What are Autonomous Drones?
An autonomous drone, also known as an unmanned aerial vehicle, is basically an aircraft that is operated without a human pilot. The drone is a component of the unmanned aircraft system and this system consists of other elements.
Elements of the Unmanned Aircraft System
- A ground-based controller
- A system of communications
- Infrared cameras
- GPS and laser systems
How Does a Drone Work?
The UAV itself has several components that make up the vehicle and these components are discussed below.
- The body
Since the drone has no human pilot, there’s no cockpit area or windows. A UAV is also characterized by the absence of tails as well as rotary wings.
- The Power Supply
Usually, the normal lithium-polymer (Li-Po) batteries are in use here and the aircraft is not limited by the scale or the size. The power supply is also designed such that less work is required and the electric motors in use are quieter.
- The Computing System
Advanced computing systems are in use here, and although it began with analog controls, the evolution to microcontrollers and system-on-a-chip was rapid.
It is also important to be able to track the position and the movement of the aircraft while it is in motion. The sensors at work are used to identify the distance measurements, as well as the internal and external state of the craft.
Digital electronic speed controllers are also used here and they are linked to motors, engines, and propellers.
- The Software
Real-time systems are employed to ensure instantaneous response to sensor data that keeps changing.
- Communication System
A radio frequency front-end connects the antenna to the analog-digital converter and another flight computer. These elements are responsible for the avionics control and they allow remote control of the system.
Types of Autonomous Drones
A drone usually falls into one of any of the five categories listed below. Although, it is possible to have a UAV performing more than one role.
- Target and decoy Drones that provides both ground and aerial gunnery a target, simulating aircraft and missiles.
- Reconnaissance, used for battlefield intelligence.
- Combat drones that provide attack in a high-risk mission environment.
- Drones for logistics. This is used by retail outlets or delivery companies.
- Civil and Commercial Drones.
Applications of Autonomous Drones
Autonomous Drones in the Military
Nowadays, the military is becoming dependent on these drones for a number of tasks. It is used as decoys in some occasions and it is also very useful when it comes to combat. A very important use of the technology is in supervision and this has been, perhaps, the most common application.
A recent report by Goldman Sachs showed that the primary source of expenditure incurred in the drone industry will come from the military. In fact, it is estimated that the global military will spend over $70 billion on drones by the year 2020. This figure is not hard to believe as military expenditure on drones is significant. One US Predator drone goes for about $4 million and it was estimated that the program will see a total cost of $2.4 billion.
Personal Use of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle
Civilian drones are also on the rise and the rapid rate of adoption has also increased concerns as regards safety. Instances of drone collisions and crashes, as well as privacy concerns, are major talking points. An analyst report estimates that about 2.8 million consumer drones were sold in the US in 2017, and the revenue almost reached a billion dollars. By 2021, the revenue is expected to reach $21 billion.
Commercial Drone Technology
Commercial drones are steadily becoming ubiquitous and companies are investing heavily in the technology and its applications. Such applications include the delivery of packages by drones or the delivery of first aid by emergency drones. The market for commercial and civilian drones has been tipped to grow at a compounded growth rate of 19% between 2015 and 2020.
Even though the commercial drone industry is relatively infantile, significant investments, mergers, and consolidations are paying off and the industry is enjoying patronage from industry leaders like IT consulting firms, defense contractors, and even retail industries. By 2025, commercial drones are expected to potentially disrupt the tech sphere; becoming an $82 billion industry with 100,000 jobs created as a result.
If there’s one thing to take away from this post, it’s that drone technology is advancing rapidly and the market is bound to further grow. Even though the technology is far from maturity, the industry is predicted to see increased activity in the nearest future.