AEROSPACE SENSORS » TECHNOLOGY FEATURE
gazing patterns. Given issues such as
dealing with severe drought, drones
will become increasingly important
as a useful tool for the agriculture
industry. According to a Bank
of America Merrill Lynch global
research report, the agricultural
drone market has the potential to
generate more than 100,000 jobs in
the U.S and $82 billion in economic
activity between 2015 and 2025.
The use of drones in healthcare
is also gaining attention. Small
drones can be used inside of
medical facilities to efficiently and
autonomously carry and deliver
medicine to the bedside of a
patient. They can also be used to
deliver critical items such as blood
for analysis and medical supplies.
Ambulance drones are also being
tested. These drones can be used
to deliver automatic external
defibrillators increasing the survival
rates with cases of cardiac arrests.
Prototypes have been conceived and
developed by TU Delft University
in the Netherlands.
THE TECHNOLOGY THAT MAKES DRONES
Given the current growth trends
for drones, what are the underlying
sensor technologies that make them
Accelerometers are used to
determine position and orientation
of the drone in flight. Like your
Nintendo Wii controller or your
iPhone screen position, these small
silicon-based sensors play a key
role in maintaining flight control.
MEMS accelerometers sense
movement in several ways. One
type of technology senses the micro
movement of very small structures
embedded small integrated circuit.
The movement of these small
‘diving boards’ change the amounts
of electrical current moving through
the structure, indicating change of
position relative to gravity.
Another technology used in
accelerometers is thermal sensing
which offers several distinct
advantages. It does not have moving
parts, but instead senses changes
in the movement of gas molecules
passing over a small integrated
circuit. Because of the sensitivity
of these sensors, they play a role
in stabilizing on-board cameras,
which are vital for applications
like filmmaking. By controlling
up and down movement, as well
as removing jitter and vibration,
filmmakers are able to capture
extremely smooth looking video.
Additionally, because these sensors
are more immune to vibrations
than other technologies, thermal
MEMS sensors are perfect in drone
applications to minimize problems
from the increased vibration
generated by the movement of
rotating propulsion fans/propellers.
units combined with
GPS are critical for
and flight paths.
As drones become
these are essential to
to flight rules and
air traffic control.
units utilize multi-axis
are in essence small,
These sense changes
in direction and feed
data into a central
Tilt sensors, combined
with gyros and
accelerometers provide input
to the flight control system in
order to maintain level flight.
This is extremely important for
applications where stability is
paramount, from surveillance
to delivery of fragile goods.
These types of sensors combine
accelerometers with gyroscopes,
allowing the detection of small
variations of movement. It is the
gyroscope compensation that
allows these tilt sensors to be used
in moving applications like motor
vehicles or drones.
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MAY»JUN 2016» wirelessdesignmag.com