Start increasing your drone knowledge right now by learning about the basic parts of a drone’s anatomy.
The first step in going from a beginning to an intermediate level about anything is to learn the jargon and verbiage that surrounds its major component(s).
For this reason, we have listed the basic parts of a drone.
Basic drone parts
These terms are the springboard that will allow you to converse with drone dealers and experts. You will be able to ask the right questions and focus on the most important things in your future drone experiences.
Standard or tractor propeller
The propellers that are located on the front of the drone is called the standard or tractor propellers. Note that this is the only distinction between the front and rear of a drone – otherwise, they both look the same.
Drone propellers are typically made from a durable plastic material, but some of the more expensive models have propellers made of carbon fiber to make them lighter.
It is not a bad idea for beginners to install propeller guards to protect them or anyone that might get accidentally hit while you’re learning to fly.
Always inspect your propellers before flying and keep a spare set handy. Never fly a drone that has damaged propellers – you are only asking for trouble if you do.
As you might assume from the name, pusher propellers are located on the rear of a drone as they push the unit forward through the sky. A more technical term for them that is also used is ‘contra-rotation’ propellers because of how they counteract against torque when the drone is stationary.
Besides the items mentioned above, pusher propellers are the same as tractor propellers regarding material, care, and upkeep.
Most drones today are equipped with brushless motors. This is a good thing because they are more reliable and considerably more efficient than traditional brushed motors.
And to get more technical than is probably necessary, brushless motors also come in two different configurations: inrunners or outrunners. The only difference between these two types of brushless motors is the location of their permanent magnets. The inrunner’s is located inside the electromagnet, while the outrunner’s is located outside the electromagnet.
The inrunner is actually a little more efficient, but outrunners are preferred because they are much quieter and incredibly more reliable.
The design of a drone motor is very critical. This is because their efficiency is what determines your battery life and your overall flight time. Of course, like everything else these days, drone motors are constantly evolving, so we will undoubtedly see better designs soon.
Since motors are canned units, there is a limitation to what we can do manually in terms of maintenance. But the one thing we can do is try to keep them clean of dust and debris. A small can of compressed air would help greatly in doing this – especially if your drone hasn’t been used in a while.
The best way to check your motor’s health is by sound. When you get used to how your drone motor usually sounds, you can notice any changes in its noise signature. You can always hover your drone a few feet off the ground or floor and take a listen.
If there is any indication of a potential motor failure, then you should change it immediately. This is why you should keep at least one spare motor on hand. Remember that it’s better to change out a motor than to crash and destroy your entire drone.
The way a drone lands is something that you should think about. There are some drones out there that land on a skid – like a helicopter does. These skids are mounted directly on the body of the drone.
On other drones, there could be retractable landing gear – like the ones that an airplane uses. This is a different situation altogether. This is not a bad thing; it just means you have to maintain the landing gear.
The landing gear needs to be in good condition. It must be clean and lubricated to work properly. Keep in mind that this gear protects all your sensors and your camera from damage when landing your drone.
Another aspect of landing gear pertains to how you will be using your drone. If you plan to use your drone for photography, then you will want to keep your landing gear out of the viewer frame.
The booms on some drones will be a part of the drone body itself, and on other models, they are separate sections. A solid boom is desirable as this determines how much damage is inflicted on a drone if it crashes.
Also, the length of the boom greatly affects the drone’s overall operation. Short booms give your drone more maneuverability but make it less stable. Conversely, longer booms make your unit less maneuverable but with more stability.
The biggest concern regarding booms is whether or not they are bent. A bent boom can make a drone extremely difficult to control while flying.
A drone’s body is its major component and the part from where the booms extend outward. Inside the body is where you’ll find all the important stuff like the camera, the processor, the sensors, the circuit boards, and the battery.
One important aspect of caring for the body of the drone is keeping it out of water. Believe it or not, there are now waterproof drones and even drones that swim underwater, but unless you specifically bought one of these, keep your drone out of the water.
