Today different drones are being used for different purposes, due to their variations in performance these drones are manufactured with different characteristics to ensure efficiency in their performance (Custers, 2016). The UAS are also manufactured in a way that their operators will easily understand. During manufacturing, the manufacturers ensure that these drones are equipped with the necessary requirements for their operations (Custers, 2016). Drones are differentiated according to the type of system, their capabilities, structure, limitations, payload, support, equipment, and users. The technology that keeps the drone flying describes the type of the done.
There are two main types of UAS types systems, Fixed- wing system and Multirotor systems. Fixed wing system is a term in the aviation industry that is used to describe aircraft that use static or fixed wings where they combine them with forward speed airspeed to generate lift(Custers, 2016). There are many UAS that lie on this type of system, they include traditional airplanes, different types of gliders like the hang gliders and kites that are attached to the surface. Additionally, a simple paper airplane can be defined as a fixed wing system.
One of the commonly used examples of a fixed-wing UAS is the Raven. On the other hand, a Multi-rotor system is referred to as a subset rotor craft. Rotor craft is a term used in the aviation industry to describe aircraft that use rotary wings to generate lift. Rotary crafts are mostly comprised of multiple small rotors which are essential to their craft since they assist in maintaining their stability, and this is why they are regarded as multi-rotor systems (Valavanis, Paul, and Les, 2008). In most cases, these drones use at least the four rotors to enable them to keep flying. Traditional helicopters are the popularly recognized rotor-craft. Phantom drone is one of the commonly used (Custers, 2016).
Additionally, every UAS requires a source of energy to effectively carry out their operations. Fixed-wing drones mainly use airplane fuel (kerosene). These include military drones used by the US army where they are equipped with sensors rockets and other ammunitions. The fixed-wing systems can also use the fuel cell which is an electrochemical device that converts chemical energy from fuel and converts it to electrical energy. This cell contains a relatively high weight and hence they can only be used in fixed-wing drones. The conversion of chemical energy to electrical energy is efficient and environmental friendly since it lacks conversions in thermic and mechanical energy (Custers, 2016).
Using fuel- cell has an added advantage to other sources of energy since the drones can fly longer distances without having to recharge. An example of these UAS includes the stalker drone which uses the fuel cell and is believed to have an 8hrs flight time instead of 2hrs. On the other hand, the multi-rotor UAS in most cases requires less operating time than that of drones using kerosene since they are at a short range when operating. For their operations, smaller multirotor drones use battery cells as a source of their energy. It is easy and practical for these drones to run on rechargeable battery cells since they are often used for recreational purposes, an example of this drone is the phantom drone (Valavanis, Paul, and Les, 2008).
Moreover, in some cases, drones can be distinguished according to their sizes, either large drones or small drones. The lower weight limit of large drones for fixed-wing drones is 150 kg while that of multi-rotor drones is 100. The small drones weigh up 20 kg for the fixed –wings and 25 kg for the multirotor (Custers, 2016). Due to their large size, most fixed- wing UAS are used for military purposes e.g. the Raven or the ScanEagle used for surveillance. Consequently, to their small size and light weight, the multi-rotors are used for recreational purposes they include the Parrot AR drone, phantom drone, and the Hubsan X4 drone (Custers, 2016).
During manufacturing, the UAS are attached with payloads. These payloads assist the drones in their operations and they also help in monitoring the drones and making sure they are effective in their operations (Custers, 2016). Payloads can also be attached by the users themselves. When attaching these payloads the manufacturers or the users should consider their weight ensuring that they do not affect the drone operations. These payloads include sensors, cameras, cargo to be delivered, advertisement logos or even WIFI hotspot. Most multi-rotary drones used for recreational purposes are equipped with cameras and since they offer such great control over position and framing they are perfect for aerial photography work however their limited endurance and speed make them unsuitable for large scale aerial mapping, long endurance monitoring and long distance inspection such as pipelines, roads, and power lines.
