Whats a UAV – A Comprehensive Guide for Newbie

A close up of a computer

“Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are becoming increasingly popular for a wide variety of uses. Commonly, UAVs are remotely controlled by someone on the ground, but they can also fly autonomously through software-controlled flight plans in their embedded systems working as an onboard autopilot.

Part of UAVs And Their Working

A plane flying in the air

Airframe: This part holds all other components together. For example, if you’re using a quad-rotor design (four rotors attached at the end-points of four arms arranged in a square-like layout) then arms hold all rotors/engines and also provide a place for mounting all other parts such as cameras, sensors, etc. So it’s important to make sure that the airframe is of good quality and properly designed. Make sure it’s from a good manufacturer! This vehicle can’t fly if the airframe breaks down.

Power System: A power system includes one or more electric motors, batteries, and associated electronic speed controllers (ESC) that provide power to rotors or propellers. It also provides the necessary thrust for flight through its propulsion system. In some cases, the throttle is controlled manually & in some via a radio control provided by an operator on the ground controlling the altitude and direction of flight. For example, you need high RPMs to produce higher lift while low RPM should be enough to hover in place against winds – all these parameters are decided by choosing appropriate components for the power system since different kinds of missions require a different kinds of setups. On-board Control System (OBCS): This component is what makes the vehicle fly autonomously. It is also known as autopilot. It is programmed with a mission plan and communicates constantly with a Ground Station to follow that mission plan. In order to make it work, OBCS needs accurate sensor data which can be either from an internal source like GPS or from external sources like cameras, gyroscopes & pressure sensors, etc. Sensors also help in making intelligent decisions about stability control during flight. For example, you want to take pictures at an angle so what should you do? You tilt your drone to an appropriate angle by programming it accordingly because if the drone doesn’t know the altitude then it can’t make intelligent decisions. Also, your power system and airframe should be capable enough to handle the tilting of rotors/propellers. In some cases, rotors are kept at a fixed position & in some cases, they can also rotate vertically too. Payloads: This is what differentiates one UAV from another! Payload is the part of an unmanned vehicle that performs a specific function – it could be carrying a camera for photography or gas sensors for monitoring air quality etc. It’s important to know about payload capacity because if you have a heavy payload then either you need a bigger airframe or a more powerful power system so here again most important considerations would be… Size and weight! If your aircraft is going to have a large wingspan then it will be difficult to handle it during takeoff and landing. Also, the speed achieved by the aircraft is entirely dependent on its power-weight ratio so your airframe must also support this feature of OBCS. If you want your drone to fly fast then ensure that the airframe can handle higher speeds than required!

Flight Data: Using sensors such as GPS, accelerometers & pressure sensors, OBCS constantly calculates vehicle stability and flight trajectory which is transmitted to a Ground Station via radio control sent from an operator on the ground controlling altitude and direction of flight. Thus an operator gets real-time data making way for better decision making and increased safety margins.

A close up of a helicopter flying in the air

Ground Control System (GCS): GCS is where all intelligence lies – it contains a computer that receives data telemetrically from the UAV and displays it to an operator using LCD screens. GCS also has joysticks & input controllers that allow an operator to control the vehicle precisely. These screens are very useful because they show you various aspects of your vehicle like battery level, distance traveled, altitude, weight, etc. It’s important to choose a system with features such as user-friendly GUI (graphical user interface) which means easy navigation! Features like these make flying much easier for operators.

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