The oil and gas industry has come to rely on commercial drones for inspection and data-gathering purposes in recent years. As early as 2014, the petroleum company BP received FAA authorization to use commercial drones to monitor its facilities. Since then, the number of drones, pilots, and services that cater to these industries has grown exponentially. Durable professional drone designs that are equipped with the latest high-definition and advanced thermal cameras, as well as specialized sensors, can be useful for a wide variety of oil and gas applications.
Drones have already been used to perform pipeline inspections over large areas including terrain that previously required the use of manned helicopters. Inspections at on- and off-shore operations have historically required costly shutdowns as well as the use of risky rope access and scaffolding methods that put workers at risk. Inspections can be completed in a manner that is more cost-effective, productive, quick, and safe by manually-piloted or automated drones.
Ewatt X36 Optical Zoom Pod
Ewatt High Altitude Lighting Module
Ewatt 3 Axis X10 Optical Zoom Pod
Ewatt S8 or D6 Tool Kit
Oil and Gas Drone Components
The types of industrial drones that are used in the oil and gas industry are outwardly similar to commercial or professional drones. A professional drone such as one of the offerings in the DJI Matrice series has comparable core components and flight times to drones used for commercial or industrial applications. Many services that specialize in supplying oil and gas companies with drones or aerial imaging services and data gathering offer packages that include top-level models from respected brands that also manufacture consumer drones. There are also some specialized drone makers that specialize in their own unique industrial drone designs and software for use in specific industries.
In general, drones that are intended for use in the oil and gas industry or for similar industrial purposes are capable of achieving relatively lengthy flight times. These drones feature powerful cameras for high-resolution imaging consisting of stills and video footage and often also feature thermal cameras for obtaining more complete data below the visible surface. Common uses for drones in this industry include monitoring the conditions and flow between upstream systems, midstream infrastructure, and downstream facilities for leaks or any signs of infrastructural damage such as corrosion or rust. Thermal energy can be used to detect the distribution of natural gas in a piping system and detect pitting. These drones can also be equipped with optical airborne gas sensors or precision laser measurement hardware to allow them to obtain nearly any necessary type of inspection data.
Advantages and Challenges
There are many significant advantages to performing inspections and other essential imaging and monitoring tasks using commercial drones. These advantages are maximized when the drones that are being used are equipped with specialized hardware and sensors that enable them to provide the most useful data for designated analysts at companies in the oil and gas industry. For one, drones that are piloted either by humans or by algorithms are much more cost-effective and safe than relying on helicopters, ropes, or scaffolding for inspections.
The use of drones can all but eliminate risk for human inspectors and workers as well as the need to temporarily shut down facilities for inspection. As a result, inspections can be performed with a greater frequency under standard operating conditions. This can allow for a greater degree of preventative maintenance as opposed to responses to anomalies that have already advanced to the point that they are causing environmentally detrimental leaks and expensive and potentially dangerous downtimes.
Fleets of drones can also be used to enhance the security of equipment, property, resources, and technology on a daily basis Companies in the oil and gas sector that decide to depend on drones can obtain more data with greater frequency than they otherwise could and more than any competitors that are not yet capable of these constant and refined observations. Given the proper analysis of these data sets, this information can be used to generate more effective and profitable operational, maintenance, and security plans and protocols. Depending on whether a company would prefer to invest in the capacity to perform perpetual independent drone imaging or simply have this option from an on-call service, they can work with contractors and suppliers to achieve the right drone solutions for maximizing safety and savings.
Some of the major challenges that still exist when it comes to the use of drones in the oil and gas industry include durability and flight time. Drone design and materials are becoming increasingly resilient and innovative systems are also being created to charge and shelter these devices. One system includes so-called pit stops or charging points located along flight routes to increase the distance capacity of each drone. These systems could work with either manual or automated drones. In at least one instance, this system consists of weather-shielded domes that protect drones and can allow them to charge if they run out of power or conditions become unsuitable for a continued flight for any reason.
Other companies and aerial imaging services provide fleets of drones that can be assigned to cover small portions of vast areas, capturing footage and data simultaneously. This strategy allows for the full inspection of an area such as a large tank farm or length of pipeline in far less time than a single drone, even with charging points or extended flight times. Any drone-based inspection is likely to be more affordable and fast and less risky than traditional manned methods.
Given the rapid pace of drone development over the last several years, it may become feasible for companies or firms to depend on fewer or more specialized drones to perform inspection tasks with fewer resources and greater efficiency. There is also likely to be widespread growth and development in the generation of drone and fleet flying algorithms and software that will empower companies to take the creation of complex large-scale flight plans into their own hands or all-but-completely automate data and imagery gathering missions.
