• Uday Sirohi

Drone Technology - Everything You Ever Wanted to Know


An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), also commonly known as a drone, is an aircraft without a human pilot on board. The flight of UAVs may be controlled by a human operator or with various degrees of autonomy, such as autopilot assistance, up to fully autonomous aircraft that do not need human intervention. In the recent past, UAVs were mostly associated with the military, where they were used for missions that were too dull, dirty, or dangerous for humans. While drones originated mostly in military applications, their use is rapidly finding many more applications including aerial photography, product deliveries, agriculture, smuggling, search and rescue, traffic monitoring, weather monitoring, and drone racing.

How Does a Drone Work?


A typical UAV is made of light materials to reduce weight and increase mobility. UAV drones are equipped with different technologies such as cameras, GPS, accelerometer, gyroscope, altimeter, motors, rotors, wirelessly enabled components, and electronic speed controllers. A drone may have many other components as well depending upon what its purpose is. Drones are controlled by remote ground control systems (GSC) and are also referred to as a ground cockpit.


Quadcopters have four rotors fixed to singular engines permitting them to move at various rates. Two slanting rotors follow a clockwise pivot while the other two corners to corner ones turn anti-clockwise. This development keeps the quadcopter adjusted. On the off chance that every one of the engines were to turn a similar way, the subsequent force would make the entire specialty pivot. The rotors are planned so that they push down the air-producing lift. At the point when the rotors push down air, the air pushes back on them, moving the robot upwards. The quicker the rotors turn, the faster the robot rises. At the point when they slow down, the robot begins to plunge. At the point when you need your robot to turn, you'll need to hinder a bunch of corners to corner rotors and simultaneously accelerate the other arrangement of inclining rotors. At the point when you need your quadcopter to push ahead or back, you need to hinder the engines on either the front or rear, while accelerating the rotors on the opposite side. This makes the robot slant towards the side that the engines are moving slowest, as you have diminished the lift.


Drone Laws and Regulations - USA


Whether you're a new drone pilot or have years of experience, rules and safety tips exist to help you fly safely in the national airspace. Rules for drone flying differ and depend on the type of activity you are flying the drone for. These rules are-

  • Recreational Flyers & Modeler Community-Based Organizations

  1. You can fly the drone only for recreational purposes.

  2. Safety guidelines of an FAA-recognized Community Based Organization have to be followed.

  3. Your drone should be kept within the visual line of sight.

  4. Do not interfere with manned aircraft.

  5. Take prior authorization to fly at or below 400' in controlled airspace (Class B, C, D, and E) by using LAANC or DroneZone.

  6. Fly at or below 400 feet in Class G (uncontrolled) airspace.

  7. You have to take The Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST) and carry proof of test passage with you while flying the drone.

  8. Mark (PDF) your drones on the outside with the registration number, and carry proof of registration with you.

  9. Do not interfere with emergency response or law enforcement activities and do not fly under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

  • Certificated Remote Pilots Including Commercial Operators

  1. Educate yourself about what is allowed and what is not allowed under Part 107 rules.

  2. Become an FAA-Certified Drone Pilot by clearing the Knowledge Test. Once you've passed your test, complete FAA Form 8710-13 for a remote pilot certificate using the electronic FAA Integrated Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application system.

  3. You have to register your drone with the FAA. Visit dronezone.faa.gov and select "Fly sUAS under Part 107" to create an account and register your drone.

  • Public Safety And Government

  1. Government agencies (including Federal, State, and tribal), law enforcement, and public safety entities have two options for operating drones under 55 pounds.

  2. Fly your drone under 14 CFR part 107, the small UAS rule. Part 107 allows operations of drones or unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) under 55 pounds at or below 400 feet above ground level (AGL) for visual line-of-sight operations only.

  3. Fly your drone under the requirements for public aircraft (49 U.S.C. §40102(a) and § 40125). Operate with a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) to be able to self-certify UAS and operators for flights performing governmental functions.

