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An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), commonly known as a drone, is an aircraft without a human pilot onboard. UAVs are a component of an unmanned aircraft system (UAS); which include a UAV, a ground-based controller, and a system of communications between the two. The flight of UAVs may operate with various degrees of autonomy: either under remote control by a human operator or autonomously by onboard computers.
Compared to manned aircraft, UAVs were originally used for missions too “dull, dirty or dangerous” for humans. While they originated mostly in military applications, their use is rapidly expanding to commercial, scientific, recreational, agricultural, and other applications, such as policing, peacekeeping, and surveillance, product deliveries, aerial photography, smuggling,and drone racing. Civilian UAVs now vastly outnumber military UAVs, with estimates of over a million sold by 2015.
Commercial and enterprise drone applications
The use of drones outside the military has grown tremendously over the past decade. Beyond surveillance and delivery applications, UAVs are used in drone journalism, search and rescue, disaster response, asset protection, wildlife monitoring, firefighting, communications relay, healthcare and agriculture.
The integration of drones and internet of things (IoT) technology has created numerous enterprise use cases. Drones working with on-ground IoT sensor networks can help agricultural companies monitor land and crops; energy companies survey power lines and operational equipment; and insurance companies monitor properties for claims and policies.
A 2015 experiment in Austin, Texas, showed how drones can potentially “connect the dots” using IoT. A security tech company teamed up with a drone startup to hunt for Zigbee beacons to try to provide an overview of what IoT networks were present in residential and business areas of the city. The companies reported that the results were quick and instructive.
From logistics to agriculture to security, unmanned aerial vehicles and IoT are frequently part of the same discussion; offering a component in ubiquitous connectivity and interactivity.
Types of drones
Drone platforms have two main types: rotor, including single-rotor or multi-rotor (such as tricopters, quadcopters, hexacopters and octocoptors), or fixed-wing, which include the hybrid VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) drones that don’t require runways.
Drones can be categorized as either personal/hobbyist or commercial/enterprise.