Continued developments in the field of automated flight raise the prospect of a future in which commercial drones are used all of the time for monitoring and inspection in the oil and gas industry and many other commercial and industrial markets. Some firms already specialize in helping companies in this sector determine the right drone solutions for their needs and launch fleets that are controlled by customized algorithms or easy-to-use cloud-based flying and data management software. Human pilots will be gradually phased out as a full range of inspection and information-gathering procedures become automated all the way up to and beyond the level of data analysis. More frequent data readings should allow for further refinement of information-gathering mechanisms and more thorough observations over time.
The use of commercial drones in the oil and gas industry at present is laying the foundation for a future in which companies in this sector are capable of affordably taking the proactive steps necessary to prevent leaks and other adverse or anomalous events that can lead to environmental disasters on land or at sea. Drones greatly facilitate the monitoring and maintenance processes and are capable of offering support for emergency response and containment initiatives. Taken together, all of these capacities help to make on-shore or offshore platforms, pipelines, and other facilities safer for human workers by allowing for the condition of vital infrastructure to be closely monitored in addition to changing conditions.
Matrice 100 Ready to Fly Bundle Kit With Guidance System + X3 Camera
DJI Matrice 200 Quadcopter
DJI Matrice 210 RTK-G
Matrice 600 Pro Flying Platform
Reduce Risk and Raise Profits
Regardless of whether the drones that an oil and gas company uses are manual or automated, they are still a significant step toward safer operations. It is likely that drone monitoring and inspection will become standard operating procedure in this and many other industries given the amount of money that can be saved through preventative maintenance and reduction of many risks formerly posed to human workers. Drones are likely to find their most practical uses in this type of highly-specialized large-scale imaging and data gathering work.
The benefits of reduced risks and costs are perhaps most pronounced for oil and gas operations. According to a study undertaken by the UK oil and gas firm Fircroft, drone inspections can be up to 85% faster and cheaper than standard oil platform inspection techniques. It is also the case that substantial savings are achieved by the simple fact that a platform or rig does not need to be shut down prior to drone inspection as it would need to be for human inspectors relying on precarious methods such as ropes and scaffolding. Another company involved in oil and gas applications has found that using drones for flare stack inspections can result in more than one million dollars in recovered production costs. The ability to safely continue operations during inspections can pave the way to more regular inspections and safer operations.
Drones are the most technologically-adept and efficient method for monitoring the status of oil and gas equipment and infrastructure at every part of the extraction and refining process. As drones become more common in this industry and for a wide variety of other commercial and industrial applications, it will lead the way to a safer and more productive environment for resource extraction and refinement.
When it comes to drone capability, strength and speed, professional drones are top of the line. Manufacturers design these machines to appeal to industries where they would not only be convenient but necessary. From the film industry to survey farmers, professionals know how to put these drones to work. As technology advances, drones become more and more capable.
Professional drones are generally higher quality than the toy drones enthusiasts use for recreation. Manufacturers build these hardier and with extra features that are suited for agriculture, film, utility companies and more. As drones gain in popularity, the businesses that have something to gain from them also grow in number.
There is one business, however, where you’ll see drones soaring high! Here is what you need to know about drones and the agriculture business.
Ewatt S8 Coaxial Multi-Rotor Aircraft
Ewatt D6 Long-Endurance Hexacopter Aircraft
Ewatt E2 Workhorse Fixed Wing Aircraft
Ewatt 3D Modeling and Mapping 5 Angle Camera
Drone Use in Agriculture
When it comes to agriculture, drones have found a natural place in the business. Farmers cannot be everywhere at once. However, with a drone, they are able to survey their land with real-time information. Farming involves keeping track of many different components. From crop health, water use and soil analysis, farmers have a lot to keep track of. In the past, before drones were a major asset to farming, people invested in plane surveillance. Planes can’t be used as often and at the expense of manned aircraft, farmers tend to use data surveillance by plane sparingly. Drones, on the other hand, can survey the land on a daily or weekly basis.
When used, these drones can complete a variety of jobs on farms and ranches. Here are just some of the tasks that they are capable of:
- Diagnosing problems with plants
- Imaging that can determine water efficiency
- Imaging for soil erosion predictions
- Imaging of pest infestations
- Crop dusting
One interesting fact to keep note of is that you can use a drone with a near-infrared sensor to determine stress in plants. Plants can show signs that they are in distress before you’ll see any signs of physical damage. This gives you an upper hand and ability to try to save your plants before any permanent damage occurs. Additionally, farmers may use the sensors to identify soil damage or erosion. When you have problems with your land or crops, it’s important to know about it in advance so that you can plan further ahead.
When you have the time to make a plan, then you have a chance to save your crops and maximize your productivity. Drones make it possible for you to gather extra information in a fast and convenient way. Your eyes aren’t going to be able to tell you when a plant is in distress or when there’s unseen soil damage. Drones are fast, convenient and highly effective.
