Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

Flying free

Tim Altegör, 6 Jan 14
Small remote-controlled aircraft powered by multiple propellers are taking over the skies. The technology is also proving useful for inspecting wind turbines.

Germany’s national rail operator uses them, so does Saxony’s police force, and it goes without saying that the Bundeswehr – Germany’s armed forces – has one or two on its books. We’re talking about drones, remote-controlled aircraft that are best known for their role in war zones like Afghanistan. But the technology is now also being used to help in disaster areas such as Fukushima, to monitor off-duty trains, to film demonstrations and to document archaeological digs. Wind turbines stand to benefit too. By taking aerial pictures of the nacelle and rotor blades, the mini aircraft can help to identify cracks or dents with relatively little effort.

Drone technology is currently one big playground for hobbyists and pioneering minds, and it seems these people are not averse to having a bit of fun while they’re about it: when Lady Gaga released her latest album, she hovered over the stage in a dress that was powered by six small drones and controlled by a specialist standing in the wings. The European Commission, however, has much bigger plans for civilian drones. According to a brochure published by the Commission, getting more drones into the sky will boost creativity and innovation in Europe and create numerous jobs for highly qualified people in industry and
the service sector.

The official term for a drone is “unmanned aerial vehicle”, or UAV for short. As the name suggests, the planes have no pilot on board and are controlled remotely.

This is an abridged version of the article – the full text is available in new energy issue 01/2014

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