Drone or unmanned aerial vehicles come with a lot of options that are available at variable prices. It might be difficult to navigate through all the features. Also, you have to look for what they mean and whether the feature is something you need or not. A common feature to the most mid-range consumer drones but not with lower-level toy drones is GPS. You might be wondering what GPS will do for you and if it’s worth the extra cost of buying a drone with GPS.
GPS drones are equipped with a GPS module that allows them to know their current location with a network of orbiting satellites. A drone can perform various functions by connecting to the signals from the satellites such as autonomous flight, position hold, waypoint navigations, and return to home.
What Is A 3D GPS Tracking Device?
The 3D GPS tracker captures the position of XYZ coordinate data and bearing such as yaw, roll, and pitch of an optical navigation marker or an EM sensor compared to a fixed object or landmark with a sensor in a 3D space. Position and orientation refer to degrees of freedom (DOF) that an object moves in 3D space. On the other hand, there are six degrees of freedom in total.
3D GPS is also known as 3D measurement, 3D motion tracking, or spatial measurement. It is used for real-time tool navigation and tracking. Like vehicle GPS navigation, coordinate data is used to show where an object is in 3D space. Also, it knows where it needs to go next. When a vehicle is having a 3D GPS, the car moves, and the destination is fixed while the map provides the itinerary of the trip.
On the other hand, when a vehicle is having a 2D planar view, the only position of the vehicle is available in the lines of longitude and latitude such as X and Y axes, respectively. The elevation information Z-axis is missing in a 2D GPS. As a result, the rotation data is missing from the GPS Tracking Device because only two degrees of freedom are indicated.
How It Helps To Fly
GPS technology has improved enough in recent years to be affordable and light enough to be more or less standard on an average consumer drone. Even some of the drones in the toy category have functional GPS. The 3D GPS function makes a big difference in the performance of the drone. Also, it plays an important role in many functions that pilots have relied on.
If you want to pre-plan a flight route such as drone light shows or mission for the drone, then you can do so by directing it to the specific GPS coordinates along the route, also known as waypoints. A 3D GPS tracking device in a drone can use the autopilot function to navigate the predetermined route. Also, the autonomous waypoint flight instruction can move the drone for a set amount of time for each location.
You can do this if you want to take an image of a specific area at a certain time. For an aerial photographer, if the drone is positioned on a predetermined heading and flies without receiving input from the controller, then the pilot can focus on the camera working for the shot. Autonomous flights are likely to be smoother than manual control. It can only happen if the drone has a 3D GPS tracking device.
Talking about commercial sectors, they heavily rely on the waypoint navigation technology in the drone. The GPS is an essential element for such a purpose that can be used for agriculture, construction, inspection, mapping, etc.
Return To Home
The return to home feature is a newbie and advanced feature making drones autonomous. It is one of the pilot’s best friends. The drone remembers and returns to the exact take-off location, a foot or two away. It is only possible with a 3D GPS tracking device that tells the drone where it is located at any given time and from where it took off.
Return to home feature is important when:
- The battery is depleted and when you are out of range of external connection with your drone.
- You are confused about the controls and you don’t know how to bring the drone back to the take-off position.
- The control signal is interrupted.
GPS Drone’s Wi-Fi Range
Low-End GPS Drone
100 to 150 meters
Mid-Range GPS Drone
2.4G Wi-Fi (Double Antenna Transmission)
200 to 300 meters
High-End GPS Drone
500 meters. 800 to 1000 meters with updated signal tech
Some drones use GPS to maintain a constant altitude during the flight. It is especially important when the latest FAA rules for tracking drones regulate that they must operate within 400 feet above the ground level. Some drones have a GPS that is pre-programmed for the limited altitude. On the other hand, some drones use onboard barometric sensors to determine the altitude.
Image sensors determine the proximity or distance of the objects directly below the drone. Hence, it enables the drone to maintain a constant altitude in the mutual flight without using GPS or other sensors, but it can be a challenge.
When the drone locks a GPS signal, it can identify and maintain the position relative to a fixed location. This function can also be known as stable hover. If you don’t power the drone with no control with the GPS, it will be able to stay put even in a moderate breeze. If it identifies that it has strayed from the original location, it automatically corrects itself to return to the same location in the air.
The same principle applies to obtaining a stable flight. A drone without a GPS gets away from the track by the breeze and the pilot has to work harder to maintain a straight and smooth flight. But if the drone is having a 3D GPS tracking device, then it can stay on the course with a more smooth and straight flight while identifying the objects near it.
Many GPS drones created a log of each flight. It gives you the details of how long it has flown, where it has flown, etc. It can be useful in keeping the record but it can also be useful in locating and recovering the crashed drone during a disaster.
For example, if the drone was unable to return home with a low battery while using the return to home function, it means it might have crashed somewhere. To find a lost or crashed drone, the flight log can help you to determine the last known GPS location of the drone. The drone will be approximately in the location but not somewhere far from the last GPS location.
3D GPS In Drone – Why Does It Matter
3D GPS in a drone is one of the best features that help the drone to have a smooth and straight flight. 3D GPS technology helps to locate the drone not only on X and Y axes but also on the Z-axis. With GPS, the drones can fly smoothly in extreme weather conditions. Also, when it comes to bringing the drone to the launching point, the 3D GPS is an essential component. It brings the drone back to the take-off location when the battery goes down or there is an interruption in the controller connection.
The practicality of medicine delivery through drones is possible due to 3D GPS tracking devices. It helps the drone to deliver not only medicine but other products at far distances. The obstacle avoidance feature has made drone deliveries possible. On the other hand, when the aerial photographer wants to take a perfect shot, the 3D GPS tracking can help them to work more on the camera than navigation.