Take for example how the agricultural industry uses thermal imagining to determine whether a farm is watered adequately. Keep in mind that watered areas tend to be cooler than the areas that are not. A great drone to use for this purpose is the DJI Inspire 1. Not only is it fitted with thermal imagining but it also has 3D mapping and crop monitoring capabilities.
Fixed Wing Drones
Fixed wing drones are preferred by the agricultural industry. This is because their batteries tend to last longer and they can survey larger expanses of land. This is better in terms of surveillance and data collection over a large area. Fixed wing drones fly higher and spend more time in the air than a multi-rotor drone. Since these are also larger and can carry more, they are often equipped with more sensors. This allows ranchers and farmers to get more work done. When it comes to this type of drone, they tend to look more like airplanes with a large wingspan.
Here are two common fixed-wing commercial drones for agriculture:
PrecisionHawk Lancaster 5
With high stability, the Lancaster 5 is a sturdy fixed-wing drone. On board, it has sensors that can measure temperature, air pressure, and humidity. It can also respond to the changing weather conditions. With an in-flight monitoring system, you can monitor its battery life, altitude, and position from home. It is also capable of 2D and 3D mapping.
- 45 minute flight time
- 4.9 FT wingspan
- 300 acres survey area per flight
- 12-16 m/s cruise speed
- 5.3 LBS
Sensefly eBee SQ
The Sensefly eBee SQ is practical for data collection. In one flight, you can capture the soil temperature, H20 levels and plant counts. Additionally, it is capable of 3D mapping.
- 55 minute flight time
- 110 cm wingspan
- 500-acre survey area per flight
- 28 mph cruise speed
- 2.4 LBs
Multi-Rotor drones are also a good choice for farmers, especially when you want a drone with more control. These drones have more than two rotors for flying. This can be especially helpful for beginners. Now, when you want to fly your drone low to the ground or need it to fit into smaller places, the multi-rotor is more advantageous. For many farmers, the type of drone that you choose depends on the size of your farm and your level of skill with a drone.
Here are two common multi-rotor drones:
DJI Phantom 4 PRO
This is an easy-to-use beginner agricultural drone. With the Sentera’s NSVI upgrade, it is capable of capturing high-resolution color. This is a great way for a farmer to determine the health of their land. Predominately used for scouting, it is a hardy agricultural drone.
- 30 minute flight time
- 4.3-mile transmission distance
- 45 mph cruise speed
- 2.94 LBs
SOLO AGCO Edition UAV
This drone contains high-resolution mapping software that farmers can utilize on their properties. With two cameras, the aerial mapping is not only possible but is also easy to carry out. This is a great drone for those who need to scout.
- 20 minute flight time
- 55 mph cruise speed
- 2 customized cameras
- Automatic takeoff
When you purchase a drone, they can come with many different features and add-ons for the specific tasks you need. If you need a higher resolution camera or specific imaging, it’s possible to customize your drone to fit your needs.
Many farmers and ranchers have an extensive amount of property in which large herds of animals can roam. In this case, it may be difficult for farmers or their work animals to monitor the herd at all times. Drones are lightweight, fast, and can follow herds wherever they roam. Not only do they have a live tracking system, but also professional, commercial drones for agriculture can feed live video to your laptop or smartphone.
In addition, a drone equipped with infrared or night vision will be able to see your animals even when you can’t. Cows, for instance, have a tendency to hide in forested areas, under the canopies of trees. With the right infrared technology, you’ll be able to see them through the trees when you might not have been able to find them yourself. It won’t be long before drones are a staple of animal agriculture. These devices can be used to raising and managing livestock. In fact, if you need a solid herding tool, drones can perform that too.
While they continue to develop and better the technology, there is a future for drones in agriculture, especially when it comes to working with the animals themselves.
What Makes Drones Better?
New technology can be daunting. Despite having been on the market since the 90s, drones have only started gaining real popularity in the last several years. Don’t be like some people in the industry, however, and be too nervous to take that leap! It’s worth it in the long run and we can tell you why.
First, consider the price. To use other aerial methods can cost a lot of money. From manned aircraft to satellites, you are paying too much for aerial pictures. Drones cost less money; their imaging is by far cheaper.
Second, they have offer more precision when it comes to picture taking. Why spend extra money on images that won’t turn out as well
Here are a few other benefits of drones:
- Detects pests and other problems quicker due to frequent surveying
- Can scout the entirety of a field
- Images can be used to calculate the size of hills and holes.
Commercial drones for agriculture will continue to gain in popularity. For one farmer or an entire team to keep track of plant and animal health can be exhausting and in some cases a losing battle. People can only do so much. Many farmers end up surveying the perimeter of their land, rather than being able to visualize every part of it. Even if you could, it would not be something that you could take part in every day. Drones offer more of a guarantee. They are an investment that can change the face of agriculture and save money in the end. These drones could be yours and all you have to do is make sure you have the battery life.
