In 1916, Great Britain developed the first unmanned aerial device, Ruston Proctor Aerial Target, which was operated with the use of radio control. Nikola Tesla developed the designs for this radio-controlled drone 16 years after the Wright brothers’ development of their famous Kitty Hawk.
Since then, drones have traversed from its application as a military weapon to a broad spectrum of commercial and military usages. In 2018, the US Federal Authority of Aviation presented a report which stated that the number of drones in use have doubled up in comparison to the previous year. In 2017, there were 1.1 million drones which increased to 2 million in 2018.
Not only have the numbers doubled, but the variants have also multiplied over the past few decades. Today, there are umpteen variants of drones from fixed-wing drones to multi-rotor drones. These two types of drones can be further broken down into sub types. Each variant possesses its own set of utilities and drawbacks and is suitable for different applications.
Due to the varying utilities, the conundrum of fixed-wing UAV vs. multi-rotor drone persists. This post would discuss in detail the differences between the two variants and which would be applicable under what circumstances.
Difference between fixed-wing drones and Multi-rotor UAVs
Drones have breached the threshold of military expeditions and are used extensively in various industries. These industries include agriculture and farming, architecture and construction, insurance, and real estate. The heavy usage of drones indicates its varying usability and adaptability.
Thereby, when deciding to purchase a drone, the dilemma can be tiring and confusing. The key differentials of fixed-wing and multi-rotor drones are discussed below to enable you to make an informed purchase.
A. Multi-rotor drones
Multi-rotor drone is an umbrella term used to encapsulate different types of drones – helicopters (single rotor UAVs), tricopters (triple rotor drones), quadcopters (quadruple rotor drones), and the list continues.
These devices constitute a central body and rotors which potentiate the propellers to fly. The rotors or blades are fixed to different ends of the device to enable maneuvering it by shifting the thrust and torque of blades. It is ideal for stagnant speculation and sizing up objects.
It is distinguished from the fixed-wing drones based on the points discussed below –
1. Take-off and Landing
Multi-rotor drones are enabled to take flight and land vertically. It is one of the significant advantages of rotary-wing over fixed-wing aircrafts. They require less space to take flight, can stay airborne in a fixed position, and can be maneuvered freely to inspect objects and landmasses. Unlike fixed-wing UAVs which require a larger surface area to propel, multi rotaries can easily fly owing to the blades which rotate in a fixed position.
Consequentially, multi-rotor drones are employed to develop maps, speculate farms, inspect architectural edifices, and to form 3-dimensional models of outdoor locations.
Multi-rotaries are compact devices. Subsequently, they consume less space when flying and can be easily maneuvered through large buildings. Their wingspan is limited, and their maneuverability largely depends on the user’s skills rather than leeway.
Additionally, these devices can be folded into compact proportions for ease of portability and storage. This is a marked difference between fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircrafts.
3. Learning curve
Multi-rotary drones are extremely easy to use and learn. It can be operated through autopilots. The controls are convenient and straightforward to grasp. Additionally, the vertical take-off and landing adds extra points to its benefit and allows users to understand the dynamics easily. Thereby, it is ideal for beginners.
4. Loading capacity
The design for multi-rotary UAVs potentiates it to carry weightier loads compared to fixed-wing devices. The sturdy built allows it to ferry substantial weight without being weighed down. Depending on the model, the capacity varies.
Some models are able to carry bulky DSLRs and other camera equipment, and other heavy objects. It is ideal to deliver grocery or other moderately weighted objects over a considerable distance.
Multi-rotor drones are comparatively cheaper than fixed-wing devices. It improves the overall Return on Investment, as this type of drones has much more applicability compared to the price.
B. Fixed-wing drones
Fixed-wing UVAs are built in the fashion of traditional airplanes. They constitute a single body centered by two fixed-wings on both sides, and one propeller. Much like conventional airplanes, these require a long take-off and landing space. In that respect, they are not economical.
The primary advantages of fixed-wing drones over multi-rotaries are discussed below –
Unlike multi-rotary drones, fixed-wing UVAs can remain airborne for a more extended period. Additionally, these devices can fly for a longer range due to its low battery consumption. Whereas on the one hand, a standard multi-rotary consumes a single battery within 30 minutes; a fixed-wing drone can fly for at least an hour.
Fixed wing drone long range allows coverage of lengthier and more linear airspace compared to multi rotaries.
Fixed-wing drones are comparatively more stable. You can fly these devices in harsh climatic conditions. This feature is chiefly accredited to its design which allows it to withstand a windy climate.
Ergo, it can be used in challenging weathers to speculate linear landmasses.
When a fixed-wing drone runs out of battery, it is designed to land safely with minimum damage. The design, which resembles a gliding device, promotes safe landings; unlike a multi-rotor drone, which would drop from wherever it was the last airborne.
IV. Linear flying curve
Fixed-wing drones can only be flown linearly. This feature facilitates pipeline inspection. Additionally, the linear flying range increases its capacity to speculate long areas such as roads and farms.
It is thereby ideal for agricultural purposes and checking roads for GPS.
Both types of drones have their sets of pros and cons, which makes each variant ideal for different applications. In case, you are purchasing a drone, weigh a few factors, such as your budget and purpose. Then you can tally those against what you learnt here to make an informed purchase.