When you carry an HD video camera, precision wireless control and stabilization electronics, motor control, and GPS and you want to fly, you'd better have a highly integrated system design. That's the state-of-the-art technology that a drone must have. A good example is the AR.Drone 2.0, a WiFi quadricopter. Yep, that's quadricopter, not helicopter.
Weight and size is critical to a drone's flying and agility. When your system is made of carbon fiber tubes, fiber charged nylon plastic, foam, sintered metal molding, and small but powerful motors — while weighing 380 grams measuring 451 mm square (outdoor hull) — you can't afford much more weight, or you become an anchor, not a flying machine.
Are drones an invasion of privacy? Can they be dangerous? Those are good questions, but with this blog, I want to look at drones purely from a technological point of view. I want to examine the engineering that goes into such a device and future possibilities for advances in this technology. Any device can be menacing — including a smartphone or camera — but let's not judge the motives to use a device. Let's be engineers with the curiosity to see what makes it do what it does and how it can be improved.
Let's open it up, take it apart, and examine it, just like when were kids. Our curiosity got most of us interested in engineering in the first place. Keep watching EDN’s Analog Design center, as well as Planet Analog, for an in-depth view of drones, how they work, and what the future looks like for added capabilities. I will also examine the courses that some engineering universities have begun on drone technology.
When it comes to the legal aspects of drones, let the politicians worry about where or if these devices should fly and what restrictions (if any) should be applied to them. For those of us who are engineers, let's just look at the technology and see what it takes to deliver a package from a drone. Let us look at from a purely technological point of view. I do not advocate or condemn this technology, but I look at it as a platform for future innovation and electronics content mixed with clever design. Let's see where it takes us as engineers of future technology.
Let us know what you think of drones. Have you had a chance to work on one? Will Amazon bring the technology into the mainstream? What about the military's increased use of drones as weapons? Tell us your opinion on the message boards below.