What is a drone

What is a Drone?

MQ-1 PredatorWelcome to the dawn of the drone age, but what is a Drone exactly?

For most, the word drone brings to mind science fiction, military operations, surveillance or maybe your mind goes back to the 70s Cartoon show “The Jetsons” where flying robots were common in the skies.

The confusion has led to many people wondering: What is a drone anyway?

Fortunately, today it’s very simple.  The word Drone refers to any type of aircraft without a human, that can fly either autonomously or fly via remote control by a pilot located on the ground.

Drones are currently being used in a number roles, including:

The list continues to grow as new uses for drones and quadcopters appear almost on a daily basis.   New business opportunities and industries are being right now, focused on drone use.

2014 – The year of the drone

Drones are going to have a significant impact on our world, how we see our world and on our lives in general as new uses are found and new drone technologies come available.

Personal Drone with CameraSomeone recently said that “Drones today are like Apple in 1984”.  Many experts agree with this, and feel confident that drones with be the next big life changing technology.  Exciting times!

Drones have been used in the military for many years, but recently technology developments have allowed for small, reliable, and stable drones to be developed and made available to the average consumer at affordable prices.  These new personal drones are able to be flown precisely and from a long distance away.  They even have mounts to carry HD cameras, such as the GoPro HERO3+: Black Edition.

Numerous manufacturers around the world are jumping on the “drone bandwagon”.  They are creating new and highly advanced products designed for kids, the average consumer/casual photographer, the RC hobbiest, and professionals.  Many other companies are working on add-ons, and accessories to further enable these new drones to do even more.

Drones and the law

Use of Drones for personal and commercial use is somewhat limited right now due to current FAA guidelines on unmanned vehicle use.  This prohibits many organizations and companies from using drones just yet, at least officially.   The FAA will have formal and revised guidelines in place by 2015, and we expect to see the commercial and personal drone use explode once the guidelines are in place.

Currently, the FAA does approve personal drone use, with certain restrictions.  This is primarily due to drones having history in RC controlled plane and helicopters.  In a nutshell, if you’re on your own property and below 400 feet, no problem.  Currently personal drone flight falls under the FAA’s model aircraft guidelines put in place in 1981 (no, that isn’t a typo…1981).

One of the big issues that will need to be addressed is related to Drones and personal privacy.  This is particularly true as more and more small drones, equipped with HD cameras, become available and affordable.  You don’t really have to have much imagine to consider the possibilities.  There are already a number of micro-drones equipped with HD cameras.  Nano drones, which are only inches in size already have cameras.

Personal Drones – changing the way we see the world

Drone Aerial View

Up until the past few years, hobbyists or aerial photography experts who wanted to fly personal drones, either needed to have deep pockets to purchase high-end commercial drones or they equipped existing RC helicopters or planes with video cameras.   Some enthusiasts built their own drones from scratch.

While there is still a very active group that is passionate about custom built personal drones, many companies have stepped into the drone market and released prebuilt and “ready to fly” drones available.  While somewhat pricy initially, prices have rapidly dropped into very affordable ranges and sales are skyrocketing!

One of the most popular uses of drone technology right now, besides just the pure enjoyment of flying them,  is for aerial photography.  Drones allow people to see and take video of areas that were previously difficult or impossible to reach.  Drones also provide the ability to obtain completely new views of the world.  Just imagine that you’re a rock climber.  Traditional photos of you climbing had to be taken from the ground or by another climber.  With drones, a pilot could fly the drone near you, and get an “aerial view” of you climbing.

Even for everyday photography, like weddings, drones can add a unique twist to wedding videos, just don’t do what this wedding photographer did!

Poor groom….

Anyway, just consider the possibilities here.   Drones are opening new doors for photographing your car, your home, your family, events, and more.  Just imagine if you could bring a personal drone, equipped with an HD video camera with you on your next family vacation.   You really don’t need to imagine, the technology is here.  Here’s just one example of how people are using personal drones to take family vacation videos to the next level:

Pretty amazing huh?   Remember, this is only the beginning.  Can you tell we’re exited?

Personal Drone Availability

A number of drones are currently available in the market place, and new models are being introduced on a frequent basis.  The models range from “toy” level  to professional grade.

The majority of these models are quadcopters, drones equipped with 4 or more helicopter like blades.  Quadcopters are popular due to their ability to carry a payload, their stability in flight, ability to hover, and agile movement capability.

>> Next Drone Bootcamp Lesson: What is a quadcopter?

<< View the whole Drone Bootcamp series

Photo credit: Michael W. Murphy, M Hooper, Duncan Rawlinson

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