What Components do Drones Need?

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A drone that can hijack drones
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In this article, Vinay Thapliyal, Technical Marketing Manager – India, Microcontrollers Division, STMicroelectronics explains Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAVs), more commonly referred to as Drones.

Sensing

A drone needs motion sensors such as:

  1. Accelerometers
  2. Gyroscopes
  3. Compasses

These sensors are needed to navigate and accurately track the position of the drone. These sensors also help to keep the drone balanced and not tilt or fall on one side.VinaySTphoto

Along with sensors, users can use sensor fusion algorithms with which the three sensors calibrate each other to give highly accurate data. The sensor fusion also helps to improve the response time of the drone.

High Performance, Low Power

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Since Drones are real time objects, the timing accuracy is an important factor. Similarly there is lot of real time data coming from various sensors connected.

It needs to be processed in real time and take fast decisions like balancing, tilts, sharp turns etc., so that the efficiency to compute these sensor data and process it with accuracy becomes one of critical need for microcontroller (MCU) selection.

The other MCU need for drone application is to be high energy efficient as they are battery operated. So the Microcontroller for such application has to be high performance and Ultra low power. Microcontrollers offering high MIPS real time performance and ultra-low power are well suitable for these Drone application.

Smart Peripherals

To make these drones more intelligent and smart, smart MCU peripherals should be used like battery sensing for safe landing of drones in case of low battery indications, direct control from your smart phones via Bluetooth connectivity etc. STM32 devices offer such smart peripherals to help these needs.

Higher Precision with FOC Motor Control

The motors used in Drones are controlled by Microcontrollers. Since drones are now a days not only being used for hobby but also becoming popular in commercial applications like surveillance. So one of important factor here is the controller’s dynamic response and its ability to control BLDC motors sensorlessly and stably at low speeds. The new emerging technology for motor controls is on Field Oriented control (FOC) which can improve the precision significantly compared to older scalar techniques. ST provides FOC complete libraries for STM32 MCUs in very simple graphical form so that any developers can use these complex techniques with quite an ease.

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