From simple images, 3D mapping, to infrared technology, the drone has few tasks unfit for it.
Drones did not use to be the rugged quadcopters and sleek fixed-winged gliders you know them as today, and they certainly could not soar to great heights, capture amazing aerial views or send birds-eye-view footage from up to 500 meters away from home base. In fact, drones used to be clumsy pieces of technology that were anything but impressive, and it was not until The Predator MQ-1 that the U.S. military actually took a real interest in drone technology. Even so, however, the MQ-1 was a far cry from the missile drones used by the Germans or the balloon drones used by the Austrians. So, how did we go from unmanned aerial vehicles that were essentially hot-air balloons carrying bombs to the Hunter 4, Typhoon H, Parrot AR.Drone and another high tech, miniscule quadcopters? That is precisely the question this post is designed to answer.
Ewatt S8 Coaxial Multi-Rotor Aircraft
Ewatt D6 Long-Endurance Hexacopter Aircraft
Ewatt E2 Workhorse Fixed Wing Aircraft
Ewatt EWZ-E2 T Catapult
Civilian Drones Pave the Way for Commercial Drones
In order to understand how commercial drones got their start, it is important to first understand when drones stopped being used for military purposes and when (and how) they started being used for consumer enjoyment. While military drone models certainly paved the way for consumer drones—after all, the newest military UAV technology is durable, designed for aerial surveillance and are designed to fly either autonomously or by remote control—consumer drones have their roots in two completely separate technologies: smartphones and hobbyists’ radio-controlled aircraft.
Many hobbyists and employees of the drone industry began making their own unmanned flying vehicles on the side by using small RC aircraft powered by miniature petrol engines. As you can imagine, the result was anything but beautiful. Apparently, the early consumer drones were noisy, finicky and destined for failure at first flight. But then along came smartphone technology.
The technology found in smartphones, tablets and portable computers was precisely what hobbyists needed to electrically power small aircraft in a quiet, smooth and safe manner. This technology was far more reliable petrol motors, easier to install and, of course, less expensive to operate. In fact, with a charging cord and an outlet, expenses were virtually nil once the building was complete.
Once it was discovered that the lithium polymer batteries found in smart technology were what was necessary to create a durable and reliable unmanned vehicle, hobbyists took it one step further and turned to microcontroller chips which, thanks to the quick advancements in technology, were relatively cheap to obtain. This software allowed them to squeeze a small computer into a box as small as a cigarette packet and paved the way for open-source autopilot software for fixed-wing drones. These microcontrollers also provided for onboard brains for a new design of drone: the quadcopter.
Just little more than a decade after the MQ-1 was introduced in 1994, research groups had come up with the technology necessary to man an aerial vehicle that had four vertical-axis rotors that could control the position of the drone by adjusting the speeds of the rotors. Considering that there was nearly a 100-year span between Austria’s bomb-balloons and the U.S.’s MQ-1, the fact that hobbyists were able to develop a quadcopter—a model never before seen before—within a decade of The Predator’s release is amazing, and a feat that should not be overlooked. So, it should come as no surprise that within just three years of the first civilian quadcopter being introduced that Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, was already proposing drone use for delivery.
Resolving Key Drone Issues
Before that could happen, hobbyists needed to resolve two key issues. The first was the stabilization of quadcopters. Though the quadcopter was a cool concept, they were difficult to keep stable in the air, much more difficult than their single propeller counterparts. When up in the air, quadcopters had a hard time staying right side up, and getting them to move one direction or another was a nearly impossible feat. Almost serendipitously, the cost of accelerometers based on micro-electromechanically systems—a technology used as tilt sensors in smartphones—had been drastically reduced, much as what happened with the microcontrollers. Once the tilt sensors were installed, it was like a whole new technology had been born. Instead of quadcopters flipping onto their backs midflight, they were flying straight, able to sway from one side to the other with the push of a button, and performing feats that even the military never dreamed possible with all their hardy technology. It seemed as if civilian drones had finally made it.
Of course, smart technology played a huge role in the development and advancement of civilian drones. Without smartphones and apps, there would be no way to control the UAVs beyond typical RC equipment. Additionally, smart technology provided the tiny components necessary to really bring the modern-day drone to life, such as micro-camera sensors and speedy Wi-Fi chips. The app uprising gave hobbyists a way to sync their micro-computers with their phones and other gadgets, giving them an easy and affordable way to man their equipment.
Ultimately, it was the stability of the quadcopter that grabbed the attention of the commercial world. Once videos were released of drones carrying glasses of water and performing other amazing acrobatic feats (as evidence in this 2013 YouTube video from roboticist Raffaello D’ Andrea), it truly seemed as if the possibilities were endless. If the government trusted drones enough to do its dirty work, and if hobbyists had found a way to make UAVs friendly, why should drones not be used in the customer service field?
