10 min read

When you were a kid, did you have fun with paper planes? They were so much fun. So, what is a gliding drone? Well, before answering this, let me be clear that there are other types of drones, too. We will know all common types of drones soon, but before doing that, let’s find out what a drone first.

Drones are commonly known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV). A UAV is a flying thing without a human pilot on it. Here, by thing we mean the aircraft. For drones, there is the Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS), which allows you to communicate with the physical drone and the controller on the ground. Drones are usually controlled by a human pilot, but they can also be autonomously controlled by the system integrated on the drone itself. So what the UAS does, is it communicates between the UAS and UAV. Simply, the system that communicates between the drone and the controller, which is done by the commands of a person from the ground control station, is known as the UAS.

Drones are basically used for doing something where humans cannot go or carrying out a mission that is impossible for humans. Drones have applications across a wide spectrum of industries from military, scientific research, agriculture, surveillance, product delivery, aerial photography, recreations, to traffic control. And of course, like any technology or tool it can do great harm when used for malicious purposes like for terrorist attacks and smuggling drugs.

Types of drones

Classifying drones based on their application

Drones can be categorized into the following six types based on their mission:

  • Combat: Combat drones are used for attacking in the high-risk missions. They are also known as Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAV). They carry missiles for the missions. Combat drones are much like planes. The following is a picture of a combat drone:

Unnamed Combat Aerial Vehicles

  • Logistics: Logistics drones are used for delivering goods or cargo. There are a number of famous companies, such as Amazon and Domino’s, which deliver goods and pizzas via drones. It is easier to ship cargo with drones when there is a lot of traffic on the streets, or the route is not easy to drive. The following diagram shows a logistic drone:

Logistics drones

  • Civil: Civil drones are for general usage, such as monitoring the agriculture fields, data collection, and aerial photography. The following picture is of an aerial photography drone:

Civil drones

  • Reconnaissance: These kinds of drones are also known as mission-control drones. A drone is assigned to do a task and it does it automatically, and usually returns to the base by itself, so they are used to get information from the enemy on the battlefield. These kinds of drones are supposed to be small and easy to hide. The following diagram is a reconnaissance drone for your reference, they may vary depending on the usage:


  • Target and decoy: These kinds of drones are like combat drones, but the difference is, the combat drone provides the attack capabilities for the high-risk mission and the target and decoy drones provide the ground and aerial gunnery with a target that simulates the missile or enemy aircrafts. You can look at the following figure to get an idea what a target and decoy drone looks like:

Target and decoy

  • Research and development: These types of drones are used for collecting data from the air. For example, some drones are used for collecting weather data or for providing internet.

[box type=”note” align=”” class=”” width=””]Also read this interesting news piece on Microsoft committing $5 billion to IoT projects.[/box]

Classifying drones based on wing types

We can also classify drones by their wing types. There are three types of drones depending on their wings or flying mechanism:

  • Fixed wing: A fixed wing drone has a rigid wing. They look like airplanes. These types of drones have a very good battery life, as they use only one motor (or less than the multiwing). They can fly at a high altitude. They can carry more weight because they can float on air for the wings. There are also some disadvantages of fixed wing drones. They are expensive and require a good knowledge of aerodynamics. They break a lot and training is required to fly them. The launching of the drone is hard and the landing of these types of drones is difficult. The most important thing you should know about the fixed wing drones is they can only move forward. To change the directions to left or right, we need to create air pressure from the wing. We will build one fixed wing drone in this book. I hope you would like to fly one.
  • Single rotor: Single rotor drones are simply like helicopter. They are strong and the propeller is designed in a way that it helps to both hover and change directions. Remember, the single rotor drones can only hover vertically in the air. They are good with battery power as they consume less power than a multirotor. The payload capacity of a single rotor is good. However, they are difficult to fly. Their wing or the propeller can be dangerous if it loosens.
  • Multirotor: Multirotor drones are the most common among the drones. They are classified depending on the number of wings they have, such as tricopter (three propellers or rotors), quadcopter (four rotors), hexacopter (six rotors), and octocopter (eight rotors). The most common multirotor is the quadcopter. The multirotors are easy to control. They are good with payload delivery. They can take off and land vertically, almost anywhere. The flight is more stable than the single rotor and the fixed wing. One of the disadvantages of the multirotor is power consumption. As they have a number of motors, they consume a lot of power.

