Taking Note of Where a UAV Takes Flight

Posted on July 10, 2019 Jerold Perkins Aviation

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVS) have come a long way from the novel, bug-like machine buzzing through the air. Many different industries use UAVS for mapping, recording, and delivery applications. Because of the breadth of uses, UAVS come in many different shapes and sizes. The US military uses drones such as the Predator that resemble small fixed-wing aircraft. In comparison, drone hobbyists favor drones such as the Tomahawk, a rotary-wing UAV.

While there are various factors to consider when purchasing a drone, the most important question may be the most obvious; how does the drone take off into the sky? A fixed-wing UAV requires a runway to take-off and land. In comparison, a rotary-wing UAV can just about take off anywhere. Knowing the takeoff requirements of the UAV is important as it can limit the areas in which you can fly. A drone hobbyist looking to fly a UAV in a wooded area, for example, would most likely find it difficult to find an appropriate runway for a fixed-wing UAV. The military, however, would likely have access to multiple runways for takeoff and landing, so may favor a fixed-wing UAV.

In certain cases, additional components are added to the exterior of the vehicle. Cameras such as GoPros add weight to the UAV. The payload of a UAV refers to the maximum weight that the drone can carry whilst in flight. If you plan on aerial mapping an area you may need more than one camera, therefore you should choose a drone that can accommodate the additional weight. Fixed-wing UAVs tend to have a higher payload than rotary-wing UAVs.

The application of the UAV should once again be considered in terms of the necessary flight time and conditions of flight. Rotary-wing UAVs are favored in instances where swift maneuvering and agility are needed. Going back to the drone hobbyist in the wood, the rotary wing UAV can dip and dive through trees, whereas a fixed-wing UAV would most likely clip its wings on the branches. A further advantage of a rotary-wing UAV is the ability to hover in the air. Constant aircraft forward movement is not necessary as the blades themselves produce the required airflow over their airfoil to generate lift.

A final note of comparison is the motor versus propeller debate. Fixed-wing UAVs are capable of flight due to the forward thrust produced by the propeller which is turned by either an internal combustion engine or electric motor. Rotary-wing UAVs are more complex systems that are controlled by the variation in thrust and torque from the rotors. Due to their numerous rotors, maintaining a rotary-wing UAV can be costly. The rotors may be harder to control and generate more noise.

While there are numerous factors to consider before purchasing a UAV, the most important question is where you are planning on operating the UAV. It would be a shame to research the capabilities of a drone, only to find that you had a very limited area in which you could fly. One way to avoid this problem is to check local UAV advisories and regulations.

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