Military Powers (Without the Military Cost)
Once family-friendly companies such as Amazon began to realize that drones did not have to be scary or expensive, they began to look more seriously at drones as a means of fulfilling customer requests. There was another issue that needed to be resolved first, and that was the issue of durability. If these drones were going to be used to deliver packages, film football games or capture aerial foot for research purposes, they need to be durable. That’s where military drones come back into play.
Military drones were built to withstand some of the most demanding conditions that even man could not survive. They were also built to fly great distances without faltering and, best of all (at least from a commercial standpoint), to fly autonomously. Commercial drones needed to incorporate those three capabilities, but at a fraction of the cost of what the military spent building its UAVs. They also need to incorporate many of the capabilities demonstrated by consumer drones, such as the ability to follow runners, cyclists or skiers and to film them from above.
Advanced algorithms, improved onboard processing power and improvements in camera vision seem to be in the works to make commercial drones capable of “thinking” more independently and of operating with the precision of a well-oiled machine as opposed to a fallible human. The possibility of greater autonomy also introduces the possibility of drone swarms, which may sound scary but could actually reduce the stress on package carriers everywhere. Imagine, instead of the UPS man being forced to deliver late into the evenings during the holiday season or in extreme weather conditions, companies like UPS, FedEx and DHL Express can do more without sacrificing the safety or family time of their workers.
The Future of Commercial Drones
This post referenced package delivery quite a few times, but the truth is that drones have the potential be used for a number of exciting reasons by individuals, commercial organizations and governments everywhere. In fact, the FAA has already cleared several industries for airspace and has established Federal Aviation Regulations for commercial flyers, making the possibilities for drone use all the more real. Some commercial uses for drones already in place or being talked about include:
- Express shipping and delivery
- Aerial photography for film and journalism
- Building safety inspections
- Search and rescue operations via the use of thermal sensor drones
- The research and information gathering for natural disaster preparation
- Unmanned cargo transportation
- Video surveillance for law enforcement and border patrol
- Precision crop monitoring
- Storm tracking and forecasting of natural disasters such as tornados and hurricanes
- Geographic mapping of terrain and locations that are typically inaccessible by humans
As you can see, the future for commercial drones is an exciting one, and there is significant potential for drones to change the way the world lives and operates. Not only will companies such as Amazon and DHL Express be able to do more for their customers and reduce the workload for employees, but also, there is the very real potential to predict natural disasters in advance and potentially save thousands of lives.
Drones may have gotten their roots on the battleground, but it is clear that they are destined to do much more than direct missiles to a target. In fact, with the advancements made by hobbyists and commercial organizations, the new drone may be open that the military looks to for inspiration instead of the other way around. Only time will tell, though.
Matrice 100 Flying Platform
Matrice 100 + Zenmuse Z3 Optical Zoom Camera Bundle
Matrice 600 Pro Flying Platform
DJI Matrice 200 Quadcopter
If you are trying to figure out how to buy a drone in 2018, you’re in luck. Drones are more popular this year than ever before. The market for consumer drones has given rise to numerous websites and stores dedicated to selling and reviewing different brands, types, and price ranges of drones. You should certainly start with some comparison shopping, and we’ve gathered a few helpful considerations to keep in mind as you prepare to buy a drone.
DJI Goggles - 1080P Immersive FPV
Breeze FPV Controller in color box w/FPV Goggles, Game Controller, Game Controller Holder
Wingsland S6 Pocket RC Quadcopter FPV Selfie Drone 4K HD Camera
FPVLR 2.4ghz Antenna Upgrade Kit (Phantom 3/4 Inspire 1 Matrice)
The Three Most Popular Types of Drones
There are three general types of drones, with many specialized products in each category. Camera drones are useful for achieving aerial views. The number of cameras, options for a first-person view and image capture, resolution and frame rate for moving footage, and quality of still shots all vary depending on the model. In addition, the battery life, range, and even the type of controller you bind to a drone determine whether a device is better suited for capturing sweeping footage of vast landscapes or taking selfies. Drones designed to capture video or images while flying usually feature gimbals, or mechanical camera stabilization systems, which make it easier to record high-quality video or take steady stills while a drone is moving fast or the wind is blowing.
Drones intended for racing fly in a separate category. Many of these devices only allow for the first-person view. These drones are designed with speed in mind, and some are advertised as being able to travel as fast as 70 miles per hour. Racing drones are available in all states of assembly, with some coming close to being ready to fly right out of the box. Many enthusiasts invest a great deal of time and effort in building and modifying competitive designs.
