What are Drones?
Drones are also known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) or Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS). Simply put, drones are aircraft that do not have pilots in them. Instead, drones can either be controlled remotely from a computer or assigned some instructions that they will carry out.
Drones are pretty popular in the movie industry, although they were initially meant for military purposes. Fortunately, drones come in different sizes and prices now, making them available for personal use.
UAVs have a whole lot of functions, and people have found creative ways to use them. The restrictions people have with drones are the type of drone and what they intend to accomplish with them. Drones have different categories and types, and every kind of drone has its optimal usage. So, what types of drones are there?
Types of Drones
Drones can be categorized based on many features. This guide explains each drone categorization as well as the advantages and disadvantages of each drone type. First off, drones are generally designed in three ways, and they are;
- Rotary Drones
- Fixed Wing Drones
- Fixed-wing Hybrid drones
- Underwater Drones
A. Rotary Drones
These kinds of drones use a form of a rotor in their build to lift themselves off the ground. Rotary drones are further divided into:
Single Rotor Drones
A typical example of a single-rotor drone is the helicopter. Single rotor drones use just one rotor for upliftment while another rotor is fixed to the drone’s tail for directions. Although they are not very popular due to their costs and the expertise needed to navigate one, they have their uses. Some of the Pros and Cons of a single rotor drone include:
- Users get vertical take-off and landing, especially in cramped spaces.
- Ability to carry a bigger payload capacity compared to multi-rotor drones
- It also has good endurance when it is airborne.
- It requires more expertise to operate.
The real-life application of drones is endless because it is a proven way to overcome obstacles.
These kinds of drones are the ones most people are familiar with. They are usually the ones used for movie production, and for personal uses. Multi-rotor drones have enjoyed significant usage because they are more affordable and generally easier to operate. There are multi-rotor drones of different types(1). The common ones are;
- Tricopters: drones with three rotors. These drones have impressive stabilization in the air.
- Quadcopters: Drones with four rotors. With two rotors moving in a clockwise direction and the other two moving in the anti-clockwise direction, this drone gives one of the best vertical landings around.
- Hexacopters: Drones with six rotors. Six rotors in a drone might seem like too much, but not when the goal is to move up higher than the tricopters and quadcopters. This drone also works with the same principle as the quadcopter, whereby three of the rotors are moving in one direction, and the other three are moving in the opposite direction.
- Octocopter: Drones with eight rotors. Eight rotors in drones are suitable for lifting of some payload and excellent mid-air stabilization. They are the perfect multi-rotor drones for video production and photography because they can reach heights better than those mentioned above.
Multi-rotor drones have found much usage with the populace. But, unfortunately, they are not perfect all around. The following are some advantages and disadvantages of a multi-rotor drone.
- Ease of use. These drones are quite easy to pilot compared to the other types.
- They give the best aerial stability and hence are suitable for professional photography.
- They are more pocket-friendly than their counterparts.
- It gives users vertical takeoff and landing, making them perfect for use in confined spaces.
B. Fixed Wing Drones
A fixed-wing drone implies a drone that looks like an airplane. As with the plane, they need some (sometimes a lot) space before take-off, but they counter these with incredible endurance, ability to move large payloads, more significant distance covered, and higher heights achieved.
- Superb endurance. These drones can stay in the air for a long while, albeit they keep moving.
- Fast flight speed. The comparison to airplanes includes the rate at which these drones move.
- Extensive distance coverage and higher heights are reached compared to the rotor drones.
C. Fixed-wing Hybrid Drones
These drones were made to bring together the advantages of fixed-wing drones and rotary drones. The result of this combination resulted in hybrid drones. Hybrid drones are drones that have the power, endurance, payload capacity of a fixed-wing drone. In addition, these drones also have the hovering ability of rotary drones and their ability for Vertical Take-off and Landing (VTOL).
- Vertical take-off and landing combine with fast speeds, hovering, and considerable distance coverage.
- These drones can be used to deliver payloads over long distances.
D. Underwater Drones
These are drones that were designed to work under water and can withstand the pressure associated with the depths of oceans. These drones are usually used by marine biologists, the military, and for professional photography.
Most marine drones use 4K cameras and some even offer FPV experience, robotic arms and ballasts, making them highly useful in shooting underwater scenes. Other features that make navigating the dark depths of the ocean easy include bright lights, a tethering cable for the transmission of data, and advanced obstruction detection tech.
