“Drones: Is the Sky the Limit?” Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) look to have endless capabilities and have grown extremely popular in the media. They might seem effortless, but how much do we know about their origin and history, how their structures and uses have evolved, and how we might use them in the future? When did unmanned aircraft become known as drones? It was plausibly earlier than you think.
Drones also termed as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), have no human pilot on board, and rather are either controlled by a person on the ground or autonomously through a computer program. These secrecy crafts are becoming frequently popular, not only for war and military objectives but also for everything from wildlife and atmospheric analysis to disaster relief and sports photography.
“Drones are becoming the eyes and ears of scientists by surveying the ground for archaeological sites, signs of illicit hunting and crop damage, and even rushing inside hurricanes to study the wild storms”.
Modern drones can be classified on the basis of the number of propellers made in different sizes and range but we believe that several future drones have and would have many exciting functional features, which might be better ways of analysing.
How do Drones work?
One of the most basic and popular flying drone designs is the quadcopter, which is a type of drone that is elevated and propelled by four rotors. The idea of quadcopter vehicles is not new; manned quadcopters first tested within the 1920s, but their effectiveness was hindered by the technology available at the time.
The 4 propellers of a quadcopter are fixed and vertically orientated. Each propeller has a variable and autonomous speed which enables a full range of movements. Unlike traditional helicopters which are controlled by propellers with blades that dynamically tilt around the rotor hub.
The core components of a quadcopter are as follows:
- Chassis – the skeleton of the drone which all componentry is attached to. The chassis configuration is a trade-off between strength (particularly when additional weight such as cameras are attached) and extra weight, which will lack longer propellers and stronger motors to rear.
- Propellers – mainly affect the load that the quadcopter can bear, the speed it can navigate, and the speed it can manage. The length can be adjusted; longer propellers can attain greater lift at a lower rpm but take longer to speed up/slow down. Shorter propellers can modify speed quicker and thus are more maneuverable, however, they expect a higher rotational speed to reach the same power as longer blades. This induces excess motor strain and thus decreases motor life span. A more dynamic pitch will allow quicker movement but reduced hovering efficiency.
- Motors – 1 per propeller, drone motors are measured in “Kv” units which equalises to the number of revolutions per minute it can achieve when a voltage of 1 volt is provided to the motor with no load. A faster motor spin will provide more flight power but demands more power from the battery resulting in a decreased flight time.
- Electronic Speed Controller (ESC) – gives a controlled current to each motor to produce the correct spin speed and direction.
- Flight Controller – the onboard computer which explains incoming signals sent from the pilot and sends corresponding inputs to the ESC to control the quadcopter.
- Radio Receiver – receives the control signals from the pilot.
- Battery – generally lithium polymer batteries are used due to high power density and the ability to recharge.
Further to this, sensors can be utilised such as accelerometers, gyroscopes, GPS and barometers for positional measurements. Cameras are also often mounted for navigation and aerial photography.
What is the growth of Intelligent Drones?
In the past 10 years, many small unconventional quadcopters have enrolled in the market that includes the DJI Phantom and Parrot AR Drone. This new variety of quadcopters are affordable, lightweight, and use advanced physics for flight control.
Artificial intelligence and drones are a match made in tech heaven. Pairing the real-time machine learning technology of AI with the exploratory capabilities of unmanned drones gives ground-level operators a human-like eye-in-the-sky.
More than ever before, drones perform key problem-solving roles in a variety of sectors including defense, natural disaster relief, agriculture, security, and construction. Smart UAVs are so familiar that they’re now used in more than 400,000 job sites worldwide.
Until recently, though, drones were simply able to display what their cameras captured. Now, recognition of artificial intelligence software, they can sense their surroundings, which empowers them to map areas, track objects and provide analytical feedback in real-time.
How drones are used in Commercial and Enterprise Applications?
Advancements in drones, artificial intelligence, and other technologies are making it feasible for companies to autonomously inspect a wide range of properties. Equipping these devices with suitable sensors allows them to automatically and reliably inspect power lines, oil and gas facilities, pipelines, transport systems, and other infrastructure.
Generally, automation technologies are suitable for regular operations as well as hazardous and repetitive tasks. For example, the oil and gas companies are frequently relying on drones to inspect their goods such as flare stacks and other plants in remote and exposed locations.
This not only reduces costs but also empowers them to carry out quicker and more detailed inspections. There are also service robots that are handled in the oil rigs to inspect and achieve certain maintenance jobs.
In hard to reach or explosive environments such as oil equipment and others, firms can use intelligent drones and robots to move around certain parts or locations while visually investigating them and transmitting the information back to a control room.
Integrating the inspection drones or robots with AI technology empowers them to automatically detect crevices and other errors on the assets. The autonomous technology is not restricted to the petroleum sector and is suitable in almost any other industry.