  4. All drones which are over .55 pounds have to be registered with the FAA before the flight. Law enforcement and public safety officials can ask drone operators for registration documentation.

  • Educational Users

  1. The rules and regulations for flying drones are based on the purpose of the operation. There are a few options for flying for educational purposes. There is an exception (49 U.S.C. § 44809) that allows flying drones for recreational purposes (under certain conditions) without complying with Part 107. In order to fly under the statutory exception, you must comply with all portions of Section 44809, including flying your drone for recreational purposes.

  2. There is also a statutory provision (P.L. 115-254, Section 350 (PDF), as amended by P.L. 116-283, Section 10002) that states that education and research use of drones for educational purposes can be operated under the rules for recreational flyers. This includes programs for institutes of higher education, programs run by JROTC, and educational programs chartered by a recognized Community Based Organization.

Top Industries Using Drone Technology


Drone technology has been used by defense organizations and tech-savvy consumers for quite some time. However, the benefits of this technology extend well beyond just these sectors. The use cases for safe, cost-effective solutions range from data collection to delivery. And as autonomy and collision-avoidance technologies improve, so will drones’ ability to perform increasingly complex tasks. Some popular use cases include-

  • Defense: Drones or UAVs can identify security and terrorism-related challenges and pinpoint vulnerable areas that are prone to various risks. Drones are the modern-day force multiplier that can enhance the capabilities of security forces to contain terror and to counter the emerging challenges in defense and homeland security.

  • Aerial Photography For Journalism And Film: Aerial photography is nothing new. Airplanes, hot air balloons, and kites have all been used in the past to take aerial photographs. However, pictures taken by drones provide a customization level that could not have been achieved using past methods. For one thing, the height at which high-quality aerial photos can be shot opens up many new options.

  • Express Shipping And Delivery: Traditionally, road transport has been the backbone of the logistics industry. But as urban settlements are getting more congested, it is already hard to reach remote areas with no road infrastructure, the drawbacks of traditional methods are becoming more apparent. The delivery industry is beginning to use drones to solve these issues.

  • Gathering Information Or Supplying Essentials For Disaster Management: Natural and man-made disasters destroy environments, often making conditions so difficult that relief workers are unable to access areas and provide assistance. Drones have the ability to take on roles where relief workers and manned vehicles fall short.

  • Search And Rescue Operations: UAVs can provide situational awareness over a large area quickly, reducing the time and the number of searchers required to locate and rescue an injured or lost person, greatly reducing the cost and risks of search and rescue missions. The possibilities for helping ensure public safety are endless.

  • Geographic Mapping Of Inaccessible Terrain And Locations: With a drone, it is possible to carry out topographic surveys of the same quality as the highly accurate measurements collected by traditional methods, but in a fraction of the time. This substantially reduces the cost of a site survey and the workload of specialists in the field.

  • Safety Inspections: Aerial survey drones can get a view of a worksite from an elevated area, helping to conduct hazard inspections that keep your workers safe. Like a drone's ability to inspect tall structures, drones can also assist with inspecting hard-to-reach, unsafe areas, such as beside highways and under bridges.

  • Crop Monitoring: In supporting precision farming, drones can do soil health scans, monitor crop health, assist in planning irrigation schedules, apply fertilizers, estimate yield data and provide valuable data for weather analysis.

  • Unmanned Cargo Transport: Cargo UAVs could also shuttle goods between distribution centers in rural areas. They would be able to ship fewer items more frequently. Smaller UAVs can be used to deliver individual orders to customers' doorsteps in suburban and urban areas, in place of road delivery trucks, and would be unimpeded by road congestion.

  • Law Enforcement And Border Control Surveillance: Drones are a significant asset in border security as they allow for real-time reconnaissance, target acquisition, track the movement of people and illegal activities via high-quality video feed.

