A drone is an “an unmanned aircraft or ship guided by remote control or onboard computers” (Merriam-Webster).
However, when further defining a drone, it’s most important to distinguish between civilian drones and military drones.
Military drones are used in combat. They’re used to survey war zones, plan military campaigns, and drop weapons. These are not the drones I’m talking about in this article and that most articles like this one discuss.
Civilian drones are much smaller in size and are almost always controlled with a remote control (also called a transmitter). They can come in either fixed wing or multi-copter formats, and many come with cameras that make them excellent tools for a range of applications, such as:
- Aerial photography and videography
- Mapping and 3D modeling
- Industrial inspections
- Agriculture and farming
- Search and rescue
- Real estate (commercial and residential)
- Police and other emergency personnel work
- Sports filming
- Thermal imaging
- And much more.
The most common form of civilian, recreational, or commercial drones is the quadcopter. Quadcopters are drones with four blades. Their aerodynamics provide excellent stability and their build structure allows for a range of sizes and accessories to make them versatile in how they can be manufactured and used.
Drones can also come in hexacopter (6 propellers), octocopter (8 propellers) and other blade amounts.
Recreational and commercial drones have gone through exponential technological advances over the last few years. In other words, it’s getting cheaper and cheaper to get drones with the same or better features. For instance, you can now buy drones with GPS and “follow me” mode for under $300. This was absolutely unheard of before.
The Parts of a Drone
Drones have a variety of parts that make the entire piece of machinery work. It’s important that you understand each part and its role, because as a drone owner you need to be able to identify what might cause something to go wrong and how to fix it.
Also, when seeking help it’s important to identify the names of each part.
Here are the most important parts of a typical drone rig and their functions:
- Frame — The frame is the main body of the drone. It is the foundation from which every other part stems from.
- Propellers (blades) — The propellers spin and adjust to allow the drone to gain altitude and fly in different directions.
- Remote control (transmitter) — The remote control is used to adjust the drone’s position within the air, take pictures and videos, adjust settings, and other inflight capabilities.
- Receiver — The receiver is an antenna attached to the drone that receives signals from the remote control and relays them to the drone itself.
- Battery — The battery is a crucial element, as it directly affects a drone’s flight time.
- Motors — The motors control how fast each propeller spins.
- Camera — A camera can either be detachable or built-in to the drone itself. Not all drones comes with cameras or the ability to carry one.
- Gimbal — The gimbal provides stability for the camera while the drone is in the air. This part is crucial for getting crisp pictures and smooth videos.
- Monitor — An LCD monitor can be used to get an FPV (first person view) of what your drone’s camera is seeing in real time as you fly.
- Goggles — FPV goggles can be used just like a monitor to get a first person view of your flight.
- Landing gear — Landing gear protrude out from the bottom of the drone to protect it when landing.
- GPS module — The more advanced drone models come with a GPS module. This allows to the drone to identify its position relative to other objects, and it gives the drone the ability to execute automated flight patterns.
- Sensors — Some drones come with sensors that allow it to sense the world around it, giving some models the ability to avoid obstacles and reduce the likelihood of crashes.
This isn’t an exhaustive list of drone parts, but these are the most important parts every drone owner should be aware of. They all work in tandem to allows us, as pilots, to control these amazing pieces of technology and achieve our goals in flight.