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Drone Aircraft vs Multirotor: Which One to Choose

Intro

When you’re looking to buy a drone for your business, it’s important to figure out which one is the better choice: drone aircraft or a multirotor. It’s essential to discern which option aligns best with your specific needs and objectives. Let’s delve into the key factors that will guide you in making an informed decision between drone aircraft and multirotor

Things that you should be concerned about are that there are a lot of drone options available with various configurations and sensor choices in the market. We’ve previously discussed how to choose the right camera and evaluate a drone’s performance based on its capabilities. In this article we are going to explore how to choose the right drone, be it drone aircraft or multirotor.

Picture comparison between fixed wings, rotary wings, and hybrid drone in one image

Are you ready to take your drone game to the next level? Then buckle up, because we’re about to dive into the exciting world of multirotor and fixed-wing drone configurations. By the end of this guide, you’ll have a clear understanding of the unique features and benefits of each type, so you can make an informed decision and get the most value for your money. This is the ultimate resource for maximizing your drone’s potential.

The Categorization in Which Drone Aircraft Falls Under

Drone diagram specification

Basically, drones are categorized into:

Lighter than Air:

  1. Airships/Balloons

Heavier than Air:

  1. Gliders
  2. Powered Aircraft
    1. Fixed Wing
    2. Rotary Wing
      1. Single Rotor (Helicopter)
      2. Multirotor
    3. Hybrid

These categories define the fundamental types of drones based on their weight and aerodynamic principles.

Comparing the Differences Between Drone Aircraft (fixed-wing), Multirotor, and Hybrid

In this article, we’ll navigate the intricate world of drone designs, focusing on three primary configurations: Fixed Wing, Rotary Wing (including helicopters and multirotors), and Hybrid models. Each design comes with its set of advantages and drawbacks, making them suitable for distinct applications. Understanding these differences is key to maximizing the potential of your drone investment.

Fixed Wing Drones

Advantages:

  • Endurance: Fixed-wing drones excel in long-duration flights, making them ideal for tasks requiring extended aerial coverage.
  • Speed: With higher cruising speeds, they swiftly traverse large areas, capturing data efficiently.
  • Emergency Safety: In case of power failure, they can glide gracefully, enhancing safety during unexpected situations.

Disadvantages:

  • Payload Limit: Limited carrying capacity makes them unsuitable for heavy payloads.
  • Lack of Hover: Unlike multirotor, they cannot hover in place, restricting their applicability in certain scenarios.
  • Space Requirement: Fixed-wing drones need spacious runways or open areas for takeoff and landing.

Rotary Wing Drones

Advantages:

  • Payload Flexibility: These drones can carry moderate payloads, accommodating various sensors and equipment.
  • Stationary Flight: Multirotor, including helicopters, possess the unique ability to hover in a fixed position, offering precise data capture.
  • Space Flexibility: Vertical takeoff and landing capabilities enable them to operate in confined spaces.

Disadvantages:

  • Flight Time: Limited flight duration compared to fixed-wing counterparts.
  • Speed Constraints: Generally, multirotor have a slower cruising speed, impacting their coverage area.
  • Emergency Safety: In case of malfunction, they lack gliding capabilities, necessitating additional safety measures like parachutes.

 

Hybrid Drones

Advantages and Drawbacks: Hybrid drones combine the endurance of fixed-wing models with the hovering ability of multirotor. This fusion attempts to strike a balance between flight duration and hovering capability, offering a versatile solution for diverse applications. However, these models may slightly compromise on individual performance aspects, providing a middle ground for specific use cases.

conclusion:

In the evolving landscape of drone technology, understanding the unique features of Fixed Wing, Rotary Wing, and Hybrid configurations is crucial for informed decision-making. Your choice should align with the specific demands of your projects, ensuring optimal performance and efficient data collection. By delving into the intricacies of each design, you empower yourself to harness the true potential of drones in your professional endeavors.