Classifying drones based on body structure

We can also classify multirotor drones by their body structure. They can be known by the number of propellers used on them. Some drones have three propellers. They are called tricopters. If there are four propellers or rotors, they are called quadcopters. There are hexacopters and octacopters with six and eight propellers, respectively.

The gliding drones or fixed wings do not have a structure like copters. They look like the airplane. The shapes and sizes of the drones vary from purpose to purpose. If you need a spy drone, you will not make a big octacopter right? If you need to deliver a cargo to your friend’s house, you can use a multirotor or a single rotor:

  • The Ready to Fly (RTF) drones do not require any assembly of the parts after buying. You can fly them just after buying them. RTF drones are great for the beginners. They require no complex setup or programming knowledge.
  • The Bind N Fly (BNF) drones do not come with a transmitter. This means, if you have bought a transmitter for yourother drone, you can bind it with this type of drone and fly. The problem is that an old model of transmitter might not work with them and the BNF drones are for experienced flyers who have already flown drones with safety, and had the transmitter to test with other drones.
  • The Almost Ready to Fly (ARF) drones come with everything needed to fly, but a few parts might be missing that might keep it from flying properly. Just kidding! They come with all the parts, but you have to assemble them together before flying. You might lose one or two things while assembling. So be careful if you buy ARF drones. I always lose screws or spare small parts of the drones while I assemble. From the name of these types of drones, you can imagine why they are called by this name. The ARF drones require a lot of patience to assemble and bind to fly. Just be calm while assembling. Don’t throw away the user manuals like me. You might end up with either pocket screws or lack of screws or parts.

Key components for building a drone

To build a drone, you will need a drone frame, motors, radio transmitter and reciever, battery, battery adapters/chargers, connectors and modules to make the drone smarter.

Drone frames

Basically, the drone frame is the most important component to build a drone. It helps to mount the motors, battery, and other parts on it. If you want to build a copter or a glide, you first need to decide what frame you will buy or build. For example, if you choose a tricopter, your drone will be smaller, the number of motors will be three, the number of propellers will be three, the number of ESC will be three, and so on. If you choose a quadcopter it will require four of each of the earlier specifications. For the gliding drone, the number of parts will vary. So, choosing a frame is important as the target of making the drone depends on the body of the drone. And a drone’s body skeleton is the frame. In this book, we will build a quadcopter, as it is a medium size drone and we can implement all the things we want on it.

If you want to buy the drone frame, there are lots of online shops who sell ready-made drone frames. Make sure you read the specification before buying the frames. While buying frames, always double check the motor mount and the other screw mountings. If you cannot mount your motors firmly, you will lose the stability of the drone in the air. About the aerodynamics of the drone flying, we will discuss them soon. The following figure shows a number of drone frames. All of them are pre-made and do not need any calculation to assemble.

You will be given a manual which is really easy to follow:

drone manual

You should also choose a material which light but strong. My personal choice is carbon fiber. But if you want to save some money, you can buy strong plastic frames. You can also buy acrylic frames. When you buy the frame, you will get all the parts of the frame unassembled, as mentioned earlier.

The following picture shows how the frame will be shipped to you, if you buy from the online shop:

drone components

If you want to build your own frame, you will require a lot of calculations and knowledge about the materials. You need to focus on how the assembling will be done, if you build a frame by yourself. The thrust of the motor after mounting on the frame is really important. It will tell you whether your drone will float in the air or fall down or become imbalanced. To calculate the thrust of the motor, you can follow the equation that we will speak about next.

If P is the payload capacity of your drone (how much your drone can lift. I’ll explain how you can find it), M is the number of motors, W is the weight of the drone itself, and H is the hover throttle % (will be explained later). Then, our thrust of the motors T will be as follows:

drone calculations

The drone’s payload capacity can be found with the following equation:

drone's payload capacity equation

[box type=”note” align=”” class=”” width=””]Remember to keep the frame balanced and the center of gravity remains in the hands of the drone.[/box]

Check out the book, Building Smart Drones with ESP8266 and Arduino by Syed Omar Faruk Towaha to read about the other components that go into making a drone and then build some fun drone projects from follow me drones, to drone that take selfies to those that race and glide.

Check out other posts on IoT:

How IoT is going to change tech teams

AWS Sydney Summit 2018 is all about IoT

25 Datasets for Deep Learning in IoT

Building Smart Drones with ESP8266 and Arduino


Managing Editor, Packt Hub. Former mainframes/DB2 programmer turned marketer/market researcher turned editor. I love learning, writing and tinkering when I am not busy running after my toddler. Wonder how algorithms would classify this!


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