There are many different types of drones available, but they can be divided into three main categories: fixed-wing, single rotor, and multirotor drones. From large drones equipped with 4K cameras and collision avoidance to tiny, nano ones that can easily fit in the palm of your hand, drones are available in many sizes. If you are serious about getting information regarding drones and their various types, this article is a good read for you.
Let’s get started with the major types of drones available in the market, along with their pros and cons:
Single Rotor Drone
As the name suggests, single rotor models have only a single rotor inside. Another one is a tail rotor that just provides support and assistance to provide control to the heading. If you want to lift heavy loads and need faster flight time with longer durance, then single rotor drones can be a perfect choice for you.
- Longer endurance (with gas power)
- VTOL and hover flight
- Heavier payload capability
- Complex to fly, more training needed
A tricopter contains three different types of robust motors, three controllers, one servo, and four gyros inside. It has three arms, and a motor is placed on every extreme end along with a location sensor. To lift and fly your tricopter, you need to initiate a movement in throttle lever, the gyro sensor will then receive its signal immediately, and it will pass it directly to the controller to control motor rotation.
A tricopter works great in stabilizing itself as it is equipped with several classic sensors and electronic parts to make it still, which means you won’t need to apply any manual correction.
When a multirotor drone is designed with four different rotor blades inside, it becomes a quadcopter. These type of UAVs are controlled by brushless type DC motors. Two of four motors move in the clockwise direction while the other two move in the anti-clockwise direction. This rotation of motors allows the quadcopter to decide a safe landing for itself. Most of these devices are powered by a lithium-polymer battery.
Hexacopter has six motors inside that can serve you for many potential applications. Three of its motors move in the clockwise direction while the other three motors move in the counter-clockwise direction. Hence, these types of drones can easily lift heavier loads as compared to quadcopters. Also, a hexacopter is designed in a way to provide you with a safe landing.
Octo means eight, and an octocopter has eight motors inside that sends high power to its eight functional propellers. These drones are reliable, stable, and have more flying capabilities as compared to all the other types discussed above. If you want to record stable footage at any altitude, an octocopter is a great choice. These drones are highly used in the world of professional videography and photography.
Fixed Wing Drone
Fixed-wing drones have quite a unique and different design as compared to multirotor drones. They look like traditional airplanes because of their wing. Unlike multirotor drones, fixed-wing drones are not able to stand stable during flight as they are not much powerful against gravitational force. They are used in applications where more movement-related recording is required because they have an excellent inbuilt battery system.
With a fixed-wing drone, you can’t just take photos by pointing the camera and capturing the perfect scene. You will have to click hundreds of pictures during the flight that need to be joined together to generate a final tiled picture.
Fixed-wing drones are expensive and challenging to fly. Unlike multirotor drones, you will need to have a basic understanding of flight dynamics to take off, fly to specific waypoints, and then land safely.
- Faster flight speed
- Longer endurance
- Covers large area
- No VTOL/hover capability
- Harder to fly, more training required
- Launch and recovery requires more space
This is the most common category of drone and the easiest + cheapest option to get an “eye in the sky”. You can take a small camera in the air for a short period with a multirotor drone. They are perfect for aerial photography as they give such great control over positioning and framing. However, the only limitation with these drones is their limited speed and endurance, which makes them unreliable for large scale aerial mapping, long-distance inspection, and long endurance monitoring.
Although their technology is evolving, they still face problems fighting against gravity and remaining in the air for long. When carrying a lightweight camera payload, they can provide a battery life of about 20 to 30 minutes only. While on the other hand, heavy-duty multirotor drones can carry heavier payloads but provide much shorter flight times.
As multirotor drones need for rapid-changing and high-precision throttle changes in order to keep them stabilized, it isn’t practical to use a gas-powered engine to power them. This is the reason why they are restricted to electric motors. However, until a new power source is introduced, we can’t expect extended flight times in multirotor drones.
- Good camera control
- Ease of use
- VTOL/hover flight capability
- Can operate in a congested area
- Short flight times
- Low payload capacity
Here are different classes of consumer drones:
Hobby drones are probably the most popular class of consumer drones. They are medium in size with larger frames and propellers, usually meant to fly outdoors. Most hobby drones have a camera so people who love aerial photography and videography can fulfil their hobby. However, you shouldn’t expect a high-resolution quality that you would typically find in expensive, professional models. Hobby drones are also bought for kids as gifts.
