What you should know about Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Systems
An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), also called a remote control aircraft, is a machine with no man, either a pilot or a passenger, on board. UAVs have been part of an overall unmanned aerial system, which includes in addition a data link system and a ground-based control unit. Remote control aircraft are typically flown by computer systems, like a remote control toy jet or airplane, or by humans, for example in the case of military UAVs. Many RC toys make use of a radio transmitter to communicate with a computer or with each other, and some use a data link to transmit data back to a centralized control station.
UAVs can carry a wide variety of tools or fuel. The most common material being used in the UAVs is either lithium battery or gel batteries, which provide a lot of power, at a relatively low cost. Most UAVs operate on a 12 VDC power supply, but some may operate at 18 VDC.
To operate UAVs in a safe manner, their operation must be covered by an elaborate flight software system. Flight software must allow for autonomous operation of UAVs, while also allowing for pre-flighting and post-flighting operations. One way to solve this issue is through the use of onboard flight control systems. A flight software system must allow for the automatic generation and submission of flight plans for unmanned aerial vehicle missions.
These plans could include flight time, programmed flight paths, programmed landing zones, and even specific time and altitude requirements for a UAV to autonomously land on a designated area. If an unmanned aerial vehicle autonomously lands on command, the process will need to be followed by the “pilot” or operator.
As discussed earlier, this is typically done by a human in a remote operations center. With this type of planning, a pilot can check on a UAV’s status after the landing has occurred, but it does not require that he or she be in the aircraft at the time of the landing.
For companies and people working with UAVs, a second way to ensure the safety regulation of UAVs is by developing and operating safe UAV software. Currently, there is a limited ability to test UAVs using real applications. However, if a company or person wanted to develop a piece of software which would allow for the safe operation of small unmanned aerial vehicles, they would need to go to the FAA for authorization. It is currently illegal to operate a UAV in a manner which is contrary to the safety regulation in place.
In the event that an operator makes a fatal error, the individual could be prosecuted for negligence. However, the implementation of such programs is actually voluntary. Some companies believe that developing and using drones for personal or business purposes is safer than operating them for profit. This allows them to benefit from the economies of scale from creating more units without having to hire as many operators. Many of the larger drone manufacturers have also signed deals with major airlines to allow for UAVs on their planes.
Although UAVs may seem less invasive and dangerous to humans, they are not immune from a collision. A remote-controlled UAV may not be able to distinguish between a household dog and an aircraft and therefore may collide. Additionally, because the aircraft is unable to hover over the earth, it may be shot down if it is too close. In addition, a UAV may collide with a parked UAV or a ship at sea. This can cause catastrophic damage or loss of life.
Research is focusing on developing systems that allow UAVs to safely and accurately identify and tag individuals, vehicles, or other objects.