We are familiar with helicopters and their use in blockbuster Hollywood flicks. Sometimes we would watch military helicopters starring in movies and sometimes a reporter would be seen doing the traffic report for the local cable news channel embarked on a helicopter.
You must also be acquainted with the drones nowadays along with the radio controlled helicopters that are also being put to great use at the airports. In this post, we will be discussing the differences among drones, military UAVs and helicopters so that you know what people are talking about. If you are planning to purchase a hobby drone or a radio controlled helicopter as a gift, this extensive list of the best RC helicopters would come in handy along with the top 10 drones for kids.
Is it possible for a helicopter to be a drone?
Yes, it is absolutely possible, if a drone is defined as an unmanned aircraft system. Majority of the personal drones are quadcopters which are reliable. Helicopters, on the contrary, are more suitable for manned vehicles since they are easier to fly and require less energy. Having said that, helicopter drones are placed at the higher end of the price spectrum and the models maneuvered by radio controllers lack functionalities that are so common in personal drones such as the Return to Home feature.
Which drone should I get my hands on?
There is a wide array of personal drones available on the market. Here are some of the common categories of drones available.
Here is a video that portrays the stuff that can be captured with the help of a drone.
How to put drone footage online?
If you own a quadcopter equipped with a camera and you have managed to grab some stunning aerial video footages with its help, it makes sense that you want to share it with your friends. Having said that, this video is without any sound and has not been edited. If you are not a professional cinematographer and do not want to indulge yourself in extensive post processing, Ezvid Wikimaker is a handy online tool that is available for free and offers you plenty of options to edit the video and add narration.
Getting into the details
You must have come across the terminology Drone a number of times in your daily routine. Drones are used by military, enthusiasts, cinematographers and will probably be delivering pizza to your place anytime soon in the future. They have become so popular that they have created their own enemies who want to put an embargo on their use. But when you come across a radio controlled helicopter, you must be wondering whether that is a drone as well or not? Let’s get down to the basics so that you are able to distinguish in a better manner.
Technically speaking, drones and helicopters are similar as drones is the more popular terminology used for the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). This means that any vehicle that soars into the skies and does not have a pilot controlling it by sitting in its cockpit should be defined as a drone; whether the vehicle is maneuvered by a human through a radio controller or by a pre-configured computer program. A drone could assume the shape of an airplane, a helicopter or even a balloon.
Having said that, this is a popular definition and we need to refine it a bit. We could consider even a missile, a drone if we stick to it. That is exactly why the military and the government have developed a stringent definition based on a couple of terminologies: UAV and UAS.
UAV or Unmanned Aerial Vehicle is a vehicle that flies and is steered by a radio controller or a computer software and is capable of being reused. This definition eliminates the missiles out since they cannot be reused once launched. Unmanned Aircraft Systems or UAS, on the other hand, incorporates all the aircrafts and systems such as computers or radio controllers that are used to maneuver the aircrafts.
These broad categories are required since the military is always endeavoring to expand its use of unmanned vehicles. The US Navy has come up with the Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (UUV) which is essentially a radio controlled submarine. So, the term Drone refers to any unmanned vehicle which could be as complicated as the one used by the military or as simple as the radio controlled helicopter.
The helicopter drones are not as common as the quadcopter drones but they certainly are available on the market such as the Yamaha RMAX drone helicopter. It is a dual bladed, unmanned helicopter that is powered by gasoline and is being used for farming and other industrial purposes in Japan.
The mechanical intricacy and the underlying costs are a couple of major reasons quadcopter drones are more popular in contrast to the helicopter drones. The helicopter’s flight is controlled by the pitch of the rotor blades and the tail rotor. The components required for adjusting the pitch are complex and costly. The maintenance and repair of a helicopter drone demands engineering prowess and technology that is expensive. Hobbyists are certainly not going to invest a $100,000 on a hobby grade UAV.
The quadcopters, on the contrary, have four fixed pitch blades which rotate at different speeds to keep the flight stable. One or two blades increase or reduce their speed when a quadcopter yaws or turns. With a single moving part in the form of a fan connected to the engine, quadcopters have a very few moving parts. That is why they can be manufactured in mass quantities, they are reliable and affordable. Some of the popular personal drones include the DJI Phantom 4 Pro, DJI Inspire 2 and the Parrot Bebop 2 Power.
These drones are affordable and fall in the price range between $100 and $3,000 based on their functionalities. The simple design is the main driver behind low costs. Helicopter drones designed for the enthusiasts are quite rare to find and typically include radio controlled versions that are void of autonomous flight features that would enable them to cross the line of sight of operation or return back to their original place of takeoff without human intervention.
Now, you must be wondering if quadcopters boast a simple design and mechanics, then why pilots do not fly them instead of the helicopters. They are affordable and require minimal maintenance but they are not easy to operate. Quadcopters come with plenty of integrated sensors that ensure flight stability. In the absence of these components, quadcopters would be a headache for the humans to control since they are so many unreliable variables to take care of. So, instead of adjusting the pitch of a single blade, the pilot will have to tweak and adjust four different blades at the same time. This fact renders them impractical for manned vehicles.
Along with the complexity involved in controlling the quadcopters, the inefficient design of the quadcopters is another reason. It takes more effort and power to move less air at faster pace in contrast to moving twice the amount of air at a lower speed. This means that the blades of the helicopters can rotate at a lower speed than quadcopter drones and hence furnish greater lift off the ground.
The blades of the quadcopters are smaller in contrast to those of the helicopters and rotate at a faster pace. In addition, more power is required to decelerate the blades while carrying out aerial stunts. Since the adjustment in pitch can control all the aerial stunts, so helicopters do not require plenty of power. At present, the helicopters offer higher flight duration using the same amount of power in contrast to quadcopter drones.
We hope that this post will have provided you sufficient insight into drones so that you are well-informed when you visit the market to purchase a drone. Drones can be built in different configurations or sizes including the quadcopters. A drone is any unmanned moving vehicle but when you hear it from your neighbors, they are probably referring to the quadcopters or military UAVs. Now, you know the difference between a drone and a helicopter and you can definitely educate them over this subject with significant authority.