Drone Components: Every Little Detail to Know About!

This article will help you better understand the details drones are made of and every function they have.
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Last updatedLast updated: July 02, 2022
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Drones can have many components. We are here to review many of the drone components that comprise most drones and what they do. Technology has seriously advanced even since drones first become a technological phenomenon, and they have become a favorite of hobbyists, flight enthusiasts, and videographers. Using a variety of items, including cameras, sensors, and gimbals, people can make seriously cool videos and photos from angles not possible on foot or with other equipment.

Drone parts and components

Whether you are looking for a beginner drone or have moved on to something more advanced in capabilities, our guide will help you decide what is important for your drone components. Some drones are flexible and can take new parts, including antennas and sensors, to upgrade their capabilities. Drone parts and components are also easily found in a variety of hobby stores and, of course, online. We have a couple of suggestions below for some of the parts.

Standard prop

Drone Components: Every Little Detail to Know About!

A propeller is the main component in every drone. Propellers are shaped in a slightly twisted way that creates differences in air pressure surrounding the propeller while moving. The propellers push the air down in an effort to create the lift necessary for flight. There are effective ways to learn how to fix a drone propeller.

As one of many moving parts involved in the operation of a drone, propellers are also among the most likely to have a problem. These problems can include issues with the transmitter, battery, and the propeller itself.

There is indeed a difference in propeller performance based on a few factors. The size of the propeller, in width, determines how much ability is generated to climb. A larger propeller also needs less power and is more stable in flight. A smaller propeller will climb a bit slower and turn a bit slower as well.

The pitch also controls how responsive the drone is at speed. A large pitch can go faster but also has less traction at low speed. A small pitch is great for low-speed turning but won’t respond as effectively at high speed.

The number of propellers on your drone depends on what kind of drone you have. A quadcopter is the most common kind of drone. As the name quad implies, these have four propellers. Quadcopters are quite popular because they tend to have the best balance. A tripcopter or three-propelled drone is also possible though less common. A tricopter is now seen as a beginner’s drone and is usually pretty cheap, as they are easy to make. They have one less motor and are easy to maintain. Conversely, they are more likely to break upon crashing. The choice between a quadcopter and a tricopter is up to you and your experience level and comfort. If you can afford it, consider a quadcopter simply because they are generally better protected against crashes compared to a tripcopter. There is a good chance that any medium-range drone you purchase can have different propellors attached for different wants within a flight. See what works best for you!

Pusher prop

A pusher propeller works a bit differently than the standard propeller. As the name indicates, the pusher propeller is positioned behind the drone. These types of propellers push the drone forward rather than up or down.

These propellers rotate clockwise. They are often made of plastic though the higher-end kinds are made of carbon fiber.

Brushless motor

Brushless motors are generally used in slightly larger too large drones. Brushless motors tend to be very efficient with battery, powerful enough to lift the drone and its weight up, and reliable for near everyday use.

Brushless motors last longer than the brushed motors used on some smaller, cheaper drones because they are more efficient, and they don’t have brushes that could wear out from time and use.

Drone Components: Every Little Detail to Know About!

While brushless motors offer big advantages in terms of reliability and performance over a brushed motor, they don’t really cost that much more, though they often come with more features. You can find a good drone with a brushless motor for under $300

Drone owners should aim for a 2:1 thrust to weight ratio. You can certainly go higher if you want your drone to travel faster – and in professional drone racing, you can see in excess of 13:1. A photography rig should also aim for at least 3:1 to 4:1 to be able to carry a high-quality camera well above the ground. Consider your own uses and what you will need to lift.

Motor mount

The motor mount for your drone is akin to the motor mount for the engine on a car. The motor mount is a piece of metal or plastic designed to keep your motor attached to the drone. Your drone should come with a motor mount, but if you are planning on upgrading your drone at all, it might be worth considering upgrading the motor mount too.

One advantage of a bigger, more robust motor mount is having less risk of having the drone fall apart while flying or if it crashes. This is also why inspecting your drone before flying, especially after a crash or accident, is a good idea. You won’t risk the motor falling off and having to retrieve a drone and a motor.

