Sensing people

Hi everyone,

I am a high school student who is interested in robotics, aviation, and international politics, some of the reasons that prompted me to start building a UAV. I have a few questions.

1. Is there a low cost way to differentiate between people and inanimate objects from 25 - 50 feet?

2. What electronic components are necessary to consider an airplane a UAV or "drone"?



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  • Hi Rahul. I was in the same exact position you are now about six months ago. I too am a high school student with your interests. Harrison hit the basic points but I am happy to help you figure out the more intricate details. I would love to talk to you about your work. Feel free to PM me.


  • Hey Rahul,

    Firstly, from what I can tell you want to be able to distiguish people from everything around them from a bird flying at 25 - 50 feet. If I am correct this would be near impossible because open source software just isn't there yet to support it. You basically would need to have a constant video feed of the certain area for at least 10 seconds in order to tell the difference between a person and everyday objects. This video explains how the government do it while flying at 20,000 feet with a 1.8 gigapixel camera ( So, no, I would say this isn't possible just yet.

    As for your second question, what separates a UAV/Drone from a normal RC planes is that it is able to fly by itself not needing a pilot. Basically as long as you have the ability for the plane to fly itself then you have the basics of a drone. Now the electronics needed are actually pretty simple and cheap. There is a component sold by 3DR (click the store link above) called the ArduPilot. This is an open source and cheap solution allowing you to turn practically any vehicle (plane, helicopter, boat or car) into a unmanned vehicle. It costs around $159 for the board but if you are just getting into this area I would suggest you look at a few YouTube videos on how to setup and use this and what it is capable of. A good channel is MyGeekShow ( that are learning as they go on UAVs and the ArduPilot.  I haven't even got a UAV yet and still doing my research!

    Hope this helps,

    Harrison C.

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Aug 25