Toy or beginner drones can make learning how to fly an unmanned aerial system less expensive in terms of initial purchase costs and repairs. These drones have fewer advanced features and may be somewhat more difficult to fly, but they can be useful when you are learning the fundamental principles of controlling a drone. Some low-end drones feature 780p cameras for basic image capture, but they are typically intended as uncomplicated introductory devices.
Balancing Skills and Features
If you’re still not sure how to buy a drone in 2018, there are two more factors you should consider: the uses you have in mind and the pilot’s level of skill and familiarity with flying. Start by considering your priorities in light of the categories described above. While it is possible to buy a drone that is good for multiple purposes — say, a model with an HD or even a 4K camera and sports mode allowing for a slightly faster flight speed — you are more likely to experience trade-offs between these features. Most mid-level or higher-end drones are intended to serve a single purpose very well and cover a few other desirable or industry-standard features.
For example, specialized camera drones can feature a 5.2K camera, panning gimbal, and dedicated cameras for image capture and a first-person view. Racing drones often just allow for FPV, are usually smaller and lighter, and can achieve faster speeds. Even though you could attach an additional camera to a racing drone, this would likely slow down the device, and it would still be difficult to achieve a comparable level of recording or still image quality because this device is not designed for stabilization or digital image processing. On the other hand, you would probably not want to risk damaging a specialized camera drone in a race.
The best drone for you is one that is designed to suit your uses and skills. Even though you might have an easier time learning to fly a device in the $700 range with features that include a 3D camera and sensors for obstacle avoidance, you might still run the risk of damaging expensive components. Beginner and intermediate drones usually have a lower price tag and still offer a range of desirable features. Toy or miniature drones can be an even more affordable— though often challenging — option for getting a new hobby off of the ground with little risk.
Should You Buy Ready To Fly?
It is important to determine what state the drone you buy will be in when you open the packaging. A drone that is almost ready to fly, or ARF, may require you to purchase a variety of components, such as a transmitter, receiver, flight controller, motors, or batteries. If you are considering buying an ARF kit, carefully assess the parts list to ensure that you order all of the additional components you will need to take off. Bind and fly, or BNF, models require you to purchase and bind or link a controller to the drone.
If you are new to drones, you may want to choose a ready to fly, or RTF, model that will only require the most basic preparation. Some drone models can only be controlled by a smartphone or wireless device and require that you download an application and pair your device with the drone through proprietary software. The experience of controlling a drone through a device and through a traditional controller is very different and not necessarily transferable.
Advanced pilots and those interested in customizing drones for racing or other customized programming may want to be able to select and install specific components. Many vendors offer original and replacement parts for assembling or repairing your drone. Once again, your level of skill and intentions for using the device are the most important factors when deciding which drone to buy.
Recent Drone Innovations
Drone manufacturers have made great advances over the last several years. The new features available in 2018 make drone flying more immersive and allow a pilot to use these devices for an even greater variety of purposes. Some models featuring gesture control have recently hit the market, permitting pilots to control the motion of a drone and even take pictures with hand gestures. Other models make it possible for pilots to experience a FPV perspective in virtual reality.
Camera drones have advanced considerably with models that make tracking shots and selfie snaps easy through computer vision and facial recognition capabilities. Some selfie drones fold down to easily fit in a pocket or bag. Other innovative options entering the market include models featuring thermal cameras or waterproof casing, which make these devices useful for hunting or fishing. It is worthwhile to note that specialized devices like selfie drones or drones designed for specific activities are expanding the definition of a beginner drone. It may still be less expensive to learn the basic principles of flying with a basic starter drone.
You won’t have to look far to find a drone with high-tech features that enable to you make the most of your purchase. Drones with these cutting-edge features range in price, but the investment can be worthwhile once you determine which types of use you want to pursue. Depending on your priorities, these features may be deciding factors in your consideration of how to buy a drone in 2018.
How To Buy a Drone
Many online stores and manufacturer’s websites sell drones and can be useful resources for researching specifications and reading reviews. Some radio control suppliers also sell drones and drone parts. You might also want to investigate communities devoted to specific types and brands of drones in mind, as these sites sometimes offer classifieds sections where you can find devices or components. In general, if you want to ensure that the drone you purchase will be exactly as described and made by the stated manufacturer, buy directly from the manufacturer or a reputable site.
As you prepare to make a purchase, you want to pay close attention to the warranty and protection options that are available. Some additional coverage policies allow you to order and quickly receive a limited number of authorized replacement parts, especially when you purchase your drone and policy from the manufacturer. It is a good idea to order authorized accessories and replacement parts, which can be easier when you buy directly from the drone manufacturer. Aftermarket or unauthorized parts may not fit your model, be as durable, or perform as reliably as authorized parts designed for your specific drone.
