Whether used to capture stunning aerial photography, for surveillance, or as is mostly the case, just a bit of fun, drones have become the must-have gadget of 2016, and now a new manual from publisher Haynes gives readers a step-by-step guide to building their own.
The Build Your Own Drone Manual provides a comprehensive guide to building a basic, affordable, DIY drone, including selecting the most suitable components, information on the various types of hardware and motors for powering the vehicles, and advice on how to fit cameras and sensors. It also provides three example builds, including an aerial photography drone, a mini first-person-view (FPV) quadcopter designed for racing, and a fixed-wing drone with autopilot.
Written by aeronautics engineer and Cranfield University PhD student Alex Elliot, who also runs his own drone parts and equipment supply business, the manual opens with a history of unmanned aerial vehicles, which started life being used for military applications, but were gradually adopted for civilian and recreational use.
Crucially, with a number of negative incidents involving drones making the headlines recently, the manual also tackles the key issue of safety, with a detailed breakdown of safe flying practices and hobby regulations in the UK, and a list of pre-flight checks that can be made to maximise safety.
To provide the basic knowledge required to tackle a DIY drone project, the manual – in typical Haynes fashion – gives a detailed summary of the anatomy of a drone, and the aerodynamic science behind the devices’ ability to fly and manoeuvreability.
Speaking about the new book, Alex said: “This new manual is aimed at anyone who fancies trying their hand at making a drone for themselves, and provides them with the logic behind each decision, so readers can apply techniques to their own builds.
“There is no doubt that drones have rapidly grown in popularity and availability over the past couple of years, and many households in the UK now own one for recreational use. Their widespread availability means that anyone can get their hands on one, but people are not necessarily aware of the safety implications or best practice for taking them to the skies.”
Here, Alex provides his top tips on staying safe when flying drones:
- Start with the basics: When people build their own drone they often want to add all the bells and whistles available. But if you’re a beginner, just start with the most basic setup, then when you’re happy your aircraft is flying successfully, you can start adding extra equipment like cameras or first-person-view (FPV) gear.
- Check where you’re allowed to fly: It is illegal to fly drones over congested areas (streets, towns and cities), and they shouldn’t be flown within 50 metres of a person, vehicle or building. It goes without saying that they shouldn’t be flown near airports, and there are some good tools out there which highlight restricted areas or no-fly zones, including a smart-phone app called NoFlyDrones, or website www.noflydrones.co.uk.
- Check the batteries: Make sure batteries are properly charged on both the drone and radio-control equipment. If a device loses power mid-flight, unless it has a parachute, there is nothing to stop it heading back down to earth rapidly, which could cause injury to yourself or others.
- Check the weather forecast: Attempting to fly when it’s very windy isn’t advised, not least because you risk irreparably damaging the fruits of your labour!
- Secure all equipment: Equipment such as batteries or cameras can easily come loose during a flight if not securely fastened, so it’s worth investing the time beforehand to check everything is firmly in place.
- Eye contact: The drone should remain in the pilot’s line of sight at all times. If you’re flying using FPV, a second person must do this for you, but they don’t need to know how to fly the drone.
- Insure yourself: If you are intending to use a drone at a more advanced level, it is worth taking out liability insurance to protect yourself in the event of an incident that leads to a claim against you. Joining an organisation such as the British Model Flying Association will provide this as part of the membership package.
- The onus is on you: You are legally responsible for the safe conduct of each flight, and failure to comply with the appropriate regulations can lead to criminal prosecution. So be vigilant, and always err on the side of caution.
About the author
Alex Elliott has a passion for aircraft and engineering, and enjoys building his own model aircraft and experimenting with computer code for UAVs. He is currently completing a PhD at Cranfield University on computer vision for miniature UAVs, based on the same principles that honey bees use to navigate. He lives in Buckinghamshire.
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