As drones become ever more popular – for professional as well as recreational use – more people are taking an active interest and wanting to learn more about them. Below are the answers to the popular questions our team of drone experts are often asked:
What is a drone?
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) defines a drone as an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or unmanned aerial system (UAS). Drones come in various shapes and sizes; the most common drones are quadcopters (with four rotors), but you can also have six or eight rotors when larger payloads are required, plus fixed-wing drones which look like a traditional plane. You can control a drone manually or set it to fly on its own over a set flight plan.
Why are they called drones?
There’s much debate about where the term ‘drone’ stems from. One possible explanation is that they are named after the male bee that mates with the Queen bee in the hive. Another reason is they are named after the sound of the unmanned V1 bombs used by the Germans in World War II that were said to make a droning sound.
Dictionary definitions of a drone say: “A type of aircraft that does not have a pilot and is controlled by someone on the ground.”
For some reason, aircraft with multiple propellers have become known as drones. However, any remotely piloted aircraft is a drone, so this includes fixed-wing drones, which most people would understand as an aeroplane. The proper term for an aircraft with multiple propellers is a multirotor drone, and they can even be named according to how many propellers they have, hence quadcopter (four), hexacopter (six) and octocopter (eight).
How do drones work?
Multirotor drones generate their lift and control their movement through changing the speed of each individual motor. Every time the speed of a motor changes, the forces in the system change the overall balance, which enables the pilot to direct the aircraft with intent. Depending on the action required, ascend and move to the left for instance, the flight controller translates the inputs given by the pilot and coordinates the speeds of all of the motors in order to create the effect required.
A fixed wing drone works differently, it uses moveable control surfaces on the wings to change the direction and amount of lift that is generated in order to change the direction of travel. The propeller on the back or front is what pushes or pulls the fixed wing drone through the air, and the this in changes the amount of air passing around the wing which generates the lift in the first place.
Drones comprise of many essential parts, the most identifiable ones include: the body, a battery, motors, rotors or wings, and electronics for aircraft control. Available in many different shapes and sizes, they have varying capabilities which can be useful for different applications. It is important to ensure that your application matches your drones capabilities.
How much does a drone cost?
It varies depending on specification and what you will be using it for. A toy drone can cost as little as £30, but more advanced drones with features such as GPS start at £500 for consumer models. Professional drones can cost anything between £2,000 and £35,000, and military spec drones can cost as much as £90,000.
What are drones used for?
Once the domain of the military, drones have found their way into the consumer and commercial sectors thanks to smartphone technology and reduced costs. They’re used for many tasks, most commonly aerial photography and videography, surveying, inspection, agriculture and surveillance. The global drone market is growing at a rapid rate and is estimated to reach $22 billion by 2022.
How do you fly a drone – is it easy?
Yes. Sophisticated electronics and features such as GPS lock that can hold an aircraft in a fixed position, make drones easy to operate. However, this ease of use has given rise to safety issues with countless media stories of users flying drones dangerously. One of our missions at HALO is to improve current standards of competency and training for drone pilots with our PfCO (Permission for Commercial Operations) course.
Do I need a licence to fly a drone?
Contrary to belief, there’s no such thing as a drone licence. However, if you’re looking to profit from operating a drone (or receive payment for work), you’ll need permission to fly from the CAA in the form of a PfCO (Permission for Commercial Operations) You don’t need any permissions or paperwork to fly a drone for recreational purposes in the UK, but you must still adhere to the regulations.
How high and how far can I fly a drone?
Most modern drones can fly several hundred feet high and many miles away from the pilot. However, in the UK a recreational user may legally only fly a drone as far as they can see it well enough to keep it under control. For commercial use, this is clarified as no more than 400ft high (120m), and 500m horizontally.
What are my responsibilities as a pilot?
There are many considerations, but crucially, you must not fly within 50m of people, property or vehicles and not within 150m of crowds and built up areas. Pilots with commercial objectives can, however, have these limitations reduced by obtaining a PfCO.
Once I receive my PfCO will all my flights be considered commercial?
Not necessarily. It depends on the purpose of the flight. You can fly recreationally if you adhere to the standard regulations. However, if you fly for compensation and / or reward you’ll be flying commercially.
What happens if I lose signal with a drone?
Most modern drones (except the cheap toy models) have various GPS features. If the connection fails, the drone should return to its take-off point and land by itself.
Can a drone fly its missions automatically?
Many higher specification drones can fly their missions if the pilot sets a series of waypoints for them to follow. The pilot can track the progress and see the direct video feed from the ground control station.
How long can a drone fly for?
Basic recreational drones will fly for less than 10 minutes. More expensive drones can typically fly for 15 – 30 minutes depending on factors such as battery capacity, weight, how it is flown and the weather.
If you would like to learn more about how HALO drones can help you get the very best from this exciting technology or you have any further questions, please contact us today.