Drones Are Taking Off in 2018
This guide on how to buy a drone in 2018 is intended to provide you with an overview of what to keep in mind when looking to purchase a drone in this ever-growing market. From uses and skills to specialized features and cutting-edge developments, there are many factors to consider as you shop for a drone. Try to find a model that allows you to achieve the unique kind of flight experience you are seeking. Even though every drone is different, the basic principles of flying unmanned aerial systems are important to grasp. Once you develop these skills, you will probably be most satisfied by investing in a drone that has the features you are most interested in and then growing your collection based on your abilities and preferences.
From remote control planes and drones all the way up to passenger-plane-sized military or research aircraft, there are many different types of unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, used for a variety of purposes today. These vehicles are guided by input from remote controllers or transmitters, distant pilots or systems relying on satellites to transmit flight plans and even pre-programmed functions. The one factor that every UAV has in common is that it travels through the air without the presence of a human pilot on board.
The development of strategic unmanned aircraft dates back to the early twentieth century, but there are more options up in the air today than ever before. While model airplane hobbyists have been building and flying RC planes for decades, the devices commonly called “drones” have recently skyrocketed in popularity. Consumer drones are revolutionizing expectations for the capabilities—both in terms of performance and quality—of unmanned flight. The general consensus among aviation, legal, and technology experts is that all drones are unmanned vehicles, but not all unmanned vehicles are drones. These distinctions give rise to a number of considerations regarding the definition of this increasingly common term.
What Is a UAV?
In the most general sense, UAVs are vehicles that fly without a pilot manning any controls situated within the vehicle. “Drone” has recently become a popular name for consumer aerial vehicles, but the term originates in military technologies. From autonomous submarines to passenger-sized planes, there are many types of drones capable of performing functions that extend far beyond the civilian pursuits of learning how to manually control the flight of a compact vehicle, capture still or moving images, or achieve freestyle stunts and racing victories.
The increasing popularity of consumer drones in recent years has sparked debate among aviation, legal, and technology experts over the finer points of this categorization, particularly as it applies to regulation. The most accepted distinction falls between remote-controlled crafts that must be operated manually at all times and devices that are capable of achieving some level of autonomous flight, even for a limited duration of time or restricted to a range of certain programmed functions.
UAVs Versus Drones
Devices like RC planes or helicopters and drones bound to remote controller transmitters are unmanned devices, regardless of what—if any—degree of autonomous flight they can achieve. They share the characteristic of not being controlled from within by a human pilot. Any internal processing or inputs are achieved by a flight controller or onboard processor. In general, the autonomous or pre-programmed modes on these vehicles are designed to aid or support manual control and make these vehicles easier for a remote human pilot to fly or harder for them to lose.
Semi-autonomous modes are often intended to make these vehicles follow established routes or routines. Some RC aircraft feature a panic mode that can help the aircraft maintain altitude or achieve stabilization, but this mode is intended to assist a remote human pilot rather than allow the plane to follow a path determined through the analysis of telemetry data or even a pre-set path. An increasing number of drones not only stabilize altitude autonomously but avoid obstacles by relying on a 3D camera and sensors to observe surroundings and prevent collisions by either dodging or stopping. Some drones also offer options to orbit a person or object or return to their launch site. Most of these functions have to be enabled or programmed, and the onboard processor is only tasked with executing these flight plans.
Recent UAV Developments
Some higher-end drones offer a wide range of autonomous features or modes. These devices can follow an object or person relying on a combination of GPS and optical recognition, fly in plotted straight or curved lines, or travel to waypoints or pre-set locations while adhering to specifications including speed and altitude. Drones equipped with cameras can be used to capture still images or motion footage in most of these modes. Other semi-autonomous modes that are often used for image capture include selfie or orbit modes. The extent to which any of these modes is fully autonomous is open to debate, but it is clear that the execution of these flight programs is achieved by the flight controller located inside of the more technologically advanced consumer drones available on the market.
A return to home mode could arguably be more autonomous, particularly if the on-board flight controller enacts this function upon sensing its own low battery status. The return path in this mode can be more or less precise depending on whether the drone travels in headless mode and essentially executes a fly back command or relies on GPS data to return to a precise launch point. All of these developments are steps toward vehicles that are not only unmanned but autonomous, a combination of features that has caused these UAVs to be referred to as drones.
Where To Buy a UAV
Model airplane enthusiasts have built communities around hobby shops and flying fields for decades. Some of the same hobby shops that stock plane parts and supplies also carry drones and components for these newer types of unmanned vehicles. There are many online stores and communities dedicated to specific types or even brands of aerial vehicles. All of these vendors and resources make it easier than ever before to compare different vehicles and determine which type best suits your abilities and interests.
In many cases, you can buy a drone or even a RC plane in a ready-to-fly or RTF kit. You may also be able to find kits that require a separate remote controller or transmitter or other components, allowing for a greater degree of customization. More experienced hobbyists can build aerial vehicles themselves, choosing all of the parts, planning the design, and even deciding on the best options for transmitters and receivers.
