How Are Drones Controlled?

David Lemay15 Feb 2023

Understanding how to control a drone is essential if you want to operate one. To launch something heavier than air, lift must be generated. A lift can be achieved by changing the air pressure above and below an aircraft, which acts as a force that lifts the craft into the air.

Airplanes generate lift by moving air above and below a wing. The horizontal movement of the airplane creates air movement. The bigger the aircraft, the longer the runway required to acquire the necessary speed to generate the lift that would finally propel the aircraft into the air. Once airborne, the plane needs to keep moving side to side so that enough air is flowing over the wings. The plane can only fly in the direction the nose is pointed at.

Drones operate on the same principles, but they require sophisticated engineering to keep their power and altitude for significantly longer. The modernized copters are built to transport heavier loads, from Amazon's new fleet of delivery drones to the military's directed bombs and life-saving surveillance drone technology.

How Are Military Drones Controlled?

Military unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or military drones are a great asset for any security team to carry out a risky and intricate surveillance job. Autonomous drones are dispatched to complete a mission, all under the watchful eye of a human operator using a state-of-the-art Ground Control Station (GCS).

Drones can only be tracked by pilots using satellites. The drone can be controlled from the moment it lifts off until it is out of sight, all thanks to a direct data link from a GCS or ground control station.

When the drone travels outside the range of the base station's line of sight, the control signal is transmitted via satellite. Drone transmissions include GPS coordinates. The drone can either circle back to its home location or return to the launch site if the connection drops.

How Are Amazon Drones Controlled?

To command and autonomously fly and deliver items to customers within 30 minutes of purchase, Amazon is utilizing multi-rotor mini drone technology.  Amazon's goal was to design a drone that is completely risk-free and can be controlled by an autonomous system. Without network access, it can still respond effectively and safely.

This drone is controlled using a suite of sensors and machine learning models that work in tandem to keep tabs on its surroundings and modify its behaviour accordingly. This is possible because the drone's flight envelope is significantly larger than that of a conventional UAV because of its novel design and control scheme. Images from both standard and infrared cameras can be used to piece together their surroundings. The drone is equipped with several sensors on all sides to detect both distant objects, like an oncoming plane, and nearby ones, like a person or another drone, during takeoff and landing.

The drone employs several machine learning models to do tasks such as recognizing and reacting to nearby aircraft, locating and counting individuals in the landing area, and identifying the presence of a line in the sky. Amazon delivery drones employ photogrammetrical models, segmentation models, and neural networks to do this.

How Are Delivery Drones Controlled?

Before Amazon's launch of Prime Air, the use of drones for delivery was already in existence. Zipline, a firm founded in the United States in 2011 that specializes in medical drone deliveries, has distribution hubs in both Rwanda and Ghana, making it a forerunner in the field of long-distance drone delivery. Due in large part to inadequate road infrastructure, Zipline has experienced exponential development since then, and today transports 65 per cent of blood samples in Rwanda.

Using unmanned aerial vehicles to transport packages from one location to another is what is known as "drone delivery". These unmanned aerial vehicles can either fly themselves or be piloted by a human from afar.

Dependable drone hardware and solid software that can support EVLOS/BVLOS Operations must be seamlessly integrated as a part of the system that drives drone delivery operations. System components include:

  • Drone hardware refers to the drones themselves, which can be used to transport deliveries.
  • Advanced fleet management software featuring live tracking and drone control over 4G/LTE/5G for long-range EVLOS/BVLOS operations.

Ground control systems are used by delivery drones to control operations both for safe and commercial use. For operational safety, the drone operator must control their fleet of drones and how they fit into the larger airspace. For commercial applications, ground control systems enable the receipt and tracking of orders.  

How Are Long Range Drones Controlled?

Long-range drones are unmanned aerial vehicles that can fly for an extended period. They are mainly employed in military or commercial applications. Long-range drones are commanded by remote operators, and there are two ways to control such drones.

Remote Control

The use of remote control is one method for piloting a drone. The majority of drones are operated by remote control, with an operator controlling the device from a safe distance. Small drones with a limited range can benefit from this method.

Long-range drone remotes come in a wide variety of forms, but they all have certain standard features. A remote control consists of three primary components: the transmitter, the receiver, and the controller.

  • The transmitter is responsible for transmitting the signal from the controller to the drone. To pilot the drone, you typically utilize a portable device.
  • The receiver is responsible for receiving the signal from the transmitter and transmitting it to the controller.
  • Depending on the signal from the receiver, the controller informs the drone what to perform. The controller could be as basic as a joystick or as complicated as a gadget with panels and buttons.

Computer Interface

Drones can also be piloted using a computer interface. Drones may be remotely piloted by connecting them to computers and directing them to complete various tasks. This method is utilized by larger drones with extended range requirements.

The complexity of computer interface controllers for long-range drones varies. Some controllers only consist of a joystick with which you may steer the drone, while others have displays and buttons that give you complete command over its flight.

Typically, flight-planning software is included with computer interface controllers. For long-range drones or those employed in rescue missions, this can be a great asset. If you want to gain a better sense of your surroundings while flying, the software also lets you see exactly what the drone is viewing.

To control drones, it is crucial to understand the basic mechanisms at play. Simply put, there is the drone equipment that acts as the receiver, receiving the command. Next is the transmitter that is housed in the control unit that tells the drone what to do. And finally, the signal sent from the control unit to the drone allows the drone to fly in the air.

David Lemay

David Lemay

I'm David Lemay, a lover of tech and have had an interest in drones for years. Bought my first few drones, before I started building my own. I want to share my passion with others, so I started this site to help others who want to get into the hobby.

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