Rotors in the Sky

Tech College Discusses Drones at Rotary Club

A typical quadrotor drone hovers.

A typical quadrotor drone hovers.

Drones have been a popular topic recently. Sometimes a source of intrigue, at others a worry of security. Primary discussion about drones has been related to their use in military-related activity. This week’s news has included reports that now seem routine about U.S. Army drones being intercepted over Syria, as well as the Federal Aviation Administration dropping a record fine on a drone company based in Chicago– but these machines are also available to the public for purchase and personal use. They range in price from around $1,000 to as much as $10,000. What deserves further analysis is how these machines work, and what their practical utility can be. This is part of what Chris Boggs and the Rotary Club discussed on Monday at the Ashland Community and Technical College in Kentucky.

Boggs invoked a number of engaging ideas; from how real estate professionals could use drone footage as a marketing tool to the numerous ways that law enforcement could continue to use them effectively to police large areas. He also presented two videos, one of the local ACTC campus shot using drone-mounted cameras, and another of a California vineyard that distinguished optimal soil for wine production.

So how do drones function? Most drones are quadcopters, or quadrotor helicopters. They can have more than four rotors, as there are six and eight rotor versions available for purchase. The standard quadcopter is lifted and propelled by four rotors. These mechanisms are classified as rotorcraft, as opposed to fixed-wing, because their lift is generated by a set of rotors, which are vertically oriented propellers.  These multiple propellers are not only what sets drones apart from regular remote-controlled helicopters and enables them to stay aloft if one rotor fails, but they also provide added benefits. They can carrier heavier loads, which oftentimes is crucial as cameras are usually attached. The multiple rotor design also allows the blades to be smaller, which assists designers and manufacturing sources, and also makes them safer from damaging. Lastly, drones require a power source, which in the case of personal use often comes from a simple battery. The weight of batteries is a hindrance because it can limit airtime.

Boggs weighted his assessment of drones and their potential uses with advice on how to use them correctly, saying “Once you get into the ones for commercial use, you do get into some FAA regulations.” He went on to mention that further legislation to limit drone flight is expected, as reported by Tim Preston of Ashland, Kentucky’s The Daily Independent. The rest of the article can be found here: http://www.dailyindependent.com/news/drones-technology-talk-at-rotary-meeting/article_62175c46-6b9b-11e5-8d88-4b14d009c96a.html

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