Drones!

For this week’s blog post we were asked to write about something IT related that we are interested in. One thing that has been of particular interest to me lately has been drones. Remote Control (RC) Aircraft have been around for quite some time now but until recent years they were not all that common. Other than the occasionally hobbyist you might see flying one in a large field. In fact, the number of drone sales from 2014-2015 increased by 63%*.

I believe this is because of two main factors. The first being a huge decrease in price. As technology has advanced so much over the years, there has been a huge decrease in many different categories from smartphones to TV’s. In the past, to have a drone that could carry a camera let alone be viewed remotely was rather expensive, and usually involved using a laptop with special software and large receivers to control and view the drone which took a bit of time to setup. However, since the majority of people now own a smartphone or tablet that have built in Wi-Fi, drone manufacturers utilise these devices to interact with the drones.  As you can imagine this would reduce the manufacturing costs of drones.

The second factor would have to be ease of use. The first thing most people think of when it comes to using a RC Aircraft is that it will be very difficult to fly and very easy to crash. In the past this was quite true, you required a large amount of practice and a small slip up could lead to it plummeting out of the sky and completely destroying the aircraft. However, with the more recent drones there are a lot of features that not only make it easier to fly but also help prevent crashing the drone. I was lucky enough to be able to use a drone for my work, as my boss wanted a demo video as well as for someone to have knowledge of them because we now stock four different models in our store.

drone

The model I used was a DJI Phantom 3 Standard Edition Quadcopter. This model retails for around about $999 NZD.  The DJI Phantom series is one of the top selling brands worldwide and after using one I can see why.  As shown above you can mount your smartphone onto the controller which uses Wi-Fi to connect to the controller and using the DJI Go app you can then view a live HD feed on your device and also control various camera and video settings.

The controller contains a Wi-Fi booster that connects to the aircraft to control it. The controller its self is very easy to use.  The left stick is used to control the height of the drone (up is up, down is down) and also rotate the drone 360 degrees. The right stick is used to control which direction you want the drone to go, and finally the scroll wheel on the side is used to tilt the camera up or down.  This model has 2.7K video, 12mp photos, 1km range, GPS and a 25-minute flight time. The camera is mounted on a Gimbal which keeps it incredibly stable even with rapid movements as well as controlling the camera tilt.  The GPS is what helps makes this so much easier to fly. While in Safe GPS mode, the Drone will hover in the position you leave it in making it much easier to control.  Also one of the best things about it is the Return-to-Home Function. This means if the drone gets low on power or loses the controller signal, it will automatically return to the home point, which is automatically set upon take off. Also in some of the higher model drones, they can automatically follow you using GPS and use obstacle collision to avoid objects.

Not only are drones used for recreational use but there are all different kinds of uses, from agricultural drones to monitor livestock right through to ones that have a winch that can be used for fishing! Below is some footage from around Nelson that I filmed with the drone I was using, enjoy!

 

*Statistics obtained from http://expandedramblings.com/index.php/drone-statistics/

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