Why should tyrannical, oppressive governments have all the fun with advanced technology? How many of you reading this knew that for about $1,000 (about the cost of a good AR-15) that you could buy all the parts you needed to build your own drones? Did you know that there are cutting edge companies that are even selling “all in one” kits to make your own drones? Everyone is well-aware that drones have become a force-multiplier on the battle field. They grant a lone ground force the ability of a degree of air-superiority, even if that superiority is only that of surveillance and the ability to see through the fog of war to a certain extent. Imagine the implications this can have on the safety and security of your homestead? Not to mention what a fun hobby this could be!
This essay is written to serve as an introduction to everyone about the possibilities of civilian drone technology. You will need to do technical research on your own. Please note, what you choose to do with your drone is your own business. Make sure that you obey all local, state and federal laws regarding this technology.
What do you need to get started?
Head on over to DIYDrones.com. This is a great web site that was created with the sole purpose of investigating the world of drone technology and how it can be utilized by the average civilian. It has a great community to help you with all your questions. According to the web site's editors, here is a list of what you will need to start your own DIY drones project.
- You will need a vehicle. DIYDrones.com there are instructions showing how to incorporate planes, helicopters, land-based and even water based vehicles into your drone system.
- You will need an autopilot. Autopilots are computer boards that control the mechanical functions of your drones. You will need this item if you want to be able to program your drones to be autonomous and function on its own. Autopilots typically include mission planning software to program your drones.
- You will need a computer or laptop. Most of us already posses one that can serve the purpose.
- An optional payload system. This could be anything from recording cameras, video transmission equipment, radio duplexers, to a message in a bottle. More on this later.
It’s as simple as that. The macro-components listed above are simple to gather and can be done under $1,000 (excluding computer). This is enough to get you started in the world of drones’s. Let’s take a look at highly suggested support equipment. If you are really broke, take a look at AirHogs. I know, they are toys for kids. But how valuable could this simple “toy” be as a force multiplier? I wouldn’t stake my life on them, but they could really make a big difference.
- Off-grid power source. drones’s need electricity to run. They don’t use much, so a big system isn’t necessary. Ideally you would want a system that could allow you to re-charge your drones within one day. A great no-fuss, all-in-one system is Goal Zero’s Escape 150 Solar Kit. A system like this could be exclusively used to support your drones and isn’t too hard on the pocket book. An alternative is a Biolite Homestove (if you can get your hands on one) is another great option, as you can tend to your cooking duties while charging electrical systems.
- Spare batteries. Spare batteries for your drones and all support equipment are highly recommended. Batteries will wear out with constant use.
- Spare autopilot. Your autopilot is the brain of your drones. If you only have one and it dies, your drones has become useless.
- Spare parts for your vehicle. Consider the parts that might break the most. Ailerons, rudders, rotors/propellers, wheels, chassis, suspension, etc. Stock up on a few extras plus additional materials that could be substituted for broken parts. Model airplane wood, glue, plastics, metals, paints (for camouflage).
- Spare payload parts of your choice.
It is highly recommended that any primary and spare parts for your drones be stored in some sort of Faraday cage when not in use.
So, now you’ve got your own homemade, DIY drone/drones. What next? How can it be useful? The possibilities are endless, but here are some uses that might interest Survivalblog readers. There are three main categories of use than a drone could function in; surveillance, communication, delivery/transport. While examining these three categories, please keep in mind that drones’s can come in land, sea or air based systems. Conduct some critical thinking exercises to see which system could serve your unique situation best in your environment. These are just a few possibilities, I’m sure you can think of more! Keep in mind, the mission planning software that you get for your autopilot will often come with the ability to program your drone to the below tasks.
Imagine for a moment that you require the ability to observe a field a view from a higher elevation or vantage point. A quad copter type drones could be suited very well for this task since it is capable in functioning in a hover mode. Imagine your field of view from an altitude 100’ above your ground-based observation post?
Programming your drones or drone to conduct a patrol on a pre-designated route can potentially save you man power. If your homestead is under-staffed, you may be able to send out patrols to survey your area of operations without sacrificing critical staff at your base location.
If there is something in particular you would like to get a closer look at, you can send out a drones to have a closer inspection without putting personnel in harm’s way. Let’s say you are in a vehicle convoy and are coming up on a blind curve. Wouldn’t it be great to send out a drones to reconnoiter the curve to determine if it is safe/free of an ambush? Anything that is dangerous that you don’t want to get close to is perfect for a recon mission.
Imagine that you are out on a patrol and need a way to discretely send a message to someone? If you had a drones that was preprogrammed to head to a designated GPS location, you could then send the drones on it’s mission to deliver a written message, flash drive, or other small object.
UHF/VHF handheld radios suffer from the unfortunate consequence of being line of sight (LOS) radios only. Depending on the terrain, this could limit radio communication on these frequencies to just a few miles. Repeaters provide the ability to extend the range of these frequencies by basically putting a radio on a big-tall tower (or other high elevation) that re-transmits a signal. The problem is, you can’t always build a tower in a remote location.
Here’s a solution. If you have access to a duplexer, it could be installed on a UAV. By flying the UAV at an extreme altitude in a holding pattern, you could potentially extend the range of a UHF/VHF radio network up to 50-60 miles. Think that could be useful? The drawback to this usage is that a fairly large UAV will be required in order to carry the heavy payload a duplexed repeater system.
This is an all-encompassing category and the possibilities here are endless. The limitations of this category are base solely on the cargo capacity, in both weight and volume, of the particular vehicle you intend on using. The larger the vehicle you intend to use, the more cargo capacity. Keep in mind to, that the vehicle does not necessarily have to land in order to make the delivery (if you are using a UAV). A package of MREs could be dropped via parachute eliminating the need for the UAV to land. It can simply be programmed to fly out, make the drop and fly back. Use your noggin to think about this one. They sky is the limit (pun intended).
Advantages and Disadvantages of Drones
In addition to the aforementioned advantages and uses, please consider the following.
- Drones can function autonomously. This requires an autopilot and uses GPS to navigate.
- Drones can function manually, in the same manner that an RC hobbyist controls his vehicle. By attaching a camera the “pilot” can fly in 1st person.
- Drones in autopilot mode can be deployed at night.
- If a drone gets damaged or destroyed, that’s better than a human being injured or killed.
- Drones can be programmed to function in fleets as a unit, or individually.
- Drones require a support system. See above.
- Drones can be hacked or spoofed. Whether in manual or autopilot mode, drones are sending and receiving radio frequencies. These frequencies could potentially be hacked into with devices like these.
- If you plan on making repairs or advanced modifications to drones you will most likely require extra spare parts and materials in addition to an understanding of aerodynamics, electronics, and radio frequency communication.
- Drones are almost impossible to operate in bad weather.
- Drones are not a tool to base your life on, but they can be a boon when working as designed.
JWR Adds: Drones are also fragile, so you would need to store many spare drones and parts to make your DIY drone capability viable in the long term.
Here are some considerations for payload.
- Video recording camera (requires download and analysis at a later time).
- Video streaming camera (requires radio frequency transmission system).
- Night vision for above devices.
- Thermal vision for above devices.
- Supply delivery system (such as parachute drop cargo bay).
- Radio relays such as repeaters/duplexers.
- What else can be carried? Put your thinking cap on!
I hope the above information has sparked some interest into the potential uses for such great technology. Remember to obey all laws when operating such technology. It’s your responsibility to know the law so that you don’t do anything illegal. Enjoy your new hobby!