  • Storm Tracking And Forecasting Hurricanes And Tornadoes: Having a storm drone flying through different parts of the atmosphere gathering data will enable meteorologists to predict weather conditions for the coming days or weeks.

Top Emerging Startups in Drone Technology


Some of the emerging startups when it comes to drone technology-

  • Skydio: It leverages breakthrough AI to create intelligent flying machines for use by consumers, enterprises, and government customers. Founded in 2014, Skydio is made up of experts in AI, robotics, cameras, and electric vehicles from top companies, research labs, and universities from around the world. Skydio designs, assembles, and supports its products in the U.S. from its headquarters in Redwood City, California.

  • Anduril: Anduril Industries is a defense product company that builds technology for military agencies and border surveillance. It is based in Irvine, California.

  • Zipline: Zipline is an American medical product delivery company headquartered in South San Francisco, California that designs, manufactures, and operates delivery drones. The company operates distribution centers in Rwanda, Ghana, and the US.

  • Superwake: It is a Canadian startup that develops endurance drones powered by solar cells for surveillance applications. The startup offers its UAVs for wildlife conservation, wildfire detection, forest resource inventory tracking, and remote surveillance.

  • Skyfarer: Based in the UK, startup Skyfarer builds drones for the healthcare industry to deliver medical payloads. Skyfarer offers fast and direct transportation of blood, pharmaceuticals, vaccinations, and aseptic equipment. The startup’s drones are not limited by road congestion, thus ensuring timely delivery of the packages.

  • Ware: Ware is a US-based startup, and an official partner of Skydio, developing an enterprise-grade supply chain digitization platform featuring smart UAVs and inventory digitalization solutions for warehouses. The drones autonomously scan through the inventory to capture and analyze images. Additionally, the company provides a cloud-based inventory management service, Ware Cloud, that stores and visualizes the processed data.

  • Skyvisor: French startup Sky Visor devises drones for wind turbine inspections. The startup’s fully autonomous drone is portable, easy to deploy, and completes inspections within 20 minutes. Sky Visor’s UAVs capture high-quality images for every 2 meters and cover the 4-sides of the blade for accurate examination. The integrated machine learning algorithm enables the user to track defects through live feedback from the drones.

  • Aero41: It is a Swiss startup that provides autonomous drone solutions for crop protection. The startup’s machine control interface features a robust and light platform to plan and execute crop treatments quickly and efficiently. Aero41’s drones provide over 6 hours of autonomy and a maximum range of 10 km thereby relieving workers from spot inspection that consumes time and capital.

Top 10 Players


The figure given below shows the top 10 companies which own the most number of patent families in the field of UAVs. It can be seen that SZ DJI Technology owns the most number of patent families with 1501 patent families under its name followed by SGCC - State Grid Corporation Of China. NUAA and Ewatt Technology are almost on the same level with 591 and 523 patents respectively. Autel Robotics and Guangdong Power Grid lag with 350 and 348 patents respectively and most of these companies have Chinese origins.


Drone Technology Trend


From the below graph, there was a rapid growth in the number of patent families being filed in the field of UAVs after 2014 and this trend peaked in 2019 with around 16579 patent families being filed in a single year.


Conclusion


Drones can be provided with a large range of sensors that increase their functionalities. With these abilities, and as access to commercial quality drones increases, their use cases will also increase. Many companies are investigating the possible impact of drones upon their industries, including retail giants like Walmart and Amazon, as well as tech companies like Google. The global drone market size was valued at $13.44 billion in the year 2020 and it is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 57.5% from 2021 to 2028. In terms of volume, the demand was recorded at almost 670 thousand units of drone in 2020.


References

Copperpod helps attorneys dig deep into technology products and find evidence of patent infringement through reverse engineering, product testing, and network packet capture. Our reverse engineering and network captures have been relied upon by leading trial attorneys for negotiating over a dozen settlements and royalty agreements on behalf of technology clients. Know more about how we leverage different RE techniques to uncover even the hardest to find evidence of patent infringement.

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