What Are UAVs and How Do Their Navigation Systems Function?

A UAV, or unmanned aircraft vehicle, is an aircraft that is capable of carrying out flight operations without a pilot on board. Ranging from small quadcopter drones to advanced military surveillance aircraft, UAV systems can come in many forms and benefit a diverse set of applications and industries with their capabilities. As UAVs are becoming ever more present in consumer, commercial, and defense sectors alike, understanding their functionality and uses can be useful for anyone interested in them. In this blog, we will discuss what UAV systems are, their various types, and how they navigate without a pilot on board. 

While UAVs, drones, RPASs, and UASs are all common terms used by enthusiasts and operators alike to describe unmanned aircraft vehicles, such names are fairly interchangeable for describing the same family of systems. Generally speaking, the term “drone” is the casual form of referring to UAV systems, typically encompassing both consumer and defense models. Furthermore, all drone systems are those that are operated remotely or autonomously without a pilot on board. While UAV systems were initially a technology that was unique to military operations, they have since extended to consumer and industrial markets for a number of uses.

For industrial applications, drone surveillance can be used to safely and efficiently monitor wind parks, power lines, power plants, solar parks, and other industrial areas. As such, drone systems may be used to quickly find any issues that may require assessment or attention. Similarly, drones may also be used for monitoring and surveying areas, often benefiting many environmental and scientific endeavors. By having small drones go into remote natural habitats and other areas, conservationists can monitor ecosystems for the means of preservation. Drones are also highly useful for safety and rescue, as they can be sent into hard-to-reach and hazardous areas during a search and rescue operation, allowing for personnel to locate individuals in need before risking a team. As UAV systems continue to advance, grow cheaper, and diversify their applications, we may even see more uses in the coming future such as deliveries.

While some robust UAV systems are autonomous in their control, many require a degree of input from an operator. For low-cost drones, a pilot utilizes a remote for determining the position, orientation, speed, and other factors of the vehicle. Depending on the hardware installed on the drone aircraft body, operators may have to keep the drone in sight for optimal control, or a video feed may allow for remote viewing while piloting. For much more advanced drones that surpass standard consumer use, piloting is often provided by a GPS navigation system. With a GPS, a drone may feature the ability to maintain a fixed position in altitude, return to a set position on the press of a button, or even undertake fully autonomous flight based on a GPS waypoint. For UAV systems that are traversing through tight areas in which GPS signals may be unreliable, such autonomous vehicles may also utilize inertial navigation as well. With the implementation of gyroscopes, accelerometers, and other such components, the drone can monitor its positioning on three axes, allowing for it to fly smoothly. For such navigation, the drone will often relay data to the operator so that they may better control the vehicle.

Since the advent of early military drones and systems, UAV technology has rapidly advanced and expanded to multiple markets and industries. As the technology continues to improve, autonomous flying may become more accurate and widely available, allowing for many to harness the ability of the GPS navigation system for their drones. At NSN Components, we can help you secure the drone system parts that you need for your operations with ease. Explore our robust part catalogues at your leisure, and our team of industry experts is readily available 24/7x365 to assist you through the purchasing process as needed. Get started today and experience how we are revolutionizing the parts procurement process for our customers. 


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January 18, 2021

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