Watching someone fly a drone is impressive, especially a young kid with skill. How do they do it? Flying drones is a skill that many accomplish and enjoy, but how does the drone fly? How do drones lift off, hover, climb, and stay in the air? How can they rotate without spinning out of control?
Drone flying is a skill that many enjoy mastering.
Fixed Wing Drones and Rotary Drones
Drones are unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) that do not carry any crew. Drones are also known as remotely piloted air systems (RPAS). The two main types of drones are fixed-wing and rotary drones.
Fixed Wing Drone Flight
Fixed-wing drones are like airplanes; the wings are attached to the aircraft body and do not move. The drone motor generates thrust that pushes the drone forward. When the air pressure below the wings is greater, the drone lifts off.
Flying Rotary Drones
Quadcopters are rotary drones. Rotary drones have rotating blades like helicopters. A helicopter has a single rotary blade, whereas a drone can have from one rotary blade to 16 propellers. The most common drone for recreational use is the quadcopter, which has four propellers and four motors.
Propellers (rotary wing, blade) of Drones
Propellers on smaller drones are generally made from plastic, and larger drones may have carbon fiber blades.
The blades are shaped at an angle with a broader base than the tip. The outside tip spins faster than the more extensive base because it needs to travel a more significant distance to complete a circle than the part closest to the motor.
Each rotor is connected to its motor allowing the rotor to spin individually clockwise or counterclockwise and at different speeds. The motor spins the propeller, pushing it against the air, which causes lift-off and drone movement.
Flying Drones Vertically
The spinning blades, propellers, or rotors of the quadcopter drone moves the drone vertically. The air pushes against the rotors, and the rotors push the air down, which moves the drone upward. For lift-off, all the propellers move in the same direction and at the same speed.
Drones move three ways in vertical movement: climbing, descending and hovering.
Gravitation pulls the drone down towards the ground, and the thrust of the quadcopter’s four propellers push the drone upward. When these two forces are equal, the drone hovers in the same position without moving up or down.
Climbing is when the drone moves upward. By increasing the speed or thrust of the spinning blades until it exceeds the gravitational force and drone weight, the drone moves upward or climbs.
When the drone reaches the ideal height above the ground, the pilot may decrease the thrust. Keep in mind the drone weight, gravity, and air oppose the thrust power. The speed should be more than when hovering the craft.
Descending is the opposite of climbing. By decreasing the speed, the gravity force exceeds the thrust power, the air, and the weight of the drone that pulls it downward.
The thrust power must be less than for climbing and when hovering the quadcopter.
Forwards, Backwards, Sideways Drone Flying
Quadcopters, like all rotary drones, are symmetrical, which means irrespective of the direction it moves, the front is the direction it moves. In other words, if it moves forward, then that is the front of the flying drone. If it moves backward, then that becomes the front of the drone.
You may think the drone’s front is facing north, and its back is facing south, but actually, all four directions are front to the drone when it moves in that direction.
To move the drone forward, the two rear propellers must spin faster than the two front ones. By increasing the thrust on the two rear propellers and decreasing the speed of the two front propellers, the lift reduces to the front. The drone tilts toward the slower moving thrusters in the front, pushing it forward.
By accelerating the front propellers and slowing down the back propellers, the drone tilts backward. The back becomes the drone’s front, and the drone moves in that direction.
Rotating or Turning the Drone
Two blades rotate clockwise and two blades counterclockwise. On each side, one blade rotates clockwise and the blade next to it in the opposite direction.
To turn the quadcopter to the left or right, the pilot must increase the speed of the two blades diagonal to each other and not next to each other. The diagonal blades spin in the same direction. The drone will turn to the side of the slower thrusting blades by increasing the thrust of a set of diagonal blades.
Yaw, Pitch, and Roll
Yaw is the direction the front of the drone faces when rotating. When the drone flies and the nose yaws left, it is a counterclockwise direction, and when the nose yaws right, it is a clockwise direction.
Yaw helps to adjust the drone’s course and is also used to take wide panning camera shots.
Pitch is when the drone tilts upward or downward to move forward or backward.
The combination of a pitch with a roll helps change the drone’s flying direction smoothly and fast.
The drone moves to its sides when it rolls while keeping its altitude position.
The flight controller in each drone motor executes the commands received from the pilot by increasing or decreasing the speed the blades spin. Pilots do not have to operate each motor’s flight controller manually, computer technology does it for the pilot.
The pilot flies the drone by operating the joystick linked to the computer software. When the pilot pushes the joystick forward, it signals to the flight controller via the computer software to move forward at a particular thrust. Drone technology assists the pilot with flying the drone and other tasks the drone is designed to do. For example, built-in sensors may detect obstacles in the flying path of the drone. The technology alerts the pilot; the drone may even hover until the pilot