Application of Drones for Maintenance and Inspections:
Advances in drone technologies are making them suitable for full range inspections. Ideal areas include manufacturing industries, transport, energy sector, construction, agriculture, oil and gas, real estate, insurance, and more.
Typical applications include:
Inspecting roofs, oil and gas facilities, bridges, construction sites, and other buildings.
Checking for spills such as those from liquid, chemical, oil, and others as well as the influence on the environment
Supporting performance and emergency services
Delivering medical stocks to remote areas
These inspections, which are normally safer, faster and less costly, give the maintenance teams the facility to automatically recognise and address potential and existing deficits in good time.
How these AI Drones are used to Solve Big Problems?
In today’s competitive marketing environment, industries are frequently using developing technologies to increase productivity, reduce risks, prevent accidents and cut costs. These are additionally helping them to face tough laws and compliance requirements.
Typical benefits include:
Improving the safety of inspection workers:
The traditional asset inspections methods by human operators are usually dangerous, costly and time-consuming. On the other hand, the drone and robot-based inspections eliminate the need to ascend dangerous elevations or access unsafe and hazardous locations hence overcoming the risks or accidents.
There are still models for rigid environments such as those with poisonous gases, radiation or harsh weather conditions. As such, workers do not need to prove themselves to risky situations. Also, this reduces the need for expensive protective clothing or shielding gear for the workers.
Using high-efficiency sensors, drones and robots gather better data from the assets as they can grow as close as possible compared to a human operator. For some of these areas, and particularly, the confined locations, power lines, tall structures, and others, the human worker meets a wide range of risks.
Better data quality:
Integrating the drones or robots with high-resolution images, video and thermal image cameras let them collect a wide variety of data from the assets that later can be utilised in drone inspection software. Other than images, the drones can accumulate other types of data, including gas leaks, corrosion, radiation, sparks, and others.
Data from these sensors are normally of higher quality than that from the conventional methods. When examining confined and difficult to reach locations, a human operator often tries to capture good shots. In most of these events, they have to negotiate the quality of data due to the safety issues.
Flexible with the ability to perform different types of inspections:
There are a variety of drones and robots in various environments. This allows firms to match their demands with suitable models.
For instance, there are drones such as the Elios, for confined space inspections. This has a shielding cage that protects the drone parts, hence allowing it to reach difficult to enter confined spaces. Similarly, drones for stormy weather conditions are much more powerful and able to operate such environments better than usual models.
Other than the natural design, a single drone can do multiple inspections simultaneously. For example, if it has an image and thermal imaging cameras, as well as a gas leak sensor, the drone will capture the outside photos, as well as the surrounding and gas leakages.
Simplify data collection, analysis, and sharing:
“Today, data is one of the principal components of the decision-making process. Having detailed information provides any company with a better vision into a wide range of issues”.
The inspection data from the intelligent drones or robots provide the maintenance supervisors and technicians, with an authentic view of their status and their assets. This information leads them to whether there is a requirement to perform maintenance services shortly or simply wait for the scheduled time.
Reducing equipment downtime:
Unlike the conventional inspection methods that usually require shutting down the machine, organizations can do most of the drone-based inspections without interrupting the normal operations and protect workers from risks, accidents or injuries.
Quicker inspection times:
A drone covers an area that would contrarily take days or weeks in a much more precise time while collecting better data. This applies to even the constructions with complex designs. Usually, the inspections based on modern technologies are not only more reasonable but also takes a shorter time to plan and deploy.
Lower labour and equipment costs and insurance Cost:
Since intelligent drones are more comfortable to deploy and do not require shutdowns, companies can send out regular inspections, hence recognise and fix potential problems before breakdowns.
By identifying problems earlier, the firm addresses it and prevents further destruction to the components, equipment shutdown, and costly repairs. This results in reduced maintenance costs in terms of parts, time and lost production. The devices provide more active inspections while requiring fewer operators and these changes to lower labour costs.
The old methods require huge investments in terms of material and manpower as well as larger transportation to transport the tools to the site or field. Each company will, therefore, need to take insurance covers the machine against robbery, damage and other concerns. The use of the latest technologies reduces the need for heavy machinery as well as many workers.
Drones help to perform dangerous jobs:
Robots and drones can mitigate a wide range of dangers and improve safety while enabling the company to cut expenses and improve productivity. Inappropriate, they are perfect for dangerous locations since they reduce the need for human operators to perform risky jobs or expose themselves to dangerous conditions.
What is the future outlook of Intelligent Drones?
As companies try to cut operational expenses and remain competitive, they are frequently adopting robots, drones, AI and other technologies that help them increase efficiency and safety. In particular, these technologies are empowering companies across different areas to reduce risks and costs of inspecting limited, difficult to reach dangerous locations.
These Inspections are normally quicker to deploy hence supporting organizations to achieve them more often, collect better data and enhance the predictive maintenance practices. By identifying and fixing problems early, the companies reduce the prospects of equipment breakdown, failures, disasters and emergency shutdowns.