Mastering Drone Types: Unveiling Their Unique Capacities

Fixed Wing

Imagine having the ability to soar through the skies for hours, capturing the world below with precision and grace. Fixed-wing drones (drone aircraft), characterized by their aerodynamic design, boast several key specifications that set them apart in the drone landscape.

fixed wings drone on the ground

  • Flight Endurance: Unmatched Longevity

Fixed-wing drones are renowned for their impressive flight endurance, often outlasting their multirotor and hybrid counterparts. The secret lies in their streamlined design, utilizing a single engine and relying on lift generated by their wings. Electric-powered fixed-wing drones can gracefully cruise the skies for anywhere between 45 minutes to a staggering 3 hours, depending on their size. If you opt for a gasoline engine, the endurance reaches astonishing heights, ranging from 4 hours to a remarkable 18 hours. In fact, certain civil fixed-wing drones have been engineered to soar for an astounding 24 hours, providing an uninterrupted view from above.

  • Payload Capacity: Where Precision Meets Limitations

Despite their endurance prowess, fixed-wing drones face constraints when it comes to payload capacity. The compact compartments and single-engine design restrict their ability to carry heavy loads. Typically, fixed-wing drones can accommodate payloads ranging from 500 grams to 4 kilograms, primarily focusing on the precision delivery of specialized sensors.

  • Cruising Speed: Swift and Steady

Thanks to their aerodynamic excellence, fixed-wing drones boast higher cruising speeds, ranging from 60 kph to an impressive 200 kph. This swift movement through the air enables rapid coverage of expansive areas, making them ideal for various applications.

  • Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW): Varied Performances

The MTOW of fixed-wing drones varies widely, reflecting their diverse performance capabilities. Smaller drones with a flight endurance of around 1 hour typically weigh approximately 5 kilograms. In contrast, electric-powered fixed-wing variants can achieve MTOWs of up to 25 kilograms, ensuring extended flight times. Gasoline-powered counterparts, exceeding the 25-kilogram mark, sustain flight for over 6 hours, showcasing the correlation between weight and endurance.

  • Operating Radius: Beyond Visual Limits

Fixed-wing drones excel in Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations, owing to their extended flight endurance and higher cruising speeds. With operating radii often exceeding 25 kilometers, these drones are the go-to choice for missions requiring vast coverage. Remarkably, certain fixed-wing variants push the boundaries, reaching operating radii of up to 150 kilometers, offering unparalleled reach.

  • Power Source: Electric Efficiency and Gasoline Prowess

Electric batteries power fixed-wing drones with flight durations of up to 3 hours, ensuring efficient and eco-friendly operations. Meanwhile, larger fixed-wing drones, designed for prolonged missions, rely on gasoline engines, propelling them through the skies for hours on end.

  • Maintenance: Precision and Complexity

High-performance fixed-wing drones demand meticulous maintenance. The airframe, constituting the drone’s structure, requires careful attention to sustain optimal performance. Engine maintenance is equally crucial, ensuring the drone maintains sufficient thrust during flight. Additionally, the complexity of fixed-wing flight necessitates regular checks on the flight computer, ensuring seamless operation and safe missions.

Multirotor

We’re gonna take a closer look at these drones and see how long they can fly, how much they can carry, how fast they can go, and all that good stuff.

multirotor drone in flight

  • Flight Endurance: Powering Precision

Multirotor drones are meticulously designed to balance power and precision. While they may not focus on extensive flight endurance, they excel in lifting heavy payloads. Electric-powered multirotor typically offer flight durations of less than 1 hour. To extend flight times beyond the one-hour mark, alternative power sources like gasoline or hydrogen are employed, allowing these drones to soar for up to 6 hours.

  • Payload Capacity: Heavyweight Champions

One of the hallmarks of multirotor drones is their impressive payload capacity. Some variants can carry payloads ranging from a few kilograms to several dozen kilograms, especially those equipped with gasoline-powered engines. By default, multirotor boast significantly higher payload capacities compared to fixed-wing counterparts, making them ideal choices for tasks requiring heavy equipment or sensors.

  • Cruising Speed: Steady and Calculated

While multirotor might lack the aerodynamic finesse of fixed-wing drones, they compensate with precision and steadiness. Their cruising speeds typically range from 15 kph to 60 kph, ensuring controlled and deliberate movement through the air. This deliberate pace allows for meticulous data collection and maneuverability in confined spaces.

  • Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW): Balancing Payloads

Unlike fixed-wing drones where MTOW affects flight endurance, multirotor employ a different concept. The MTOW of multirotor predominantly influences payload capacity rather than flight endurance. Survey-oriented multirotor usually maintain MTOW below 25 kilograms. In contrast, multirotor designed for activities such as spraying or delivery often exceed the 25-kilogram mark, aligning with their enhanced payload capacities.

  • Operating Radius: Visual Line of Sight Mastery

Multirotor are primarily designed for Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) operations, limiting their operating radius. Although specific multirotor series boast operating radii of up to 20 kilometers, practical applications typically confine them to operating within a radius of fewer than 10 kilometers. These drones excel in tasks that require close, precise monitoring and intervention.

  • Power Source: Diverse Energy Solutions

Multirotor primarily rely on electric battery power to achieve flight durations of around 1 hour. To extend endurance beyond 3 hours, gasoline or hydrogen power sources are deployed, ensuring sustained flight for specialized missions. This diverse range of power options allows multirotor to adapt to various operational demands.

  • Maintenance: A Symphony of Components

The lifting power of multirotor drones hinges on the rotation of their propellers, making engines and propellers vital components requiring meticulous care. Additionally, the structural integrity (airframe) and flight computer are equally significant, ensuring the drone’s stability and optimal performance. Regular maintenance of these core elements guarantees smooth operations and extends the drone’s lifespan.

Hybrid

Navigating these advanced machines requires a deep understanding of their distinctive features. Let’s unravel the nuances of hybrid drones, exploring their flight endurance, payload capacities, cruising speed, and more.

hybrid drone in flight

  • Flight Endurance: Striking a Balance

Hybrid drones are engineered to bridge the gap between fixed-wing endurance and multirotor maneuverability. Their intricate design, though, means their flight endurance doesn’t match fixed-wing drones. While some hybrids can fly up to 10 hours, those powered by electric batteries usually stay airborne for 1 to 1.5 hours. This compromise allows for extended missions while maintaining a balance between flight duration and functionality.

  • Payload Capacity: Finding the Middle Ground

In the realm of payloads, hybrids strike a balance. They generally offer larger payload capacities than fixed-wing drones but fall slightly short of the capabilities of multirotor. This balance ensures they can carry substantial equipment while maintaining their flight stability and endurance.

  • Cruising Speed: Aerodynamic Harmony

Hybrid drones often share their cruising speeds with fixed-wing counterparts due to their aerodynamic designs. This similarity ensures efficient movement through the air, enhancing their overall performance and mission capabilities.

  • Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW): A Delicate Balance

The MTOW of hybrids mirrors that of fixed-wing drones, albeit slightly heavier. This additional weight stems from the hybrid design’s intricate structures and added engines, necessary to facilitate vertical flight akin to multirotor. This delicate balance between weight and functionality defines their unique characteristics.

  • Operating Radius: Beyond Boundaries

Hybrid drones typically boast operating radii comparable to fixed-wing counterparts, allowing them to cover expansive areas efficiently. Their extended reach makes them ideal for applications requiring large-scale aerial coverage.

  • Power Source: Diverse Energy Solutions

Like fixed-wing drones, hybrids primarily rely on electric batteries. However, innovative designs sometimes combine electric batteries for vertical flight with gasoline for cruising. This hybrid power setup optimizes energy usage, ensuring extended flight times for diverse mission requirements.

  • Maintenance: Complexity Meets Care

Maintaining a hybrid drone demands meticulous attention to every component. From the intricate airframe to the engines and flight computer, every element plays a vital role. Hybrid drones, due to their complex configurations, require a higher level of maintenance compared to other drone types. Regular upkeep ensures their intricate systems function seamlessly, guaranteeing reliable performance in every mission.

Drones come in different types, each with its own set of strengths. Fixed-wing drones fly for a long time and cover big areas, perfect for continuous surveillance. Multirotor drones carry heavy stuff with precision, ideal for detailed tasks. Hybrid drones balance flight time and payload, fitting various needs. Knowing these differences helps you pick the right drone for you.