Be careful, though. Just like putting a screw into sensitive wood or metal, don’t turn these too tight. Turning the screws on a motor mount too tight can cause the mount to bend and lead to instability and potential cracks. Read the instruction manual prior to installation for the best results.

Landing gear

Just like an airplane or helicopter, your drone can be safer landing on a landing gear. Some drones do land on their “belly,” and they are designed to do so; landing gear comes in two different kinds: fixed or retractable.

The fixed landing gear is permanently down and ready for a landing. You don’t need to worry about extending landing gear as you are ready to land because the landing gear is ready for you. There are a couple of disadvantages to fixed landing gear, though. Fixed landing gear causes extra drag and can slow your drone down a bit. The same drone with fixed landing gear versus retractable is likely to take off a bit faster and cruise fatter.

Drone Components: Every Little Detail to Know About!

The retractable landing gear has its own benefits and limitations. First, you have to lower the landing gear yourself unless your drone has built-ins that figure that out for you. Second, the retractable landing gear has additional hardware that needs to be stored inside the drone at first. This means potentially limited space for other purposes. Finally, the additional hardware can add weight to the drone as well as the expense of more parts.

The retractable landing gear is also generally limited to higher-end performance drones. You may not be able to find retractable landing gear on a lower-priced drone.

The difference is really up to your preferences. Find someone who has either kind and try them. You might learn that you prefer the performance factors that come with a higher-end drone with the retractable landing gear. You might also learn that you prefer fixed landing gear because the speed and liftoff are already good enough. This is more about personal preference than anything else.

Boom

We call the main body that connects everything within the drone the boom. The boom also needs to be the toughest part of the drone body, as it will likely take most of the impact during a crash. A shorter boom is more maneuverable. A longer boom is more stable. If you are building a drone, use the best combination of propellers, boom, and others that best fit your flying style. Like the propellers, inspect the boom before flying and ensure it’s not bent at all, especially post-crash. You can find a good, reasonably priced boom arm here.

Main drone body part

This is called the main drone body part because it holds most of the important parts of the drone. Booms come out of the main drone body part itself, as all the controls are located here.

This part houses avionics, sensors, camera, processors, and the body. While you can build the main drone body part, most of it will come enclosed on none high-end models.

It’s also important to note that this is the most sensitive part of the drone. They aren’t often waterproof and are sensitive to shock and water. Keep the main part of the body safe. Don’t land in water or spill water in it for the risk of crying internal circuits.

Electronic Speed Controllers (ESP)

This helps make your drone go. ESP is installed between the battery and motor and controls how much energy is transferred to the brushless motor. ESC must be rated for the highest draw the motor is capable of in order to deliver the most performance.

The Electronic Speed Controller is also part of the drone braking system. Simply limiting the amount of energy being transferred for a short time slows the propellers and drone down. Most drones do not allow you to access your Electronic Speed Controller. Some offer what calls a Special Development Kit or SDK that lets you alter the speed controller. Newer, most recent electronic speed controllers can make the motors themselves more efficient. Research the speed controller on your next drone to learn more.

Flight controller

Drone Components: Every Little Detail to Know About!

Your flight controller is literally in your hands. These are the brains sending signals to the nerve centers within the drone. You’ve probably seen a drone flight controller before. In many ways, they resemble a large video game controller. These also tend to have video screens so you can see where you are.

The flight controller sends signals to your drone. These signals are mostly for speed changes, directions, camera use, turning, and other functions, including using waypoints for directions. These can be quite sophisticated and include gyroscopes and GPS. Flight controllers will also have a range to fit your drone, as you might be flying a significant distance away.

The components inside the flight controller that help control functions include

  • For determining how the drone is oriented in space.
  • Determines the speed of the drone in all directions.
  • Determines the physical location of the drone.
  • Determines the height of the drone in the airspace.
  • Processor – intake and output of commands.
  • WiFi – some have WiFi to interface with a phone or computer. This is most often for updates or changes.

Most drones do not allow much customization to their flight controller, and you probably won’t need to. It is possible to get a different controller for your drone besides the one it came with. Some higher-end and professional drones make it possible to pair with the user’s preferred flight controller.

