While many may be familiar with remote-piloted aircraft (RPA) drones as a technology for hobbyists and enthusiasts, such technology has rapidly expanded in popularity and use in recent years, permeating multiple consumer, government, and enterprise sectors. From providing aerial shots for photography to locating missing persons during a search and rescue operation, drones are quickly finding more use as they continue to develop. To understand drones and the future they pose, it is important to be aware of the various materials and parts that they are composed of.
In order to produce lift, a drone needs to overcome its weight with upward thrust. To aid in this endeavor, the materials that are used for construction are specifically chosen to minimize mass. Beyond saving energy to produce lift, reducing weight also leads to more flying time, increased maneuverability, and more cargo capacity as needed. As drone parts each serve their own functions, different considerations are made when choosing the best materials.
The frame of the drone is what contains all the subsystems, as well as provides the basic structure. Due to its role, it is important to prioritize strength to weight ratios to ensure integrity of the frame. In terms of commercial drone parts, the frame is typically constructed from thermoplastics such as polyester, nylon, and polystyrene due to their cost efficiency for the strength they supply. In terms of industrial models, carbon fiber reinforced composites are optimal for their high strength and low density.
To produce the thrust necessary for lift, drones require motors and propellers. Motors and propellers used in drones are most often electric motors with copper windings and permanent magnets. For the housing of such drone parts, thermoplastics, aluminum alloys, and aluminum may be used depending on the amount of heat produced during operation. For the rotor blades, carbon fiber reinforced composites and thermoplastics are beneficial for their strength against wear and tear, as well as their cheaper prices for replacing parts.
Batteries in drones are one of the most important breakthroughs for such technology, bringing improvements to increase flying time while reducing weight. With modern lithium ion batteries, sufficient energy can be supplied to the drone while remaining lightweight. This proved to be a critical advancement over conventional lead-acid and NiCd batteries, both of which caused significant hurdles in terms of weight.
Other drone parts, such as tilt sensors, are important for ensuring that the motor thrust remains level, allowing the drone to adapt to changing air currents and special maneuvers. Depending on how advanced the drone is, some may even have tilt sensors allowing rotors to tilt independently from one another. GPS and magnetic sensors further improve the capabilities of drones by allowing one to know their location and orientation, aiding in stability of flight. Cameras, microchip technology, and other technology also serves to permit more advanced and sophisticated tasks, some even minimizing the need for direct human control. As drones continue to advance in materials and systems, we may see more uses and benefits that allow them to serve even more industries.
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