The Ultimate Guide To Drones: Understanding Types, Applications, And Regulations
by michael-morha Aug 19, 2023 Views (340)

Drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are pilotless air crafts manned remotely or via transmitter software. The aircraft have come a long way from their military applications during the First and Second world wars to commercialization.

The commercialization of UAVs means drones are readily available for applications outside military use by industries and individuals. Moreover, besides applications, drones have varying specifications, including size, power sources, range, and payload capacity.

So, if you want to expand your drone knowledge, you’ve come to the right place. Keep reading to learn the different drone categories, industry and personal applications, and the regulations governing their use in the US airspace.


Types Of Drones

Below is an overview of the broadest drone classification.


1. Multi-rotor Drones

Rotors are the spinning blades that facilitate propulsion, allowing a drone to rise. Therefore, multi-rotor drones are drones featuring more than one rotor. Multi-rotors are arguably the most popular small-scale civilian use of drones for various reasons.

First, a multi-rotor drone lands and takes off vertically. Moreover, its comparatively smaller size reduces the clearing size for them to land or take off, making it ideal for flying over crowded or bushy grounds.

Second, multi-rotors have better control over position, as the motion control theory utilized in multi-rotor UAV algorithms enhances position and attitude control.

Multi-rotor drones are a broad UAV category with multiple sub-categories based on the number of rotors per craft. Commercially available multi-rotor drone categories include tricopters (three rotors), quadcopters (four rotors), hexacopters (six rotors), and octacopters (eight rotors).

So, does an increasing number of rotors translate to a better-performing drone? A rotor’s primary purpose is propelling the drone; therefore, more rotors give the drone a higher lift.


2. Single-Rotor Drones

Single-rotor design features a helicopter-inspired design with one rotating top rotor and a tail rotor. The two rotors work together to increase the craft’s stability, giving it better control.

Second, single-rotor drones feature a gas/ internal combustion engine rather than rechargeable electric batteries. The engines have a higher power output, giving the drones endurance that allows them to fly for several hours. Additionally, single-rotor drones have a higher payload capacity and utilize Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) scanners for data capture.

However, the sensors are pricey, given the quality and capacity of their mechanical and software input. They also require expert knowledge to fly and maintain.



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3. Fixed-wing Drones

Fixed-wing drones are similar to airplanes design-wise, spotting a single rigid wing. Unlike single and multi-rotor drones, fixed-wing drones utilize aerodynamics rather than propulsion to generate height and stay in flight.

Moreover, such drones have internal combustion engines and use the generated energy to move forward rather than vertically. Therefore, they move more swiftly than drones in other categories.

A fixed-wing drone’s energy capacity, outstanding payload, and capacity to remain aloft for up to 16 hours make it ideal for surveying large areas.

This advantage is particularly relevant when considering used survey equipment. Such drone equipment can offer a cost-effective way to acquire this long-range surveying capability, allowing you to tackle expansive projects without breaking the bank. 

4. Fixed-wing Hybrid Vertical Takeoff And Landing VTOL Drone

Fixed-wing hybrid VTOL drones utilize the best single-wing and rotor mechanics to take off and fly efficiently. For starters, like single and multiple-rotor drones, fixed-wing hybrid VTOL drones take off vertically, minimizing the space required for take -off and landing.

Once airborne, the drone switches mechanics from propulsion to aerodynamics, allowing it to move forward and remain aloof for extended periods.



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Drone Uses/ Applications

Drone applications range from amateur to professional and recreational. Below is an overview of popular drone uses across the utility spectrum.


1. Aerial Photography

Drones are at the heart of aerial photography, allowing professional and amateur photographers to capture overhead content that would otherwise be impossible. Multi-rotor drones are perfect for aerial photography due to their small size, ease of control, and capacity to hold positions for longer.


2. Filmmaking

Besides still photography, drones enhance the visual element in filmmaking via aerial shots and other compelling angles to elevate the cinematography and storytelling prowess.


3. Surveillance

Surveillance drones have exceptional features, including cameras, thermal sensors, GPS chips, and sniffers to monitor targeted areas. The data from such drones help deter criminal activities and facilitate evidence/intelligence gathering, including air quality and emissions.


4. Combat

Combat drones facilitate reconnaissance (combat surveillance), target acquisition, and release of expendable weapons (bombs and missiles) and ammunition. The precision with which combat drones strike helps reduce casualties among military personnel and civilians during warfare. However, combat drones are only legally available to military forces.


5. Agriculture

Drones with features like cameras, GPS, and LiDAR scanners are crucial in precision agriculture technology. Precision agriculture utilizes technology to monitor farm conditions and minimize inputs while maximizing profit. It is an essential sustainable farming element.


6. Aerial Mapping

Aerial drone mapping entails collecting target areas' orthophotos and merging them into large ortho mosaic maps to document and update landscape changes.


7. Package Delivery

Drones with a high payload capacity allow delivery services to fulfill same-day orders.



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US Regulations Regarding Drone Use

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is the primary body that regulates recreational and commercial drone operations within US borders. Below is an overview of the regulations it has in place to ensure responsible and safe drone activity in American airspace.


1. First, all drone flyers must register any drone weighing more than 0.55 pounds, while remote pilots operating commercial or government drones must register all drones, including those weighing under 0.55 lbs, with the FAA.


2. Second, recreational and commercial drone operators must learn all flying rules stipulated in their respective categories.


3. Recreational drone flyers must take the recreational safety test issued by FAA-approved administrators, while commercial remote pilots must receive certification.


4. Drone Operators can fly their drones in controlled spaces after receiving FAA airspace authorization.



Given how prevalent drones and drone technology is, the categories, applications, and regulations highlighted above are nowhere near exhaustive. However, they are enough to help you get started on navigating recreational and commercial drone flying.

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