In most cases drones are relatively cheaper compared to aerial photography from manned aircraft, they are also cheaper that satellite imaging. Use of multi-rotary is more efficient since they can get closer to the surface in different angles and can perform other measurements like the 3D terrain modeling, research on vegetation and geomorphology. The multi-rotary drones can also be used I agriculture by attaching sensors that monitor the growth of the crops, identifying weeds and plants diseases, estimating biomass and evaluating the quality and water levels ensuring that the plants are growing as expected. They are also equipped with herbicides used for spraying the plants. Some of the drones are equipped with particle sensors that enable detect the emission of particulates (Richard, 2012). They are able to measure the concentration and emissions of dangerous gases like nitrogen oxide, ammonia or sulfur oxide. Use of the multi-rotary drones contributes to the environment and they are also less polluting than manned aircraft.
On the other hand, the fixed- wing drones inability to hover in a single spot, makes them unreliable to be used for the general aerial photography work. Since the fixed wing drones are able to cover longer distances, map much larger areas, and loiter for long times monitoring their point of interest they are equipped with cameras that assist in mapping and monitoring urbanization and traffic flows. Additionally, fixed wings UAS that are used by the military are equipped with surveillance cameras, weapons and explosives that they use during war for targeted killings (Richard, 2012).
Some of these drones are used to supply water, food, medicine. They are also installed with infrared cameras that can be used to find lost people and can help save them from hyperthermia or dehydration. These drones can also be used for delivery services such as delivering mails, parcels and other cargos from parts of the country (Richard, 2012).
Additionally, they are also equipped with sensors that are used to detect record and report data regarding humidity, temperature, radiation etc. they are also equipped with sensors and cameras that are used in inspection and maintenance of infrastructures such as railroads, bridges dams, and pipelines. Any wear and tear or erosion can be detected by cameras; it is also easy to monitor the use of infrastructures such as the movement of ships, vehicles, and aircraft (Richard, 2012). Where in cases of the traffic jam the traffic can be rerouted and the data collected is used for traffic analysis? It is also easy to detect any leaking on pipelines, gas or water and.
Drones also consist of other support equipment’s which assist them in their operations and communication with their operators. The fixed-wing aircraft can be equipped with multiple payload options which include a multi-sensor. They also consist of an encrypted digital data link and GPS anti-jamming features which ensure that there a high level of security and protection against interference. They also include a parachute recovery system which can be easily installed and easily removed from the aircraft depending on mission requirements. They are also installed with Ground Control Station which made up of a rugged laptop-based system built into a sealed shock-, dust- and waterproof case (Richard, 2012). Installation of a HD screen allows viewing of the UAV’s video stream, and the internal replaceable batteries provide an operation time (Richard, 2012).
Most multi-rotors are designed to provide precise control and high-level image stabilization for multi-rotor platforms, the gimbal helps in providing real-time video to the operator. They are also equipped with a thermal camera which allows the drone to detect and track targets at night and in low visibility conditions. Precise and accurate gyro-stabilization provides superior image quality even on maximum zoom. In addition the anti-vibration damping mount removes vibrations from the airframe to bring out image quality, enhanced sensitivity and anti-fog features which assist in bringing out a superior detail and image quality even at a distance, making it ideal for surveillance applications. They also contain radio systems that allow them to communicate with their operators (Richard, 2012).
However, both fixed-wing and multi-rotor drones are human operated systems hence they are not fully autonomous. The users make are fully responsible for all decisions made. The multi-rotor drones are cheap to acquire hence they are easily accessible. They are also easy to operate and do not require a lot of training. However, the operators are expected to acquire community-based guidelines and safety practices, operational planning and risk management, and practice through the interactive use of modeling and simulation tools (Richard, 2012).
These skills will ensure that they are efficient in operating the drones. They will also be required to register their drones with the FAA. For the fixed-wing drones, the user is required to go through a series of training and acquire a remote pilot certificate. They should able to fly and land the drone effectively. The user should also contain an airworthiness certificate. They should also register he drone with the FAA.
In conclusion, it is advisable to know the type of drone one is using and how to effectively operate it. Communication between the drone its payloads and the operator is essential to ensure the efficiency of the drones. Different drones perform different operations.