UAV And Drone Sensor Systems

types of drone sensors

As you likely know, there are two main types of UAVs: combat aerial vehicles and remotely piloted vehicles. There are also hybrid models that are capable of both jobs. This article will discuss the types of drone sensors currently available and the roles they are expected to play in the future.

Traditional Radar-based Sensor

Clouds in the sky

A traditional radar-based sensor is comprised of an aircraft mounted sensor and a ground monitoring station. The aircraft (or UAV) is generally a small model that is capable of both flight and remote sensing. The UAV can be used to locate and track other UAVs, as well as to monitor a wide area as long as it has a power source and access to a consistent network of feeds.

Another common type of UAV sensor is a radio-frequency sensor (RFS). A radio-frequency sensor is not UAV-specific, but rather a general purpose machine that can sense and relay information from and to UAVs. Some of the major benefits of using a RFS include high-speed, long-range operation and sensitivity for low-signal areas. Unlike an RTF, an RFS does not have pre-programmed algorithms to process data. Instead, an RFS must employ complex analysis algorithms to determine what it is seeing and to control the processing as necessary.

Types Of Drone Sensors

A body of water

A third group of types of drone sensors are heat seeking or heat Signature UAVs. Heat seeking UAVs (also sometimes called “glass wet cells”) use the radiation emitted by heaters located on the outside of an aircraft to “see” through the plane’s windows. Although these types of UAVs can detect heat, they can only detect the radiation coming from the hottest parts of the plane. This limits the ability to tune the detector to a single temperature to better detect hot engines, which limits the types of aircraft that can be operated using this type of UAV.

If an RTF does not specifically state that it can be used to detect heat seeking UAVs, then there may be hope in finding another brand name heat seeking UAV sensor that can be used with this limitation. Currently, all heat seeking UAVs are generally GPS based. The problem is that all of the major UAV brands currently make use of infra-red technology. Until the adoption of GPS systems by these aircraft manufacturers, which cut down on the amount of time that an operator has to spend searching for lost aircraft, the only way to locate lost aircraft was through radar. Today, all heat seeking UAVs can be located using passive infrared technology.

Passive Radar UAVs

The last of the types of drone sensors we will discuss are passive radar UAVs. These UAVs are generally not as common or popular as the GPS models and are generally only used by the largest and most expensive UAV manufacturers. Because they cannot usually be pre-programmed to seek out specific types of aircraft, these UAVs are primarily used for industrial and farming applications. Most of the time they will be attached to a smaller aircraft, such as a fixed wing remote control aircraft, which is used to inspect crops or trees before they are sent to the market for harvesting. Other uses would include inspecting tanks at air fields, on-site construction sites, on-site maintenance to vehicles or machinery and on-site storage.


In the future, advanced drone sensors may be able to watch humans in addition to moving items or animals. As time progresses, we will likely see this capability carried out in both indoor and outdoor applications. Currently, however, we are only able to use UAVs to watch over specific areas or to search for specific objects inside a space or under a surface.

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