Advancements in Drone Technology: Essential Components and Stabilization Techniques

An optical drone, dipping low before a herd of antelope, collects footage for a new documentary. Equipped with advanced optics fixed securely to its unobtrusive body, it can take high-quality imagery even under harsh environmental conditions.

Later, the same team might deploy another drone equipped with infrared (IR) sensors to determine where large herds of animals are congregated in this desert. IR sensors rely on the infrared light emitted by warm bodies.

Infrared sensors or optics for drone provide a seeing eye where humans are unwilling or unable to go

Infrared sensors or optics for drone provide a seeing eye where humans are unwilling or unable to go. Image Credit: Avantier Inc.

The technology behind aerial drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), has improved rapidly in recent years. Drones are lighter, more powerful, and more maneuverable than ever before.

Drone optics have also seen significant improvements. They can now take high-quality machine vision into arenas that could not previously be surveyed. This article examines what it takes to manufacture an effective optical system for a drone.

Applications of Optical Drones

Drones furnished with infrared sensors or other optical systems find use in various fields, including natural resource management, agriculture, cinematography, research, and defense. A few of their applications include:

  • Scanning electrical equipment (such as fuses, switchgear, or breaker panels) in buildings;
  • Examining the structural integrity of towers, bridges or other architectural structures;
  • Detecting and tracking forest fires, and overseeing firefighting;
  • Taking still images and videos for movies, documentaries, and news reels;
  • Long-range evaluation of crop health and the early identification of problem areas; 
  • Monitoring livestock and determining their movements;
  • Measuring the saturation or scarcity of water in a specific area;
  • By scanning roofs and facades they can identify the source of energy inefficiencies in buildings;
  • Supporting search-and-rescue operations;
  • Providing motion detection for security systems with the use of sensors.

IR sensors and optics for drone enable a wide range of surveillance

IR sensors and optics for drone enable a wide range of surveillance. Image Credit: Avantier Inc.

For some applications, a drone may need a high-quality aerial camera to produce high-resolution video images in hostile environments. For others, small drones with passive IR sensors for thermal imaging or LiDAR for obstacle sensing and mapping terrain may be required.

Choosing Optics for a UAV: What to Consider

When choosing the optical system for a drone, its chief purpose and the environment in which it will be used must be considered.

Reliability, speed, and operating conditions (heat, light, weather, etc.) should be considered. Reliability is often important for drone-mounted optics and PIR sensors.

When designing optical systems for drones, low weight and power consumption are often preferable. The apparatus's maximum weight (lens, mounts, and housing) and the system's power requirement must be considered.

Stabilizing Optics

When taking a snapshot on a phone, it can be difficult to hold it steady enough to obtain an un-blurred, high-quality image. The same problem exists when using drones to produce images, but in this case, it is more complicated.

Drone images can be stabilized either by using technology that holds the drone still (despite wind or difficult environmental conditions) or through image-stabilization technology built into the optical system itself.

Image-stabilization technology can be divided into electronic image stabilization (EIS) and optical image stabilization (OIS). In EIS, an inertial measurement unit sensor (IMU) provides motion data, and software then compensates for distortions.

IMUs usually include a three-axis accelerator and gyroscope and are also used to enable stable flight. In OIS, the motion experienced by the sensor is recorded and this data is used to influence the imaging device to compensate for this motion.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Avantier Inc.

For more information on this source, please visit Avantier Inc.

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