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Aircraft & UAV Drones vs Stormy Weather

NASA storing F22 Raptors : Image by David C. Bowman 
Here (image above) you see an ultra wide fisheye view of some F22 Raptors being stored in a NASA hanger in Hampton Virginia, where a powerful weather system is hammering the area right now! 

Drone Limitations 

Departing from the header subject about F22 Raptors in a Nasa hanger, I want to discuss 3 problems with consumer drones that keep me from investing in one.

1. No Weather Sealing

Not water-proof and cannot fly in the rain, few models sporting ruggedization features, none that have good image stabilization for mobile photography anyway. Right now it is raining with heavy wind outside right now where I live, and even if I had a drone, it would not be practical to fly in 50mph gusts enhanced with cold rain!

2. Limited Range

Related to point 3, the limited range of most quad copters make them unattractive. Most break free from their radio data link in less than 1 mile. Further more you are required by the FAA to keep your drone within line of sight :(

3. Short Runtime

They fly for 30 min or less per charge. The power draw so large that it juices the death out of the batteries, meaning low cycle life, higher costs, more battery packs required, and not my cup of tea. Ever seen a swollen RC LiPO pack before? Almost reminds me of the Samsung Note 7

My Drone History

I had an original AR drone for a few years, it almost flew away for good once, thankfully because of the wifi video streaming I was able to use my ancient iPod Touch 4 to track it down. The incident occurred around dusk, it took me over an hour to get it down from 30ft up in a fir tree. Meg the lovely ended up getting $100 for that drone, its 3 batteries and 2 chargers. The batteries were so weak that they only gave about 8min of runtime per charge towards the end.

I got a little electric indoor helicopter for $30 that was fun, but after about 50 flights I crashed and totaled it. I Carefully disassembled the wreckage with a normal 00 + screwdriver,  and recycled all the parts responsibly!

FAA N# Registration now Required $5 

If you operate a drone that weighs more than 250 grams, you have to register with the FAA in case your drone flys off astray somewhere beyond your ability to locate it. If you are operating a drone that weighs more than 23,000 grams it has to be registered with the FAA like a normal aircraft! I am sure this will create downward pressure on drone manufactures to build gamble image stabilized 4K camera models that weigh 249grams or less, especial given that the consumer technology association believes that 400,000 drones will be purchased as gifts this holiday season! SUB 250g UAV's are going to be popular as gifts because they do not have to be registered!

Software Image Stabilization Mediocre 

The only small camera drones I have seen so far use software image stabilization that is mediocre, because it limits resolution. These smaller models often have wifi control, which is cool because you can use your phone to fly them, but in wifi dense urban areas the RF polluted airwaves in the same fequency bands will hinder a clean video link to your phone, or will interfere with the control of the drone if you use micro-SD memory with the onboard camera. Often drones fly away from their pilots when the RF control data control link is broken. Weak low power transceiver sets limited the practical range to less than 600 ft in many cases.

Huge Price Range

The price range starting at $14 for tiny indoor toy models including a small RF or IR remote, going up to more than $150million in the case of the latest military unmanned area vehicles. High performance FPV setups offer a VR like head mounted display experiences, addition video high band width required for Stero 3D, enthusiasts often spend $5000+ on their setups, including field chargers, spare batteries, replacement blades, replacement motors, replacement parts for everything. You can build custom models like a desktop computer with many different combinations of parts and technologies. The democratization of drone technology driving down the price of advanced features like gamble optical image stabilization. The DJI Osmos at the forefront of the consumer video stabilization space right now! Its amazing how these professional camera devices have come down in price as the markets expand for camera video stabilization systems. That Hero 5 session camera looks interesting. The truth is that I need to work on leveraging more of my existing camera systems ^^ None are small enough to mount to a light low power drone.

Commercial Drones

High end commercial UAV's have found an interesting series applications in Aerospace, Search & Rescue, Disaster Recovery, Law Enforcement, Ad Video recording platforms that are replacing helicopter video systems long used by Automakers in TV commercials that promote new vehicles.

BMW recently announced a convertible version of its plug-in hybrid super car the i8 ^^

Image BMWBLOG.com
Speaking of BMW, drones are super popular in Germany, where a machine oriented culture like Japan and the United States exists. Some of the most powerful consumer drone projects started in Germany. ASCTEC in Germany for example!

AscTec Falcon 8 with Intel® RealSense™ cameras
Germany is also a leader in Solar Power, at the cutting edge of renewable energy adoption.

Solar Rooftops in Germany
The rest of the world seems to be waiting for solar panels to drop further below $0.36 per watt at the panel level, the balance of materials costs from the wiring, mounting, fuses, charge controllers, inverters and grid internee components now more expensive than the solar panels in many installations.
30 year old solar panel Testing :) 
Solar Power 

Solar panels were more than $700 per watt in 1970. Solar becomes more affordable every year. The main problem with solar is a mismatch between when most people are using power at home (evening) and when the sun produces peak solar irradiation levels near the biospheres surface (day)

Energy storage systems are going to be instrumental to the mass market adoption of distributed solar energy generation capacity at any significant scale.

Tesla Powerwall ESS system installation : Image Link
Today world solar power only contribute about 1% of the energy that society generators via other means, like hydro power, nuclear thermal power, carbon thermal power, turbine generators of Gigawatt class output at coal power plants, nuclear power plants, geothermal power plants. Gigawatt is a good scale for centralized base load capacity factor.

World Energy Consumption vs Time : Image Link
The classically Long ROI times for solar systems have been addressed by creative energy company Solar City, with innovating 15 year lease financing. This allows home owners to replace their electric bills with a solar lease bill that slowly pays off the system. The batteries will wear out, so do the inverters and charge controllers, the longest lasting components in a solar installation are the panels, especially high quality mono-crystalize silicon solar, the oldest and most robust technology in widespread use throughout the world.

I have a small 20W mono + charge controller setup in my window, charing a home spun 12.6v PBA bank to 13.2VCD float charge. A 2000w 12v sine wave inverter is the power out backup, it was built as non grid based uninterruptible power supply when Meg and I were living in an Apartment. The system was sized to operate LED lighting, a 600w microwave oven, a 1500w electric portable stove heater, so that we can sterilize water, have light, and cook food during a power outage. Generators were not allowed in the apartment complex we lived in previously.

Dim Stormy Weather Outside : Low Natural Light Level
Pulse Testing Under Idle Load : Good : 12.6v indicated 

Tesla Motors, the worlds best EV manufacturer recently acquired Solar City. The merger comes as Tesla plasters the gigantic roof of their gigafactory with hundreds of thousands of solar panels. Apple Inc is covering the roof of the new Space Ship HQ with a massive solar array.

Tesla Gigafactory Solar Roof Visualization : Image Link
Apple Spaceship New HQ Conceptual Design : Link

Electric UAV's with solar power have circumnavigated the globe, like the NASA Helios!

The NASA Helios Prototype : Image Link






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