In regards to your specific question, it would be helpful to know what you are looking to accomplish in terms of flight time, operational height, and if you're looking for coverage of a general area, or looking to do an aerial tour. Also, do you have any experience operating aerial vehicles?
When you say the configuration has to be "as light as possible", is this because you have a craft in mind already? If so, what are payload parameters for it?
Hi John, drone seem to refer to those very expensive UAV?
On few occasions, I saw such exhibit in security trade show. But facing the same challenges of short flight time (20 mins?), short distant, low payload and low image quality. If I remember, the price was like 50 - 100k.
Anyone happened to come across a better one in that price range? Say fly 70 - 100m height and cover a radius of few hundred meters?
This can easily be accomplished with quad-copters. There are hacks to use GoPro cameras and stream the video back wirelessly. Like others have mentioned - short-term surveillance (20min) is achievable.
If you are the Handy-Manny type and can build your own - I'm sure there is a significant cost savings. Here's an example.
Quadcopters are by far the most popular right now as well among DIY-ers and local government agencies because of their small size, cheap price and ease of use. 100K sounds a little high. This is one of the most popular companies in Europe when it comes to this type of aerial surveillance, and their prices start at around 20K (Their UAVs are pretty light. One I held weighed about as much as a ceramic bowl).
You can find DIY UAV kits for around $100 with attachments to configure point-and-shoot cameras, GoPros and DSLRs. The image quality isn't terrible either. Like Undisclosed mentioned, if you're looking to stream video there are hacks and kits to do that too.
it is my understanding that aerial vehicles cannot be operated out of sight... I will try dig up a faa link regarding this... this would only matter if you were doing surveillance out of your range of sight...
Keep in mind that there are countries who aren't as restrictive as the U.S. about UAV use. And even in the U.S. it's not illegal to fly UAVs. You just need approval from the FAA and here's who has it (law enforcement and universities mainly). The FAA has been mandated to find a way to integrate them into the airspace. It's taking so long partially because UAVs lack any kind of 'sense and avoid' technology. For now they're limited to 400 ft above the ground within line of sight and that's if you have a certificate from the FAA.
So, a security manager could use a UAV to cover a campus as long as it stayed below 400 feet, within line of sight, away from airports and away from populated areas (so no one is injured by a crash). I should have added before that the authorization process is only for public entities. So there's no way the manager would be able to get FAA authorization to do more.
Another thing: A lot of these UAVs people want to use for agriculture or surveying construction sites or whatever -- especially the quadcopters -- have the ability to autonomously fly pre-arranged routes. That's a no-go for use in the U.S. until there's better 'sense-and 'avoid' technology on board.
Not true, it's still used for business, and 100% illegal. It's a tremendous task for the FAA to safely integrate UAV's into the airspace system and it's going to be a long time before some of the ideas here are legal. The FAA will start with allowing law enforcement and emergency responce. Other uses will follow over time, but it's a long term project
"So, a security manager could use a UAV to cover a campus as long as it stayed below 400 feet, within line of sight, away from airports and away from populated areas (so no one is injured by a crash)."
Not any way that I've heard of yet. Instead of people trying to overcome it, I think it's just worked to slow interest in domestic UAV use. Business get excited about the potential uses then get disappointed once they realize the rules. The FAA says its main concern is UAV collision with other aircraft or people. UAVs (military and other) frequently lose communication with their operators on the ground.
Think about how this technology can be used in a terroristic and life threatening capacity. If the UAV can be equipped with a camera and a decent payload, what is keeping a non-friendly individual or group from deploying a swarm of these to attack diplomatic facilities and places of interest.