UAVs are not Mere ‘Toys’

The first thing that strikes our mind when someone mentions ‘drones’ is a small Quadcopter(4-winged UAV) having a small camera mounted on it, hovering over us in wedding ceremonies clicking amazing pictures.

It’s rather fascinating that the same Quadcopter with a rather much-sophisticated design combined with a Hexacopter (6-winged UAV) is used by the Indian Army calling that a “seeker-shooter” combat management system, using the Quadcopter for surveillance and Hexacopter for carrying payloads such as hand grenades and necessary ammo for the troops.

Do you know that a ‘drone’ is a generalized term for any unmanned vehicle that can operate in any given environment- land, water, or air?

Drones that travel using the medium of air are called UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) and which are further classified into Fixed-Wing, Rotary-Wing, and Hybrid based on their wing fixation.

Fixed(left), Rotary(Middle), Hybrid(Right)

Fixed-Wing UAVs consist of planes, and as the name suggests they have their wings fixed to the body. On the contrary Rotary winged drones have their wings rotating or propelling and a simple example being Quadcopter. Finally, Hybrids are the mix of both the Rotary and Fixed.

Single-rotor (Left), Multi-rotor(Right)

The rotary-winged UAVs can be further classified based on the number of propellers or rotors that went into the build which are, Single rotor and Multirotor. In this article, I want to focus on the basic Rotary-winged Multirotor UAVs such as Quadcopters, Hexacopters which are commonly seen, and the mere ignorance that is being shown on preferring these UAVs as a potential solution and operating them.

One reason why it might be difficult to take these UAVs more seriously over a ‘toy’ is the accessibility. In the initial stages after the advent of the UAVs, the technology was booming but was not all over the place, and only until the Chinese companies like XAG, DJI entered the market and took it to the next level offering the necessary hardware at a cheap price. This led to a common misconception among people that these UAVs are a pretty basic tool that is too common.

The fact that a camera can be held on to them, already makes them accomplish the mission of surveillance with ease. Taking the example of DRDO’s Netra, perfect for the light-weight missions of surveillance and reconnaissance operations for BSF(Border Security Force).

DRDO’s Netra

With the booming domain of Machine learning rising each day, there is no hesitation in saying that the applications of these light-weighted UAVs will be widened if integrated. There are various other things that UAVs are capable of doing than just getting mounted a camera and clicking photographs. Valkyrie, a UAV manufacturing company built a Quadcopter focussing on the delivery aspect which can travel over 6 miles having a maximum payload capacity of 35 kg.

Valkyrie Heavy Pro

These quadcopters, unlike the sophisticated Octa and Deca, winged copters have a very light and easy structure which can be easily modified and implemented as a solution. Even in recent pandemic times, these UAVs can be helpful for surveillance and delivery.

The UAV industry has seen massive advancements and is still continuing to grow in terms of sophistication and variety, to the point where there is a need for ‘specialized drone pilots’ to operate them. It’s true that they can be fun to operate, but they’re much more than mere toys and have the potential to bring massive changes in day to day lives. We see UAVs being flown in different places but there is a protocol that should be followed by every pilot. Even with something as basic as Quadcopters, there is a potential threat to the privacy of the individuals when a simple camera is attached to it.

The real question should be about how we can regulate and make the use of drones more transparent, and to bring about the awareness of rights and wrongs about drone use among people — not if they have the potential to be more than just toys. They are remarkable and have the ability to bring drastic changes in our economy and become a part of our day to day lives and aren’t just things we can gift each other for Christmas and fly around everywhere for fun.