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August 29, 2017

Essays for IBPS PO VII : Drone Technology - Is it a Substitute for Manned Aircrafts?

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Drone Technology - Is it a Substitute for Manned Aircrafts?

Overview
  • What is drone technology ? 
  • The making of this unmanned aerial vehicle.
  • The functioning of UAVs.
  • Role played by GPS chip in it. 
  • Landing of drones.
  • The camera in UAV. 
  •  Applications of drone technology in defence, commercial Aerial Surveillance, Journalism Law Enforcement, Search and Rescue, Scientific Research, Conservation, Archaeology etc.
  • Drone technology in India.
Drones are the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or Remotely Piloted Aerial Systems (RPAS) controlled by a pilot on the ground or with the help of technology. It may be as small as a radio-centred toy helicopter or as big as a global hawk. They can be considered as the eyes in the sky which keep a check throughout. Drones are normally used in the situations where manned flight is considered too risky or difficult. A typical unmanned aircraft is made of light composite materials to reduce weight and increase its maneuverability. This composite material's strength allows military drones to cruise at extremely high altitudes. 

These materials are highly complex composites which can absorb vibration and decrease the production of the noise. An unmanned aerial vehicle system has two parts, the drone itself and the control system. The nose of the unmanned aerial vehicle is where all the sensors and navigation systems are present. The rest of the body is light weight. Drones can be controlled by the remote control system or a ground cockpit. Drones are equipped with state of the art technology such as infra-red cameras, GPS and laser. Some drones have the Radar Positioning and Return Home feature. The flight radar displays the current position and location of the drone in the context of the pilot. When the drone crosses the control range of the remote control, its system automatically triggers the 'Return Home' feature. This means that the UAV will automatically fly back to its takeoff point and land safely.

In order to take flight, drones require a controller, which is something that the pilot uses to launch, land and navigate. Controllers can take many forms, from gamepad-like controllers to smartphones and tablets. Regardless of how they look, controllers need to communicate with the drone, and this is typically done using the radio waves. Normally, the drones are run by 2.4 gigahertz radio waves.

However, there are many drone-controllers which use Wi-Fi to communicate with their aircraft. This is transmitted on the 2.4 gigahertz spectrum and is something that smartphones and tablets can tap into without any accessories. There is a GPS chip inside the aircraft which relays the drone's location to the controller. It helps to hold the drone within the proper x and z axes, correcting its course when stiff winds blows around it and make it move away from its path. GPS helps to keep a log of the aircraft's takeoff spot in case it needs to return unassisted. When it comes to flying, there are onboard sensors which keep drones aloft. An altimeter lets the drone know what altitude it is at. 

Landing is more challenging in the case of drones. Drones are programmed to automatically land slowly, a necessity for the propeller-based craft. When a drone descends quickly, they are bound to get stuck in the vortex ring state. This is because when they drop in altitude too quickly, they end up sinking into the wash of their own propellers. This vacuum of air is hard to escape even for seasoned pilots in the real helicopters, because when they throttle up to escape, they create an even stronger vacuum that pulls the aircraft down even faster. The drones which fly indoors or somewhere without GPS have the camera that creates a real-time map of the ground below, identifying a grid where it can plot points and safe places to land. If the drone drifts away from the points, it can visually triangulate to correct itself and stay locked in position. Meanwhile, the ultrasonic sensors tell the drone how close it is to the ground. In other words, even in harsh terrain, technology can make landing a drone look easy. Such features help the drone to achieve autonomy. 

Applications of Drone Technology 

  • Defence : Drones are used for conducting photography, surveillance and spying operations. Armed drones are used for the assassination of terrorists and the anti-social elements. Many defence forces use the drones as aerial targets to combat training of human pilots.
  • Commercial Aerial Surveillance : Air-surveillance of large areas is possible with the low cost drones. The surveillance applications include livestock monitoring, wildfire mapping, pipeline security, home security, road patrol and antipiracy. UAVs in commercial aerial surveillance are expanding with the advent of automated object detection. 
  • Journalism : Some of the journalists have used drones for gathering news and covering disasters such as typhoons. 
  • Law Enforcement : Many police departments across the world have procured drones to maintain law and order. There are unarmed surveillance drones which are helpful to monitor movements of armed groups in the region and protect the civilian population more effectively. 
  • Search and Rescue : UAVs are helpful in the search and rescue after the hurricanes and other natural calamities. UAVs have been tested as airborne lifeguards, locating distressed swimmers using thermal cameras and dropping life preservers to swimmers.
  • Scientific Research : Drones are useful in accessing areas that are too dangerous for manned aircraft. The US National Ocean and Atmospheric administration started using Aerosonde unmanned aircraft as a hurricane hunter. The Aerosonde system provides measurements from closer to the waters surface than before. 
  • Conservation : The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) started using the UAVs to aid the conservation efforts. Drones have been successful in the documentation of animals as sea cull and combat rhinoceroses poaching. 
  • Archaeology : Archaeologists have used drones to speed up survey work and protect sites from squatters, builders and miners. Small drones helped researchers produce three-dimensional models of sites instead of the usual flat maps and in less time.
  • Cargo Transport : UAVs can transport medicines and medical specimens into and out of inaccessible regions. Amazon is planning to start using the drones for its delivery services under the name 'Amazon Prime Air' in the US. 
  • Agriculture : UAVs are becoming an invaluable tool for the farmers in aspects of farming, such as monitoring livestock, crops and water levels. The images, generated with a near-IR sensor can provide detailed information on crop health, help in improving yield and reducing input cost. Sophisticated drones have also been used to create 3D images of the landscape to plan for future expansions and upgrading. 

Drones in India 

Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is working on remotely pilot Rustom Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) in the Medium Altitude, Long Endurance category with prospects for an armed version to evolve. The Rustom has three versions namely; Rustom-I, the high altitude Rustom H and the armed Rustom-II. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) plans to register all civil unmanned aircraft and issue permits for operating for them. All the unmanned aircraft intended to be operated in India will require a Unique Identification Number (UIN) issued from DGCA. The draft guidelines issued by DGCA says that the license to issue can be granted only to a citizen of India or a company that it is registered in India does its business here.

Undoubtedly, drone technology is another example of the rapid technological development taking place in the world. But looking at the safety and ethical concerns related to it, the regulatory authorities need to be stringent and lay down strict rules and regulations for the use of the Unmanned Vehicles and drone technology for different purposes.

Difficult Words with Meanings :
  • Aerial - existing, happening or operating in the air
  • Maneuverability - the quality of being able to sail close to the wind
  • Cruise  - journey
  • Assassination - to murder or to kill
  • Malicious - spiteful or killing
  • Vortex - a whirling mass of fluid or air, especially a whirlpool or whirlwind.
shared by Nisheeta Mirchandani
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