Categorization of Drones
Drones can be categorized based on their size, range of operations, equipment, and some other features.
For this first and major classification, we’d focus on the distinction by equipment;
Although almost every drone qualifies as a camera drone, this category is specifically referring to drones that are used for photography either professionally or for leisure. The cameras affixed to these drones are of good quality and some even have 4K resolutions accompanied by advanced camera features. Gyroscopes are often used in this category.(2)
Drones under this category also have good hovering abilities as this is necessary for good photography. The flight time of around forty minutes on these drones is one of the smallest for the drone types available. In addition, these drones have a range of between seven and ten kilometers.
This category of drones is designed to work underwater. These drones are usually used by researchers and the military for surveillance. Drones under this category are a bit restricted in range because they have to be tethered for the transmission of data.
Marine drones have exceptional features, like obstacle detection and quality cameras that help them navigate ocean depths. These features on marine drones make them more expensive than regular drones. Fortunately, there are now smaller and more affordable options for video enthusiasts that want to capture underwater images.
Racing drones are known for their speeds, durability, and portability which are necessary for their category. They have first-person viewing (FPV) which gives the pilot a real-life view of the environment.
These drones keep growing in popularity with people using racing drones for their careers or as a hobby. They have smaller ranges and fly times compared to other categories of drones but they are quite fast.
This category of drones is the recommended drone for beginners as they are pretty easy to pilot, small-sized, and sometimes come with pre-programmed flight maneuvers.
Drone manufacturers make drones in different assembling stages from DIY to RTF (ready to fly). DIY drones come in different parts that are expected to be assembled by a person. The assembling stages between DIY and RTF include;
- Bind-N-Fly: The user needs to purchase a Controller although the drone is already assembled
- Plug-N-Play (PNP) or Plug-N-Fly (PNF): The user has to get a receiver, transmitter, charger, and battery.
- Almost Ready to Fly (ARF): The user may need to purchase a transmitter and also need to do some assembling.
Categorization By Size
Drones come in different sizes like mini, nano, micro, medium, and large drones. Small-sized drones like the mini, micro, and nano drones are quite common as they are usually the ones used by hobbyists. These drones; the minute ones, also enjoy usage with the military.
The major differences in the small-sized drones are in their dimensions. Nano drones are around 10cm to 15 cm in dimension while mini drones and micro drones are in the range of 15cm to 30cm.
How to Choose a Drone
Here are some features to consider before choosing a drone. Although drone choice is largely down to its intended use, there are still some basic qualities to be considered when choosing a drone.
- Type of Drone: is it a rotor drone, fixed-wing, hybrid or marine drone?
- Range: This usually refers to the distance the drone can be controlled from without issues.
- Flight time: For how long can the drone fly?
- Weight and Size: Bigger drones can hold more payload while smaller ones can be used in tight spaces.
- Speed: How fast is the drone? Weight, design, and size are factors that affect the speed of drones.
- Battery: The battery supplies power to the drones. The quality of the battery can affect flight time and endurance.
- Automated Flight Mode: Common ATF on drones includes; Follow Me, Altitude Hold, Waypoint, Orbit, and Return to Home.
Drones are controlled remotely by drone controllers with the help of a Radio transmitter. These controllers come in different sizes and shapes. Some Controllers have screens while others don’t. Other controllers have mounts for phones and tablets while some use applications on phones or computers.
The best drone for making videos is a multi-rotor drone because of the mid-air stability they offer.
The fixed-wing drone is the perfect drone for large distances because it can cover large distances due to its fast speeds.
Drones have proven to be a great way to accomplish some set of tasks remotely. The types of drones available help guide users or intending owners on the kind of drone that is perfect for an assignment. While drones are enjoying significant usage and applications, the surface has just been scratched in the potential of what drones can be used to achieve.
What type of drone do you prefer? Which kind of equipment will you want on a drone? Feel free to share your thoughts with us.
- Joseph F. (2017 July). Differences between hexacopters, quadcopters, and octocopters. Retrieved from https://3dinsider.com/hexacopters-quadcopters-octocopters/
- Christopher M. (2020 August). Everything you ever wanted to know about gyroscopes. Retrieved from https://interestingengineering.com/what-gyroscopes-are-how-they-work-and-their-importance