Technology: Drones

Thousands will receive drones as Christmas presents this year as the popularity of personal drones has grown dramatically,with smaller versions used for all sorts of purposes by companies and individuals.

What is a drone?

Drones are more formally known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), essentially a flying robot. Which can be remotely controlled by ‘pilots’ from the ground or increasingly, autonomously through software-controlled flight plans in their embedded systems working in conjunction with GPS.

What can you do with a drone?

Companies such as Amazon and Google have said that they are developing drones that deliver parcels, whilst Facebook wants to fly giant drones that can carry internet signals to remote areas. In the media, drones have been used for news reports in dangerous or inaccessible areas, they have also been used to film documentaries. producing beautiful cinematic films and unseen footage of wildlife and lands.

Rules and regulations?

Across the world, rules are being drawn up or redefined to deal with the potential dangers of personal drones, Last year, an unidentified drone almost collided with an Airbus A320, which can carry up to 180 passengers near London Heathrow Airport at an altitude of 700 feet. A risky distraction for any pilot coming into land and could cause serious damage if they were to hit.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) sets the rules on drones in the UK under what is called an air navigation order. Drones must also be under 20Kg, if not they are automatically deemed illegal in almost all civilian airspaces.

– An unmanned aircraft must never be flown beyond the normal unaided ‘line of sight’ of the person operating it, which generally runs to 500m horizontally or 122m vertically
– An unmanned aircraft fitted with a camera must always be flown at least 50m away from a person, vehicle, building or structure
– An unmanned aircraft fitted with a camera must not be flown within 150m of a congested area or large group of people, such as a sporting event or concert
– For commercial purposes, operators must have permission to fly a drone from the CAA

If you are thinking of taking your drone abroad, definitely check the rules and regulations of the country you are going to, avoiding any slaps on the wrists or in more serious cases, a spell in jail.

Affordability of a drone?

As anyone can fly a drone, they are becoming more sophisticated and ever cheaper, available to the ordinary enthusiasts from high street shops.

Micro Drone 2.0
This palm-sized quadcopters is much better than any cheap quadcopter and has no problems with maintaining a steady flight. This drone comes pre-built and amazingly tough, with the ability to withstand even the most collisions. A tiny new HD camera is available as an optional extra (£35) and its really worth fitting it, producing a crisp 720 widescreen visuals and stills.


Parrot Rolling Spider
This is an indoor drone with an on-board stills camera, not only does it maintain a steady hover but with its skinny plastic wheels attached, it can even ride along the ceiling and up the walls! Parrot somehow crams in more technology into its toy drones than anyone else does and like all Parrot drones you can fly it using an iOS or Android App

Parrot BeBop Drone
If you’re new to drones, not too discern about video or image quality and don’t have enough money for a Phantom, then by all means this well-built machine would be for you. Also ready made to fly from the box, this lightweight drone comes rammed with shedloads of electronic wizardry that make it both easy to control and extraordinarily stable in flight, especially when flown outdoors

Phantom 2 Vision+
One of the most popular drone on the market, as it flies remarkably smooth, whilst being reliable in flight and is reasonably priced for a flying camera that is capable of taking videos and stills from such amazing aerial perspectives. The Phantom 2 Vision+ also comes equipped with a specially designed 14 megapixel GoPro-style camera mounted below the drone, which also transmits its field of view back to the phone device, effectively turning the drone into a First person view aircraft.

Walkera Tali H500
Built with 6 instead of 4 blades and being several inches bigger it is far more powerful than DJI’s Phantom. It comes out of the box ready to fly and is also equipped with its own iLook/GoPro-style camera. Unfortunately, this camera is perhaps be the weakest link as its no match for the GoPro or the Phantom camera, but works seamlessly with the rest of the system, allowing pilots to control the camera from the ground.