Misconceptions About Drones

April 21, 2015

Robots that fly that are increasingly found everywhere?Yup, they’re drones. You may think you know what they are, but trust us – you don’t.

Similar to other emerging tech, drones are misunderstood.  To help you understand, here are some tips:

1. They are NOT called drones or quadcopters

Calling them “drones” in the first place is a no-no!

The only thing that is ‘drone-like’ about these robots is that they make a continuous humming sound. If you were an airforce pilot controlling a remotely piloted vehicle (which is what they are) and someone called it a drone, you would be insulted.

Calling a robot with four rotors a “quadcopter” is just plain wrong.

‘Quad’ refers to four.

‘Copter’ is short for helicopter.

A quadcopter describes four helicopters. A robot with four rotors is a helicopter, perhaps a quadrotor helicopter. It is not a set of four rotorcrafts

The FAA has taken to calling them UAS’s – Unmanned Aerial Systems, which is a MUCH better.

2. The danger from drones isn’t from the invasion of privacy

If your neighbor took his telephone, taped it to a wooden stick and held it up over your fence…he could stream live to the world what was happening in your backyard and you would never even know it.

The loud buzzing of UAS’s makes their presence readily apparent.

FAA regulations say you can’t fly personal drones above 400 feet over personal property. But is keeping drones at, say, 410 feet any more private?

But… you should still be a little worried. Not about surveillance, but that like any technology, flying robots can be used for nefarious purposes if they’re in the wrong hands.

3. They’re not all killing machines

Drones become apparent to the public during the deployment to the Middle East.  It is offensive to compare the drone that is used for military purposes with those used for with the craft flying a camera from within eyesight of the ground crew.

Military drones are just a platform that we—the US—launch weapons from.  Multirotors and UAS’s found in your neighborhood are used for everything from site surveying, inspection of bridges, search and rescue operations as well as commercial purposes of advertisement.

4. They can’t take down planes

Commercial jet’s accidentally slurping up sky-high drones is unlikely, and the chances of it actually triggering a crash are even smaller.

Pilots have spotted model airplanes in their vicinities for years, but it wasn’t until last year that the FAA started requiring pilots and air traffic control to report all drone sightings to a national security system.

Of those 190 sightings, the media described these incidents as “near misses.”

In a lot of these supposed “near misses,” many of these sightings were from the ground, or in other situations that didn’t pose a risk. In some cases, it wasn’t even clear if a drone was what pilots sighted. It’s unlikely a drone could even reach thousands of feet in the air—and even if they did, newer models like the Phantom 3 come with geofencing that automatically employs GPS to avoid swooping near airports.

5. You can’t hear them coming a mile away

Sounds like a swarm of angry bees is something we hear pretty frequently.  It’s not uncommon for the ground crew to have to shout while the multirotor is preparing for take off.

Frequently when we have flown over a house for a client, they have come outside and commented on how they could hear it inside clearly.

6. They are not toys

While some UASs are RC toys, most aren’t. They’re robots, and should be treated as such.

UASs are “not just one vehicle,” but an “integrated system” full of sensors, flight actuators, and more.

7. Jamming doesn’t take them down

The idea that drones will drop from the sky if they lose communication, is a myth.  Almost all GPS-guided drones have a failsafe for just such an event called “lost link protocol.” This ensures that a drone experiencing a lost link will automatically guide itself to a safe, predesignated location.

8. They won’t be delivering your mail (or your pizza) anytime soon

Everyone thinks drones will buzz around and make deliveries, like a modern postman.  Amazon is famous for touting such a delivery service.  Such a world is still a way’s off.

Drones can’t go very far, and they will not do well in bad weather. More likely usage is to see them delivering humanitarian aid post storm in emergency situations, or as previously stated in search and rescue missions.

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