What are drones?


This page is dedicated to providing the reader with a clear understanding of what drones are, how they work, and what they can do. Suitable for all levels of knowledge and experience including none!

Drones, also known as UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles), are unmanned aircraft that are controlled remotely by a pilot on the ground. Drones come in many different shapes and sizes, all suitable for different uses.

There are two main types of drone: multicopter and fixed wing. The key difference is how they fly. Multicopters have several propellors facing parallel to the ground, like shown below, and the drone can move horizontally, vertically, and hover. Fixed wing drones look more like conventional aircraft, with wings and a propellor or propellors facing perpendicular to the ground. This allows for quick horizontal movement, however they cannot hover, and only some can perform vertical take-off.

At Epotronic, our main focus is on multicopter drones, as we believe these provide the best solution for the majority of use cases. However, we are always paying attention to developments in fixed wing drones to ensure that we are always offering the best solution.

The smallest multicopter drones come in at under 250g, small enough to fit in your pocket, such as the Mavic Mini, whereas others can lift a total weight of up to 9 kg, such as the Matrice 300, as shown below.

They can be equipped with many different components and features, however,  smaller, or consumer drones, are likely to have less features. The key components of a standard multicopter drone are displayed below. 
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× Batteries

The batteries are what powers the drone's motors and onboard computer.

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× Propellers

The propellers provide the drone with lift and allow it to move in all directions.

3 +
× RTK Antenna

Some drones have RTK antennas equipped that provide more accurate positioning.

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× Transmission Antennas

These allow for remote control by the pilot on the ground.

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× Payload Mount

Some drones have a payload mount that allows different payloads to be used.

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× FPV camera

This allows the user to see what the drone sees.

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× Object Detection Sensor

Many drones are fitted with visual or infrared sensors to aid object avoidance.

8 +
× Landing gear

Allows the drone to safely take-off from and land on the ground.

9 +
× Beacon

Some drones are fitted with a beacon, ensuring they are visible at long distances.

× Batteries

The batteries are what powers the drone's motors and onboard computer.

× Propellers

The propellers provide the drone with lift and allow it to move in all directions.

× RTK Antenna

Some drones have RTK antennas equipped that provide more accurate positioning.

× Transmission Antennas

These allow for remote control by the pilot on the ground.

× Payload Mount

Some drones have a payload mount that allows different payloads to be used.

× FPV camera

This allows the user to see what the drone sees.

× Object Detection Sensor

Many drones are fitted with visual or infrared sensors to aid object avoidance.

× Landing gear

Allows the drone to safely take-off from and land on the ground.

× Beacon

Some drones are fitted with a beacon, ensuring they are visible at long distances.

Batteries

The batteries are the biggest factor for the maximum flight time of a drone. However, there is usually only one specific battery that fits with a given drone. Therefore, you should ensure you buy a drone with a long maximum flight time if that's what's needed.

Payloads

Having a payload mount gives you the highest flexibility, allowing for very different kinds of project to be undertaken. Think what your needs are and whether one payload would suffice or if multiple would be advantageous. For more on payloads, see our payloads and sensors page.

RTK

For projects that require high accuracy positioning of the drone, or high accuracy data captured, a drone equipped with an RTK sensor is the best solution. This is more accurate than standard GNSS antennas, and are suitable for surveying use cases.

Obstacle Avoidance

For the highest safety, we recommend drones with obstacle avoidance sensors. These can be infrared or visual, and be situated on all sides of the drone. With DJI drones the drones will automatically avoid obstacles without user input.

What can drones do?


Drones can be used in many different industries and for many different applications, from inspection to surveying, and from research to public safety. For each application, there is a drone suited perfectly for this. Browse our industry , application and case studies pages, or get in touch to find out how drones can help you and your business.

How to get the best out of your flight?

Performing the perfect drone flight takes practise and experience. However, we list below a few useful tips and information to give you a head-start as you begin using drones for your projects.

Planning

Planning is the most important consideration of a drone flight. This involves checking permissions, project requirements, hazards in the field, ensuring all hardware and software are ready to be used. This ensures data can be captured successfully without wasting time.

Correct Equipment

It should first be known what the requirements of the project are, then can you determine which drone platform and payload, and software will deliver the results with the highest efficiency and lowest cost.

GCPs

GCPs (Ground Control Points) can be used to improve and check the accuracy of drone captured data. Based on the project requirements, and equipment specifications, it should be decided in good-time whether it is necessary to use them.

NTRIP

With RTK equipped drones, the precise positioning can be acquired through NTRIP by a Network RTK Service Provider such as SAPOS. A sim card must be activated by contacting the service provider.

Flight modes

There are many different flight modes: types of route that can be uploaded to the drone, such as nadir, oblique, corridor, terrain follow, waypoint and facade. Consider which is best for your project.

Flight parameters

There are also many different flight parameters that must be decided that influence the efficiency and quality of data capture, such as flight speed, flight height, overlap rate and gimbal angle.

Terrain Follow

An initial drone flight can capture the terrain and this can be imported into the main flight plan to ensure that the drone stays at a constant altitude above the ground over the whole survey area.

Smart Oblique

The M300 RTK with the Zenmuse P1 is equipped with a Smart Oblique mode that allows oblique flights to be undertaken in record times.

Further resources

This page gives a very brief overview of drones and how they are used. For more information please refer to other resources on our website such as our case studies, and information provided on product pages. We continue to add more content to the website in order to educate our customers, and ensure they get the most out of their drone.

For further advice, feel free to contact us at info@epotronic.com or at +49 (0) 211 5 98929 10.

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