The other critical issue about your drone’s body is a crash. While hard drops or crashing landings may not destroy your drone’s body, it’s the vital stuff inside that could get damaged. The delicate electronics and instrumentation inside may look fine but could need replacing.
If your drone is still under warranty, do not open the body and risk invalidating your warranty.
Electronic speed controllers (ESC)
A drone’s ESC controls the variable speeds on its motor, controls the drone’s direction, and even acts as a brake in some instances. It enables the DC into the brushless motor while directs it to operate.
The ESC is obviously a vital piece in your drone. As a user, there is nothing you need to do with these because they reside inside the drone’s mainframe.
This is the drone circuit that reads the input from its sensors, the battery, the GPS, and the receiver. It regulates the motor’s speed and ensures that you can steer your drone.
The flight controller also controls the different autonomous systems on a drone, like failsafe, waypoints, and a Follow Me (if available). The flight controller allows a drone to function properly. Like the ESC, drone owners need not touch or examine them in any way.
A drone’s GPS sensor is required for most of its autonomous functions – like navigating to its established waypoints. They generally come equipped with a magnetometer to provide compass headings, altitude, latitude, and longitude. A drone without GPS is very limited in what it can do.
The more modern drone also has Glonass along with GPS – which means your drone will have a whole lot more satellites at its disposal for positioning. These two features also provide much more accurate flying and safety as your drone is far less likely to lose satellite connection.
One of the newer features of today’s drones is a failsafe point for home. This means that if a drone loses connection from its controller, it automatically proceeds to that failsafe point. Just keep in mind that failsafe points usually require a minimum number of satellites to work. This is why having Glonass and GPS is an important feature.
Many drones come with a standard receiver these days, like the ones found on most radio-control devices. It would be best if you had, as a minimum, at least a quad-band receiver. Better yet, 5 bands are even better. The good news is that there are several to choose from in today’s drone market.
Your receiver will also have an antenna. Antennas are either helical or a loose wire whip. Antennas are simple to change out, and they are easily upgraded as well.
The length of a battery charge plays a huge role in the enjoyment of flying your drone. It really sucks when you have to go home early after only a few minutes of flying.
For this reason, LiPo or Lithium Polymer batteries are most recommended for drones because they offer a nice combination of market life, power, and energy.
It is also recommended that you always carry a few spare batteries that are already charged up with you. This will allow for more flying time.
Don’t forget that you can usually upgrade your battery for a longer charge time. And don’t skimp on proper care of your batteries. As a rule, you should ensure that you completely discharge your battery before recharging. And make sure it doesn’t overheat.
Your drone’s flight controller usually has a battery power level indicator that comes from its battery monitor. This allows you to monitor the battery level while the drone is in flight.
Always remember that your battery is the most important element of a safe flight. If you fail to call back your drone before the battery dies, it will crash.
Among the first things you should learn about your drone is how long you can fly on a battery charge and how to determine your battery levels. Do not ever push a drone beyond those limits. It’s an excellent rule to always bring your drone back whenever battery levels drop to 20%.
The gimbal is a mount on your drone that pivots on its axis. It keeps your drone stable so that its instruments like cameras and sensors will work properly.
If you intend to do lots of photography and video with your drone, then you’ll need a quality gimbal. The best camera in town will not overcome an inferior gimbal. If your camera quality is affected by vibration, think about installing some dampers on your gimbal.
Using a solid action camera is always the best choice for a drone. Additionally, you will want to take note of the amount of storage space your camera has.
Some drones exist that allow real-time streaming, while others merely record to memory for playback later. As with all photography, camera quality makes a huge difference – and drones are no different.
When drone shopping for photography reasons, it’s always a good idea to pair your gimbal to your camera as recommended by manufacturers. There are certain gimbals available that are more compatible with specific cameras and vice versa.