes beyond an enjoyable hobby. Amazon has thrown around the idea of using drones for same day local deliveries, drones have been used to create 3D topographical maps, drones have even been deployed in search and rescue missions.
In general, drones have become quite impressive, and we will continue to find unique useful instances in which we enlist their help. For now, the drone space is emerging and growing, but in the not too distant future, drones will be a staple of our digital lives subject to rules and regulation just as everything is. Let’s be sure to enjoy the free unrestricted skies while we can.
-Shatter Buggy, Denver