For the past couple of months, I’ve been building myself a surveillance drone. My craft consists of a remotely controlled quadcopter – a small helicopter with four rotor blades that looks like a flying X – with an onboard video camera that sends a live feed back to my laptop base station. It also transmits telemetry data about its altitude, speed, bearing and location from its onboard global positioning system receiver. In future, I plan to equip the aircraft with an autopilot system that will allow it to fly from one GPS-specified location to another without my having to pilot it.
I decided I had to have my own drone after hearing about the US army’s RQ-11 Raven, made by a company called AeroVironment. This drone is no more than a glorified remote-control aircraft that a soldier launches by tossing into the air. It can send video back to the squad so they know whether, for example, there are bad guys lurking behind the building in front of them.