The definition of the Drone
A UAV is an unmanned aircraft, which can perform many complex tasks autonomously, such as take-off or landing, or navigation. Explicitly, a UAV is a semi-intelligent, remotely controlled system.
If there is one technology that has been rapidly adopted by the general public, it is that of drones. Not a month goes by without these flying machines being in the news, and the diversity of applications is constantly surprising.
UAVs have become a common leisure object, and the Frenchman Parrot, a pioneer in the field, initially enjoyed several great successes. However, he had to reckon with the appearance of competitors such as the Chinese DJI, the current world leader with best-sellers such as the Mavic range.
With the featherweight Anafi, which captures 4K images, Parrot hopes to regain some color. However, some major players are preparing to enter the dance, such as Apple or Tesla, and we can imagine what their impact on this market would be.
The range of services on offer is multiplying
Some offer to film your wedding from the airplane, others to monitor crops such as livestock. Amazon and others, such as DHL, have been seriously considering parcel delivery for quite some time. In South Africa, they rely on these winged accessories to curb the infamy of poachers who prey on rhinos.
According to the FAA, which regulates air traffic in the United States, seven million commercial drones will be sold in 2020, almost three times more than in 2016 (2.5 million)! In other words, we will have to get used to seeing a sky populated by these new types of flying objects.
UAVs are not very recent, the first use of a combat UAV to start during the Second World War, it is called STAG-1 for “Special Task Air Group 1” of the “United State Navy”, there are several types of UAVs, but we will only deal with 3 of them, medium altitude long endurance MALE, combat UAVs, and indoor UAVs.
The MALE, it flies between 5000 and 10000 meters, it has a long endurance of 10 to 24 hours, their wingspan is between 10 and 20 meters, these models fly relatively slowly between 250 and 350 kilometers per hour, compared to an airliner which generally flies from 0.7 to 0.8 MAG, i.e. 900 km/h, in mission since the 90s, each UAV costs about the modest sum of 10 million euros.
They are generally used for surveillance, target acquisition, and designation missions and also play a very important role as communication relays between different entities, such as satellites, air vehicles and command centers.
Combat UAVs, the United States has developed two demonstrators, the X-45C, which made its first flight in 2002, and the X47-B, but is it possible to have a UAV with the same performance as a traditional combat aircraft such as the Rafale or Mirage? on the one hand, it is possible to remove all the equipment necessary for a human pilot, which can lead to a reduction in weight and dimensions of about 40% compared to a fighter aircraft, with a pilot, on the other hand, it seems difficult to develop a control software as powerful as a fighter pilot.
For example, the software must be able to identify, designate and track automatic targets, which is why governments currently favor these combat UAVs for basic operations such as the destruction of ground targets, tanks or anti-aircraft batteries.
For safety reasons, the decision to fire is always subject to the judgment of an external pilot, which means that these UAVs are not totally autonomous, but future models will certainly be able to carry out much more complex missions in the near future.
Indoor UAVs, these UAVs have become highly democratized in recent years, they are generally less than a meter long, and can carry a maximum of one kilogram of payload, whereas MALEs can embark and be controlled by powerful onboard computing units.
These interior UAVs are subject to strong constraints in terms of on-board computing, a second important difficulty is their autonomy, most of the existing models are equipped with electric motors, because of the low payload, the batteries cannot generally be used for more than one hour.
In the medium term, the batteries will have to be miniaturized, or the propulsion system will have to be modified. Because of their low weight, they have high reactivity, so they must be able to be controlled very frequently, at least 20 Hz, today most radio controls operate at 2.4 GHz.
Their second constraint, and the low number of on-board sensors, due to their low payload, previously these UAVs were used very little in real missions, notably due to their low computing capacity. However, the processors under development make it possible to analyze data more and more quickly.
A certain application of these UAVs will be the exploration, securing or inspection of buildings in times of urban warfare for example. Indeed the inspection of enemy buildings is a very high-risk mission, by sending a UAV inside the building, it would then be possible to retrieve a lot of information, such as the number of enemy fighters, hostages, the position of the shooters, or the configuration of spaces.