When we think of drones, we often think of the type of unmanned aerial vehicle used in combat and all the dangerous implications thereof. But – like any technology – there’s so much more to UAVs than their military applications. Hobbyists fly drones for fun and to learn the principles of photography. Professional filmmakers use drones in films like Captain America: Civil War and Jurassic World. And, of course, drones have many practical applications in scientific research.
Intro to Drones And Types Of Drones
“Drone” is simply a shorthand term for any kind of aerial vehicle that doesn’t have an onboard pilot. Most consumer drones are also quadcopters, which simply means that they have four propellers – two that spin clockwise and two that spin counterclockwise – to keep them steady in the air.
Drones are often used for aerial photography, which has many practical applications in different scientific fields. Archaeologists use photography to scan for future dig sites, geologists can use them to investigate the soil and make 3D maps of locations filmed from the air, and many different disciplines can benefit from the use of bird’s eye photography and videography to safely observe their target of study.
Most drones are controlled with radio transmitters, but some can be controlled with a mobile phone or tablet. Researchers will usually be interested in FPV drones, which can transmit live First Person Video directly to a mobile device for observational purposes. Some drones have built-in cameras, others have mounts for GoPros or other action cameras (the former is usually better for photography purposes but the latter is usually cheaper.) Drones can be found for anywhere from under $100 to over $1000 and can be fitted with sensors as we’ll discuss in the next section.
Drone Use In Scientific Research
Some uses of drones are obvious: they can monitor research sites remotely or keep an eye on potential disaster sites. They can measure crop heights and gather remote imagery for environmental observations. And because drones with cameras are becoming more and more affordable, they’re a great way to capture video footage or photos of your observations or experiments.
However, many researchers are finding even more creative uses for drones. With a little modification they can retrieve data from sensors to monitor elemental features like the quality of water or the composition of soil. Researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln are working on a way to use the electricity that powers drones like a portable wireless charger, ideal for bringing power to traditionally hard-to-reach locations. Actually, it turns out drones are really good for observing locations that are difficult to traverse – a professor at Lamont used a drone to observe lava flow in Iceland, which would obviously be incredibly dangerous for any vehicle with a human pilot.
Drones are changing the world as we know it. They’ve made aerial photography more accessible than ever before and opened up new methods of observation that were previously impossible. There’s no reason for UAVs to be associated only with the military – drones can also be symbols of technological advancement, scientific progress, and the betterment of mankind.