New models of hobby drones have latest features such as altitude hold, headless mode, and One Key Takeoff.
Professional drones feature the best technology that is well suited for aerial photography and videography. Professional videographers and photographers opt for professional drones such as DJI Mavic 2 because they offer high-quality results and more options. These drones are also equipped with obstacle avoidance, have longer flight times, and offer many other amazing features.
Selfie drones being small and compact, are becoming the most popular choice among consumers. If you want the best drone that you can easily carry around and can be flown both indoors and outdoors, then selfie drones are the best choice. They are mostly the size of a palm, and we will see even smaller sizes in the near future.
Types of Drones (according to size)
Very Small Drones
These drones can range varying from a larger size insect to a 1.64ft long unit. The two most common designs in this category are Nano/Microdrones and Mini drones. The nano drones are used by agencies as essential weapons for spying due to their lightweight construction and tiny body.
They are a bit bigger than micro-drones, which means they are more than 1.64ft long but have maximum 2m dimension. Most mini drones have fixed-wing type construction while a few can also have rotary wings. However, due to their smaller construction, they lack power.
This type of drones consists of heavier units, but they are still lighter and compact than aircraft. They can easily carry payloads of up to 200 kgs but have a flight time of 5 to 10 minutes only. Thales Watchkeeper WK450 is the most popular design that falls under this category.
Larger drones are most commonly used for military applications, and they can be as big as an aircraft. Places that cannot be covered by flying jets can be covered by these large drones. They are used for surveillance applications, and users can further classify them into different categories according to their size and capabilities.
Types of Drones (according to the range)
Very Close Range Drones
They are toy drones and used commonly by kids and enthusiasts. They can fly up to 5KM and provide a flight time of up to 20 to 35 minutes, depending on the batteries used.
Close Range Drones
These drones can fly up to 50km and provide a battery backup of up to 1-6 hours, depending on the batteries used. As close range drones can work for longer durations and can cover a reasonable distance, they are most commonly used for surveillance purpose.
Short Range Drones
They are a bit premium than close range drones and are used for military applications. They can travel a distance of up to 150 kms. The estimated flight time of short-range drones is between 8 to 12 hours. Hence they are more useful for spying and reconnaissance applications.
These types of drones are much more powerful than all the types discussed above. They are known as high-speed drones that can cover an area up to 650 kms. These drones are commonly used for surveillance applications, and some of its basic types also work for collecting meteorological data.
These drones have an immersive flight time of up to 36 hours, and they can easily go up to a max height of 3000ft above sea level. Endurance drones are the best choice for high-end surveillance applications.
Types of Drones (According to equipment)
These units are capable of capturing location information on the go, and that too accurately. You can send these drones at a specific location to record scenes, and they will return after completing the task successfully. The best thing about these drones is that they can remember the last shoot location, and you can send them again to that same place for the next shoot.
An action lover and shooting expert would definitely buy a drone with a camera as it can wonderfully capture classic shots at locations where you cannot just point and shoot with your DSLR. These drones are getting popular day by day due to their usage. The film industry relies on drones for capturing breathtaking cinematic shots from the top.
Within the last few years, drones with a camera have suffered huge fall in price because a lot of people have been buying them, even as a hobby. These drones are available in the market from a price range $100 to $2000.
Drones have been equipped with gyroscopes for improving flight capabilities and making them stable. Six-axis type drones can stay stable in air and easily manage movements at steeper turns. These drones can shoot insanely stabilized shots, so you don’t have to worry about your favorite scenes getting all blurred.
Interested in flying drones but are not sure about which one to choose? Give our drone picker a try!
The Future of Drones
Drone technology is constantly evolving in terms of features, capabilities, autonomy, and miniaturization. Each new generation of drones is getting smaller in size, lighter in weight, cheaper in price (than the previous generation), and better in features. This is due to the development of new materials, more efficient batteries, and better designs and payload capacity.
The smallest drone currently available is similar in size as of a credit card. And in a few years, we can expect seeing drones the size of small insects. The falling prices of current drones will help in making them readily available for every individual. Quadcopters are usually given as Christmas or birthday presents to teenagers, and most photography/videography enthusiasts also favor them.
Most readily available drones in the market are quadcopters as they are the best in design, price, and features. They can easily lift heavy payloads without any additional manual adjustment. However, if you have a niche application, you may try other categories such as single rotor drone or a fixed-wing. We hope that this article has extended your knowledge about different types of drones currently available to you.