GPS module

You’ve probably heard of Global Positioning Systems. How does this apply to drones? It’s actually pretty important. GPS within the drone and the flight controller help guide the drone to the right place. GPS also lets the flight controller know where the drone is physically located. The next step for GPS is making waypoints or directions. Some drones can go autopilot and fly to places without much, if any, intervention from the pilot. They use GPS to fly to the correct location.

GPS literally uses satellites in orbit to constantly communicate the speed and location of the drone. This is quite similar to how your vehicle’s navigation system or phone’s maps app works.

One important thing about most drones: They will often have a failsafe built-in as well in case something fails within the GPS. The drone is able to navigate itself back to a place where a connection can be made and guidance reestablished.

A drone without GPS would not be very useful. You wouldn’t know the location of your drone and would have to be physically present to successfully use it.

Receiver

Drone Components: Every Little Detail to Know About!

A drone will have receivers in the flight controller and in the drone itself. The receiver’s purpose is to communicate instructions from the flight controller to the drone. These instructions can be a variety of things, from turning, accelerating to using other drone features like taking a picture.

A typical drone will have as many receivers as it does motors/propellers and special features, plus one. For example, a quadcopter with a gimbal camera might have 6 receivers or more. A receiver can also receive up to 8 instructions to allow for greater control over the drone’s function.

Antenna

The antenna is the basis for wireless communication. In the case of a drone, the antenna is especially important if you want to feed nice-looking wireless video back to the transmitter or other hardware.

While not all drones come with them, it’s easy to upgrade to a circularly polarized cloverleaf antenna to get optimal video performance, even over distance. Other than a gimbal, which is listed later, an antenna is among the most important upgrades for a drone if you wish to increase its capabilities.

Battery

Most drones come with similar lithium-ion batteries that you would find in a smartphone or digital camera. They are light, have a high capacity, and usually fully recharge in less than 8 hours using a wall plugin.

Drones might have a different battery life than you expect. Given their need to be as light as possible, most mini-drones carry a charge worth about 12-15 minutes of flight. A commercial drone is usually less than 30 minutes.

Some upcoming commercial drone batteries can charge quite fast Trusted Source 10-minute charge drone 'battery' now commercially available - sUAS News - The Business of Drones For many years traditional battery development has been optimizing for capacity, slowly increasing usable EV range, while still working within chemistry constraints that limit peak power output and charge time. On the other end of the spectrum, we have had very fast charge/discharge capacitors, with historically limited capacity, slowly being optimized for capacity and EV range. www.suasnews.com , though. These abilities are good news for professional and amateur users alike. While you still probably have to carefully plan your footage, you at least have the option to do it again soon after.

Some drones can also have an extra battery on hand to be used on the spot. These are quite handy for multiple shoots or longer time needs.

Battery monitor

Your cell phone has a fairly obvious battery indicator in the corner. The battery monitor located on most basic drones and above is on the flight controller and lets you know that the battery is getting low. In some cases, the battery monitor can also bring the done back automatically to avoid running out of power. Otherwise, the drone has a chance of crash landing. We generally don’t suggest flying at all under 20% to avoid situations for a risky landing. This is much like embarking on a flight without enough gas in the tank – don’t do it!

Gimbal

The gimbal is a piece of equipment designed to hold, contain, and move a camera or other devices attached to the drone. You have probably seen gimbals used without really knowing it – they are most often attached to tripods and used to take wide but precise photos for real estate and weddings, amongst other uses.

The gimbal is most often used for a camera. Given the drone is move, vibrating, and potentially turning while taking a photo, it’s safe to say that even a good camera is not very useful without a good gimbal. The gimbal stabilizes the camera. There are many drone gimbals available, and their use depends on whether you want to shoot from a first-person perspective or down at angles.

Gimbal motor

A drone gimbal can have three different motors powered by brushless motors. While a gimbal keeps the camera stable, the gimbal motor allows the pilot to change the perspective of the camera regardless of which way the drone is facing. The gimbal is then controlled by the flight controller itself while you are on the ground. A gimbal motor is especially critical for those taking aerial photography or videography seriously.

