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The Problem With Drones

No, it isn’t people standing in the way of your very safe spinning propellers, nor is the FAA wanting to get rid of all of them all of a sudden. It isn’t the fact that they became so mainstream even a 8 year old thinks he knows how to fly one, neither is the fact that everyone is trying to become innovative by building a drone that is actually an exact copy of the one you can already buy on amazon.

Batteries! Yes, the damn things that actually make it possible for the thing to take flight. Above you see a photo of one of the drones I attempted to build, needless to say, I failed. The Drone itself was a co-axial bicopter (Blade CX2 body), nothing new there, but I tried to make it innovative by giving it a tail capable of shifting its center of gravity to achieve higher maneuverability. It worked like a charm, it could accelerate faster than any other drone I have ever seen, and of course, that can be a really bad thing for a drone if you’d like a stable platform you could mount a camera on. I wasn’t going to be filming with my drone, and neither did I want to fly it inside a confined space, I wanted speed! I wanted to build a drone that could make insane acrobatics in a configuration that wasn’t as used as the quadcopter and tricopter configurations.

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Just look at my horribly beautiful cable management.
The drone itself ended up looking like it could cut someone to pieces with its tail hanging from both sides as it started accelerating carelessly. I did not plan to make it look that way, but by accident, both tail fins ended up parallel to one another on both sides of the drone, and started spinning, it became clear that the drone could be a good replacement for a Peahat from the Zelda series.
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It worked, and it flew, quite nicely indeed, but the fun only ended up lasting for about 5 minutes, because the batteries kept dying all the time. It is a small drone, you can’t get a big battery into a small drone, it would never fly. I attempted a fix by buying the biggest capacity battery possible for the size and weight limitation of my drone, the flight time improved….. To 7 minutes max.

The problem here isn’t my drone, I just wanted to give an example of what a problem it can be for engineers to develop an energy efficient system for use on their platform. We imagine drones as free-moving entities, independent devices built for a specific purpose, aiding us humans with tasks we couldn’t achieve otherwise. We get that a lot in Sci-Fi movies and series, police drones scanning a suspicious area, rescue drones, and even package delivery drones, all implemented perfectly into a fictitious futuristic society.

If any of those scenarios were to become real, those drones would have to be able to maintain stable autonomous flight for prolonged periods of time. Without going into the details and complications a network of autonomous drones would cause, we need to think if it is even possible for such thing to exist in the first place.

It is true that technology has advanced quite a bit these last couple of years, especially energy storing technologies. But there is nothing we can do about it, drones are energy munchers, they will devour the power source they are hooked up to. As of now, we are yet to see a drone that can sustain flight for more than 35 minutes. (Talking about VTOL drones, not fixed wing ones). This is the area were engineers and makers will need to innovate, how do you keep a drone in the air for a long time?

Many solutions have been presented, one of the most interesting ones, and the one I am curious to try, is hooking up an external power source to the drone, rendering batteries unnecessary. Of course you would end up having a wire coming out of your drone, but wouldn’t it be interesting to see a solution to this problem?

So what do you think the solution to this problem will be? Should we keep using batteries? Is there a way to keep a drone flying for hours without external power.

 

Thanks for reading, don’t forget to leave your comments in the comment section below.

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