Some remote controllers or transmitters feature different modes to allow you to use the same controller for more than one vehicle as well as a number of channels that you can link to different switches or knobs in order to fine-tune the controls for each craft. There are also a variety of possibilities for programming drones with proprietary or open-source autopilot development interfaces or mission planning software, and user communities growing around these resources.
PowerRay Wizard Sonar FishFinder with PowerVision Edition of Zeiss VR One Plus Goggles
PowerEgg UAV with Maestro
Rodeo 110 Racing Drone RTF, W/ HD Camera, Radio and Battery
DJI Goggles Racing Edition
UAV Enthusiasts Unite
If you are interested in learning more about these technological developments or joining up with a group of hobbyists, there are numerous UAV communities online and offline clubs. These groups are dedicated to the development and refinement of flying technologies. It can be useful to have a group of pilots and builders who can help you resolve problems with a drone, plane, or other aerial vehicle projects. You can also learn a great deal about different brands and types of UAVs from connecting with these enthusiasts and benefitting from their collective experience and insights.
Online forums can be useful when it comes to comparing different products, seeing builds that work or achieve different goals, reviewing commentary on failed attempts, and generally learning from the experiences of other people all over the world. Some forums make it possible to buy vehicles or parts from other enthusiasts. It is important to carefully assess these offers. If you are new to flying, you may find it helpful to make purchases from manufacturers or reputable retailers. As you become more familiar with these vehicles, you may have a clearer idea of which designs and parts to use to achieve the desired performance and whether a user online is accurately representing a model or component.
In addition to vendors of consumer devices and the creators and users of development tools, there are many internet communities that discuss and speculate about military or other specialized unmanned vehicles. These conversations usually do not involve classified information but consider the boundaries of UAV development and the possible uses for these vehicles. Non-commercial UAVs are often controlled remotely at great distances and can be used to explore locations that are too dangerous for humans, in rescue missions or for delivering humanitarian aid to disaster sites, and for other cutting-edge research or tactical purposes.
The Future of UAVs
Many UAV enthusiasts are interested in the possibilities posed by many different types of flying crafts. Some of the most interesting developments with these vehicles are taking place in the areas of artificial intelligence and machine learning. These innovations mirror technologies that are being implemented on a smaller and less critical scale in consumer aerial vehicles. These features are often the subject of debate when it comes to conversations about regulating consumer devices or the ethical implications of using these types of technologies in warfare.
The controversy surrounding UAVs stems primarily from the fact that these types of vehicles are only likely to become more common in the future. Recent technological developments and innovations in design and programming are opening the horizon to limitless applications in the civilian, military, and research sectors. An expanding consumer market and a growing base of builders and tinkerers indicate that the pace of innovation will only increase.
This convenient and compact flying camera is easily controlled with the help of your iOS or Android device. Five automated flight modes allow you to capture unique shots. Plus you can instantly share all the footage via different social medias. Model’s main features are:
4K Ultra High Definition
- 13 MP photos
- 720 HD live stream to your device
- Optical flow and infrared positioning sensors
- Weight under 1 pound
Despite its compact size, Typhoon is an advanced aerial photography and videography quadcopter that offers high-level professional capabilities at a consumer price. You can view the live footage on the screen of the ST16 transmitter with the integrated digital video downlink with a range of up to 1 mile (1.6km). Model’s main features are:
- 25-minute flying time
- 4K UHD camera
- 12 MP images
- 360° range of motion
- Remote camera settings
One of the best systems to capture 4K videos with the help of a simple Android touchscreen controller. The ST10+ Ground Station allows you to apply simple in-flight adjustments from the ground. It is also much quieter compared to competing models. Model’s main features are:
- 12 MP photos
- 25-minute flying time
- Captures 1080p/120fps slow motion video
- 4K UHD camera
- “Follow me” mode
This multirotor hexacopter is perfect for taking professional high-resolution photos and videos. It’s very easy to assemble and disassemble – no screwdrivers required. The retractable landing gear helps you to have a full 360° view during the flight without anything blocking the lens. Model’s main features are:
- 4K-resolution video
- 16 MP photos
- Automatically goes up as far as 90 m
- “Follow me” mode
- ST24 transmitter with 7″ Android device
A great solution for commercial usage. With its enterprise-grade cameras, mission planning software, and data storage to SD card in 4K/2K/HD video, H520 is a perfect option for aerial inspections, security, construction and mapping. Model’s main features are:
- Six-rotor systems that allow for stable, precise flight
- 12Mp still images
- 1 mile (1.6km) flying range
- ST16S transmitter with the integrated digital video downlink
- Data storage to SD card
Yuneec Drones Range