Is It Important For Drones To Have GPS Connectivity?

Wondering is it important for drones to have GPS connectivity? GPS connectivity is one of the features that many drones possess. If you are curious about this feature and want to understand its applications in the context of a drone, read ahead.

This article intends to steer clear of all your doubts regarding why drones with GPS are better suitable and what makes them a helpful asset. So let’s begin.

The hovering of drones in clear skies is a frequent sight these days. Earlier, it was solely used for military purposes. Recently, it has become a versatile aerial vehicle that finds its applications in the field of surveillance, aviation, geographical data collection, photography, and marine. 

Drones are increasingly becoming popular across the globe for the latest software integrations and smart features similar to a road vehicle. 

But the notable feature is the GPS technology in drones. Many standard drones are incorporated with GPS systems to facilitate easy navigation and access to remote places that are otherwise inaccessible to locate. 

The FAA in the United States requires all American drones to have a GPS installed by 2023. Perhaps it is worth exploring what makes GPS connectivity special in drones.

However, it is a tough choice to argue whether GPS is a must for drones. It depends on your requirements because selecting GPS drones comes at a higher price. It is safe to say it is possible to fly the drone without GPS, but with the GPS feature, you can fly the drone with maximum accuracy and high stability.

The following sections cover every detail about GPS features in a drone comprehensively. 

Is it important for Drones to have GPS connectivity?

What is a GPS drone, and how does it work?

A drone called a flying robot is an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) that can autonomously fly and hence plays a significant role in Reconnaissance, communication networks, package delivery, to name a few. A drone attached to a GPS is a GPS drone. 

Anyone can understand the basics of GPS drones, not only a drone enthusiast. GPS trackers in the vehicles provide you with the exact information about the geographical location, and GPS drones have a similar feature. 

They have a GPS module attached to them that receives the signals from the orbiting satellite. Typically, a GPS module is attached to the nose of the drone.

These signals direct the module to give the correct position and coordinates of the desired location and square in on the target. 

The GPS module has a receiver to receive the signal traveling at a speed of light from the satellite, and thus, it notifies the controller about the precise location. Along with zeroing the desired location, you can also keep track of the relative speed of the vehicle. 

Factors Governing the GPS Connectivity in Drones

The drones attached with a GPS require to meet a certain standard to get accurate results. The listings below have the factors governing the GPS connectivity in drones-

  1. Number of satellite signals

Since the GPS module receives the information from the satellite orbiting the Earth, you rely on the satellite signal to predict the location. More the number of satellite signals, the better. 

To have near- to- accurate location details, at least four satellite signals must reach the module to obtain the optimum results. Some high-end drones require up to seven satellites, and consequently, they detect position accurately up to a centimeter, while the mainstream drones detect up to a meter.

  1. Magnetic interference

Another main factor affecting GPS is magnetic interference. What does it do? In simple terms, a GPS signal is lost when the receiver encounters metallic structures like steel buildings. 

With this hindrance, there are chances for the drone to show incorrect data and crash off buildings. So to avoid this mishap, you must train yourself to keep away from the metallic things to keep off interference. A pro tip is to calibrate the GPS in an open field with a low risk of bumping into the metals. 

What makes GPS a savior in drones?

drone with gps connectivity

From the opinions of the drone specialists, drones having an in-built GPS have many advantages. The following aspects give you a reason to have a drone with GPS-

  • It provides stability and holds the position.

When flying drones, the main obstacle is the breeze. The breeze or a strong wind can create turbulence in the drone and lead to an imbalance with the possibility of crashing. But with the GPS, the drone gets the stability and holds the position firmly at the desired location. Even if the breeze interferes during the maneuver, the GPS drone will calibrate back to the original position. Both smooth trajectory and stability aid the drone in completing the task.

  • Waypoint navigation

Waypoints are the locations having fixed coordinates that specify the path taken by the drone. By using waypoint navigation, you can calibrate the drone to move to the specified location without manual effort. GPS drones have this feature, and it serves as the prime tool in an aerial survey of natural calamities like floods and earthquakes, where you must record the pictures and video at the particular location. Hence, aerial photography and film-making utilize these autonomous drones having autopilot functions.

  • Return-to-home feature

The main feature of GPS is the return-to-home feature. There are circumstances when the battery drains off when you fly the drones in the deserts or above lakes. In such cases, the return-to-home option comes in handy. GPS drones take control of the vehicle and automatically use this feature in an emergency, thereby providing safety. A more interesting fact is that the drone will remember the starting point where you activated the GPS.

  • Restricts flying in prohibited areas

Flying drones in regions of national importance such as defense facilities, intelligence facilities, and airports are restricted, and hence you should be extremely careful while flying the drones. But with GPS drones, it is not a concern since you can calibrate and select the areas you do not want to fly over. 

Is it possible to fly your drones without GPS?

After covering in detail the working of GPS and how it affects the drone functionality, there remains to answer the obvious question- do you need a GPS to fly a drone? The answer is a yes and a no. 

The ambiguity in the answer comes from various aspects to scrutinize. Both cost and features are important factors to consider. If you opt for a drone with GPS, it automatically increases the price of the drone by a considerable amount. However, if you want to explore the advantages of GPS to unlock other GPS-dependent features in the drone, your answer must be yes.

If you are a hobbyist or a drone enthusiast who wants to get hands-on with the drone, GPS is not a mandatory feature to keep an eye on.

Another factor to take into consideration is the location you choose for flying the drone. It’s safe to fly the drone without GPS near your house, indoors, or in a known location since the risk of losing the signal and crashing is minimal. But if you want to survey an unknown place, GPS is a go-to option.

Conclusion and other considerations

A GPS drone has both pros and cons. While it is a perfect navigation tool, it also consumes a huge chunk of battery. In addition to this, there is the cost factor. With the GPS feature, the drones are costlier. Another determining factor is the GPS signal. If the satellite signal is weak and the GPS fails to recognize the right location points, it becomes haphazard and can crash.

Hence, you must select an open field or less populated area to fly the drones to avoid serious disaster.

However, it becomes necessary to emphasize that drones without GPS are not as stable as the rest, with the GPS feature. In drones without GPS, you must manually control the drones and hold the position firmly. It comes with practice and excellent training. So, many drone controllers opt for GPS to maintain a stable hover.

To summarize, GPS connectivity in drones provides accurate location details, stable flight altitude, autonomous flight mode, and return-back options. But to invest in high-end drones solely for this feature is not necessary. A drone that has additional features along with GPS is a worthy investment.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you need a GPS for your drone?

No, you may not require a GPS on your drone. A GPS feature becomes necessary for aerial survey, military surveillance where the accuracy of the location cannot be compromised. However, if you want a low-budget drone to fly in a known place or, in the case of aerial photography, you can skip the GPS feature.

What is an ATTI mode in drones?

ATTI Mode, abbreviated for Attitude Mode, is the automatic flight mode activated when the GPS signal becomes weak and difficult to detect. In this case, the drone must be controlled manually, and stabilization becomes low. DJI drones in ATTI mode can falter and lose control when encountered by a breeze, and hence you must readjust to hold the altitude firmly.

What are GPS-denied drones, and how are they useful?

Not all regions receive GPS signals, such as nuclear power plants and mining sites. In such cases, you must choose GPS-denied drones. Here, the altitude, position, and stability are recorded with the help of sensors. The visual sensors present in the drone helps to identify the coordinates in space, thus helping to fly the drone even without GPS.

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