The literal and metaphorical rise of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), known more commonly as drones, in non-military settings has seen the formation of an entire industry in the past decade. The falling price of UAV technologies has brought drones to the masses with a variety of models, equipped for a range of purposes, now crowding a vibrant marketplace.
Drones as a Hobby
Respected gadget review website The Wirecutter has gone into great detail in discussing the attraction of drones as a hobby. As well as the thrill that comes simply from flying them through the air, many drones come equipped with video and stills photography capabilities. Some drones run augmented-reality (AR) software games in which a stretch of real-life road becomes a racing track or two or more drones can take part in dogfights that meld virtual aspects with real life.
Beginners may take time to adjust to flight controls, and so with regards to the welfare of humans and of the drone itself, there are safety concerns to take into consideration. The BBC reported on the safety aspect of drone flight, with particular regard to potentially dangerous disruption to regular manned aircraft. The Civil Aviation Authority has stringent rules in place with regards to drone flights near congested air traffic areas and in close proximity to people and property. However, they do not frown on the use of small drones in non-urban settings, so a common-sense approach to where and when flights take place is generally enough to avoid problems with the authorities.
A number of users report malfunctions either with the mechanics of their drone or flight control software. Organizations such as bugfinders.com work to put drone flight systems under stringent software testing to ensure bugs are weeded out of flight controls. Flying too high or confusions with some drones’ ultrasound sensors can cause communication problems between drone and software. However, these problems are relatively rare and becoming increasingly more so thanks to the work of software testers and drone manufacturers.
Parrot AR.Drone 2 Elite Edition
Electronics company Parrot are fairly new to drone manufacturing but have had success with their AR.Drone series. The AR.Drone 2 Elite Edition is their latest unit to utilise augmented reality technology, which through real-time video streaming to the user combines a range of gaming options with the actual flying of the aircraft. The flight system has undergone software testing to ensure its full compatibility with iOS and Android operating systems so that the drone can be controlled via a smartphone or tablet using a Wi-Fi connection.
The AR.Drone 2 Elite Edition is propelled by four rotors, which can support 2.1kg craft up to heights of 20 metres. Flight-stabilisation technology ensures the craft’s steady progress through the air, and a carbon-fibre frame protects against bumps. Micro-electromechanical (MEMS) inertial guidance is on hand in the shape of a three-axis accelerometer and two gyroscopes. The craft calculates speed and position via an ultrasonic altimeter and a down-facing video camera working in tandem.