Buying a Drone – 4 Main Categories to Choose From

While buying your own jet may still be out of reach for many people, buying a drone isn’t. Drones have become so common that you can even buy them online. A drone is basically an unmanned aerial vehicle. They can be used to map areas, for surveillance, transport and even wedding photography. Drones can also be fitted with infrared cameras, GPS and lasers for military use. Drones can fly autonomously or be remote controlled. They are also available in a range of sizes. However, these are not the most important when it comes to categorizing drones. On the basis of the type of aerial platform being used, drones can be placed in 4 main categories.

Multi Rotor Drones

These are the most common type of drone available and can be used by hobbyists and professionals. As the name suggests, these drones have multiple rotors. They can be further classified as tricopters, quadcopters, hexacopters and octocopters based on the number of rotors used. One of the biggest advantages of these drones is that they are easy to manufacture and relatively cheap. They are usually used for aerial photography and aerial video surveillance. Some of the best drone videos of the year have been shot using these drones. However, they are not suitable for long distance mapping and have limited flying time and speed. Most multi rotor drones ca fly up to 30 minutes with a small payload. This is because most of their energy is used to stabilize them and fight gravity. Heavy weight multi rotor drones are available but these can fly for an even shorter time duration.

Fixed Wing Drones

Fixed wing drones have wings akin to an aircraft. Most fixed wing drones can fly for an average of a few hours. Drones powered by gas engines can fly for even 16 hours at a stretch. These drones cannot stand still in one spot but glide forward based on the set flight path or the remote unit. These drones move at a higher speed as compared to multi rotor drones. Their higher flying time and fuel efficiency make them ideal for long distance mapping or surveillance operations. However, since they cannot hover over a spot, they are not very helpful when it comes to aerial photography. These drones are also not as easy to fly as multi rotor drones. They can be launched either on a ‘runway’ or with a catapult. Similarly to land a ‘runway’ or parachute is again required. Only very small fixed wing drones can be launched from a person’s hand and land on their bellies. Another downside to these drones is their high cost.

Single Rotor Drones

Single rotor drones are comparable in design to helicopters. Like a helicopter, they have a single large rotor above the drone and a smaller one of the tail. The overhead rotor helps stabilize the drone and fight gravity while the smaller motor helps the drone change direction. They can be motored by gas engines and have a much higher flying time as compared to multi rotor drones. They are also considered to be more efficient and stable. These drones are capable of carrying heavy loads. On the flip side, the large size of rotor blades makes these drones susceptible to accidents. If you get in their way, single rotor drones can cause quite a bit of damage. They also cost more than multi rotor drones and special training is required to fly these drones. They also have a high maintenance cost and can be quite unforgiving on a bad landing.

Fixed wing Hybrid Drones

The latest technology to enter the drone market is a hybrid between fixed wing drones and  motors that allow the drone to lift itself upwards. Thus these drones do not require a runway or catapult and can lift off and touch down vertically. The concept of a hybrid drone is not new but it has become popular only with the advent of gyro sensors and accelerometers. These drones can be programmed to run automatically or controlled by a remote unit. There are many other types of hybrid drones also under development. Hybrid drones are typically designed to be used to transport and deliver goods.

All the above types of drones can be bought online or built. However, not all of them are suitable for beginners. If this is a new hobby, the best type of drones to start flying is a multi rotor drone. These drones can be flown on your terrace or backyard and one can learn how to fly them while they are in the air. When it comes to drones fitted with cameras, it is important to note that the drone and the camera can be controlled separately. There really is no end to the things you can do with a drone.

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