Flying drone on field

Questionnaire to Help You Choose the Right Drone Configuration

To simplify your choice of drone configuration, you can answer the following questions:

What will the drone be used for?

  • If the drone will be used for spraying purposes, then multirotor is the best option currently available.
  • If it will be used for surveying and mapping, it depends on the payload and the area to be covered. If you’ll be using a standard camera payload and need to cover a large area, fixed-wing or hybrid drones are the best options. However, if you’ll be using specialized payloads (e.g., heavy geophysical sensors) or don’t need to cover a very large area, then a multirotor is the best choice.
  • For inspection purposes, a multirotor is the right choice because it can hover, allowing for more detailed images.

What is the area that needs to be covered by the drone?

  • For large areas, fixed-wing or hybrid drones are always better options than multirotor due to their higher productivity.
  • If the area to be covered is a forest, making it difficult to find a large enough space for fixed-wing takeoff and landing, then multirotor or hybrid drones are better choices.

How frequently will drone flights be conducted?

  • If flights need to be conducted regularly, multirotor or hybrid drones are suitable options because both can take off and land quickly and easily compared to fixed-wing drones. Operating fixed-wing drones requires caution, especially during takeoff and landing, involving several critical factors. Therefore, it generally requires longer preparation time.

Hybrid drone in flight, showcasing mapping technology

Choosing the Right Drone for Your Business Needs

Drones have become invaluable tools for various industries, offering solutions to complex challenges. If you’re considering integrating drones into your business operations, understanding the right type for your specific needs is crucial. Let’s explore some common use cases and the appropriate drone choices for each scenario.

Palm Oil Plantation Company: Mapping, Plant Health Check, and Spraying 

If you’re part of a palm oil plantation company aiming to map your land, check plant health, and perform targeted spraying, your ideal choice would be fixed-wing or hybrid drones equipped with RGB cameras for mapping and multispectral cameras for plant health checks. These drones offer flexibility as their cameras can be easily swapped, making one unit suitable for various tasks. For targeted spraying, a specialized multirotor drone designed specifically for spraying purposes is recommended.

Mining Company: Topographic Survey and Progress Monitoring 

Mining companies often require drones for topographic surveys in greenfield areas and progress monitoring in brownfield areas. For greenfield exploration, a multirotor drone with LiDAR sensors is ideal. These drones can also be fitted with geophysical sensors for exploration purposes. The same drone and LiDAR sensors can be used for progress monitoring, especially in smaller mining areas.

Real Estate Development Firm: Topographic Surveys and Construction Progress

Real estate companies frequently need drones for topographic surveys for land design and monitoring construction progress. The choice here depends on the survey area’s size. Multirotor, fixed-wing, or hybrid drones equipped with RGB and LiDAR sensors can be used. Typically, one drone can cater to various tasks, with the option to purchase different payloads tailored to specific activities.

Utility Company: Periodic Inspection of Power Transmission Lines

Utility companies requiring periodic inspections of power transmission lines can opt for multirotor or hybrid drones. For detailed inspections requiring close proximity to transmission lines, multirotor drones are suitable. They can hover very close to the lines, capturing intricate details. However, if a general inspection suffices, hybrid drones can be employed.

Remember, understanding your specific needs and the capabilities of different drone types is essential. By selecting the right drone, you ensure efficient and accurate operations tailored to your business requirements.

Conclusion

In the ever-evolving landscape of drone technology, the key to maximizing your Return on Investment (ROI) lies in understanding the nuanced differences between drone aircraft (fixed-wing) , multirotor, and hybrid drones. Each type brings unique strengths to the table. By aligning your specific business needs with the right drone type, you ensure that every flight is not just a task but an opportunity—an opportunity to capture data with unmatched precision, efficiency, and reliability. 

Choosing the right drone isn’t just a decision; a professional help might be needed to assist your needs. With Terra Drone, we specialize in a wide range of drone configurations and are dedicated to helping your company discover the perfect drone solution tailored to your unique requirements. It’s an investment in the future of your business, opening doors to innovative solutions and ensuring that every mission soars to its fullest potential, ultimately enhancing your overall ROI.

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