Gimbal controller unit

These are similar to your Speed control unit. The gimbal controller connects between the battery within the gimbal motor to give the right amount of power and movement to the gimbal.

Camera

Most people who buy drones tend to use them for their camera abilities. We could say a lot about cameras, but generally, videography or photography are primary motivations. Cameras come with a large array of qualities and lenses that contribute to high-quality photography. With a gimbal and motor, you can take seriously fluid professional-looking photos and videos from up high.

Drone Components: Every Little Detail to Know About!

Commercial photography, as well as videography, have become huge for drone fliers. “Fly throughs” featuring a drone flying through a business have become hits on social media platforms, and drones generally allow a new perspective, especially for businesses to get photos of their buildings or projects without needing to rent a small airplane or a slow crane.

Real-time streaming from a camera is possible, too, in many cases. This is good for some sporting events. If you want a basic drone with a camera at a price, look no further. Drones also have some amazing, practical, and scientific uses Trusted Source The FPV drone pilots taking cameras where humans can't go From the peaks of Italy’s Dolomite mountains to the clear blue waters of Jamaica, van Jason and Carvajal use FPV to tell stories. After thousands of hours of research, studying and practice, both say they have plans to explore new parts of the world with their FPV drones. In van Jason’s case, it’s all about creating an authentic experience for the audience as well as himself. Those insects in Venezuela, for example, “make it feel 100% real and that stays ten times more in your memory.” www.cnn.com .

Sensors

Drones come with a variety of sensors used for sensing things internally and externally. We’ll focus more on external here. Drone abilities including

  • There’s nothing better for finding heat than a thermal sensor. While unlikely within practical applications, these are used regularly for missing person searches.
  • Visible light sensors: These help with seeing better at night and are somewhat similar to a lowered powered night vision.

Collision avoidance sensors

Since more and more drones are in the skies, and some can be up at the same time with airplanes – collision avoidance is a thing.

Collision avoidance sees what the pilot probably can’t see all that well – other drones and planes. Collision avoidance also helps pilots avoid general indoor and outdoor obstacles.

Collision avoidance is built into some drones and avoids that terrifying moment when you crash into something at full speed in the sky or closer to the ground.

Active tracking follow and safety features

In some ways, this refers to customizable paths the drone can take to follow you. This can be for safety reasons, but mostly to capture cinematic video of a person on a bike, to fly, or other sporting moments.

These are serious drones, mostly for athletes or professional fliers. They are also well suited to flying over water for swimmers or boaters who wish to capture their action. The best part of the active following is the ability to take videos when the person’s path of motion might be unpredictable, like surfing or hang gliding.

As mentioned previously, some drones come equipped with sensors to avoid crashing, ranging from avoiding obstacles to returning to a safe place if they run out of battery.

Final Thoughts

Drones have many moving parts. Drone components can certainly help you make the best use of your current drone investment by adding capabilities, like making your camera more stable or ensuring your drone can communicate from further away. Drone components are an integral part of also customizing your drone and making your hobby or professional drone usage more fun and profitable. Think about how far drones have come since the 1990s and 2000s and imagine what drone components and upgrades are possible in the future. Until then, we wish you the best with your hobby and hope you learned something new.

References

1.
10-minute charge drone 'battery' now commercially available - sUAS News - The Business of Drones
For many years traditional battery development has been optimizing for capacity, slowly increasing usable EV range, while still working within chemistry constraints that limit peak power output and charge time. On the other end of the spectrum, we have had very fast charge/discharge capacitors, with historically limited capacity, slowly being optimized for capacity and EV range.
2.
The FPV drone pilots taking cameras where humans can't go
From the peaks of Italy’s Dolomite mountains to the clear blue waters of Jamaica, van Jason and Carvajal use FPV to tell stories. After thousands of hours of research, studying and practice, both say they have plans to explore new parts of the world with their FPV drones. In van Jason’s case, it’s all about creating an authentic experience for the audience as well as himself. Those insects in Venezuela, for example, “make it feel 100% real and that stays ten times more in your memory.”
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