There are far more multi-rotor drone models out there than you might think. Tricopters and quadcopters are usually hobbyist machines that can be seen buzzing around just about any public park these days, but you might also spot a hexacopter or even an octocopter.
The number of motors and the configuration of their rotors can drastically affect the handling, stability, and how a drone is used.
Before you plunk your money down on the shiniest new drone, you should ensure that you understand the differences between them. Doing so will help you decide which kind of drone is right for your purposes.
Here, we will cover two of the more popular and comparable drone types: the hexacopter and the quadcopter. We will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each option, and finally compare them head to head.
What Is a Hexacopter?
The prefix “hex” means “six,” so a hexacopter is a drone with six rotors. They are arranged in a circle around the main body of the craft, spaced 120 degrees apart, with legs attached to the body to allow for a safe and steady landing.
The extra rotors make hexacopters powerful fliers that can carry fairly heavy payloads. They also remain stable in their air, which makes them great options for aerial photographers.
Even at high altitudes with thin air, these drones can stay aloft with ease. In high winds, their rotors will still slice through the air and keep it under your control.
Another advantage the hexacopter’s six rotors give it is added durability. If one rotor fails, a hexacopter can still stay airborne and under the control of the pilot.
The same cannot be said for quadcopters or tricopters. If two rotors fail, a hexacopter may be able to stay in the air depending on the positioning of the failed rotors and should be able to be brought in for a safe landing.
Hexacopters are not for everyone, however. They are big and bulky, which makes them tough to fly in wooded areas or urban spaces with a lot of obstacles.
Thanks to their multitude of moving parts, they can also be quite difficult to assemble, especially for a beginner.
There are, however, plenty of preassembled options if you do not care whether you get to put your new drone together yourself.
The extra parts also make them more expensive than their smaller brethren, so if you just want a drone to fly around for fun a hexacopter may not be your first choice.
These devices are, however, a great balance between performance and price. They can carry plenty of weight while still being more affordable than larger drones like octocopters.
- Powerful and capable of carrying heavy payloads
- Can reach higher altitudes than drones with fewer rotors
- Can stay aloft even if one rotor fails
- Stable even on windy days
- More expensive to purchase and repair than smaller drones
- Too big for tight spaces or areas with many obstacles
- Difficult DIY assembly
What Is a Quadcopter?
- Fast and agile
- Inexpensive when compared to drones with more rotors
- Easy to build at home
- No backup rotors means that if one fails, the drone will crash
- Can carry a payload, but not one as heavy as a hexacopter
How Do They Compare?
The differences between these two drones are clear. Hexacopters are pricier, more durable, more powerful, and capable of carrying heavy payloads including professional-grade camera equipment.
Quadcopters are smaller and less powerful, but also less expensive and easier to build and repair. While there is a clear distinction between the two, you may still be wondering which type of drone is right for you.
Because of their added power and stability, hexacopters are a good choice for anyone who has precious cargo they want to transport.
The last thing you want when your drone is carrying a heavy camera rig is for a single blown motor to send your investments – drone and camera alike – crashing to the ground.
If you are a professional photographer with professional-grade equipment, you will definitely want to choose a hexacopter.
While a quadcopter can easily carry an action camera, a hexacopter can shoot much higher-grade video with a much heavier, higher-quality camera.
They are also the better option for pilots who want to reach higher altitudes or fly a drone in high winds. Their added stability and power will keep them in the air with ease.
Quadcopters are arguably the more versatile device. Due to their lower price point, they are ideal for first-time drone buyers.
They can be assembled and flown by a novice relatively easily when compared with their six-rotored counterparts.
If you are a first-timer, choose a small quadcopter to practice with before graduating to the big boys. Intermediate pilots, too, can have plenty of fun with a quadcopter.
These models are the most common in drone races, for example, thanks to their combination of speed, power, and maneuverability.
Thanks to their smaller size, quadcopters are also the better choice for anyone who wants to fly in a forest or an area with a lot of aerial obstacles.
Making an exploration video of an abandoned building, for example, with a larger drone will be much more difficult, while a quadcopter can easily navigate smaller rooms and, with a steady hand, even hallways.
Who then, should use each kind of drone?
- Professional photographers
- Professional and semi-professional drone pilots
- Anyone who wants to use their drone to transport heavy payloads
- First-time drone users
- Those who plan to fly in spaces with more obstacles
The first thing to do when trying to decide what kind of drone to buy is to consider what you will be using it for.
Just because one option is bigger and more expensive does not make it higher quality; it means that it is used for very different purposes than its smaller, more affordable counterparts.
Once you know what you want out of your drone, your purchase choice will get a lot easier.
If you are a hobbyist who just wants a machine to fly around in your yard or the local park, a quadcopter will do the trick.
If you are an action sports enthusiast looking for a device to follow you as you bike trails in the woods, the four-rotored option will also be a safer bet.
Any beginner will want to start out with a quadcopter, too: not only are they less expensive and therefore less of an investment, but they are much easier to put together and simpler to fix should they crash.
Quadcopters come in many flavors, too. Beginners will likely want a simple machine that is easy and fun to control.
They are also available in racing models, though, and many come equipped with cameras. If a quadcopter is your flavor of choice, you will still have to narrow down your options.
If, however, you want a machine that can do heavy lifting and protect its cargo, a hexacopter will be a better choice.
Any professional photographer, whether still or video, who wants to rig a drone with heavy equipment and keep it safe from potential crashes will definitely want to shell out more for the larger option.
These drones are more expensive, yes, but also more stable and more durable. They are a great choice for someone who wants to get more out of their drone purchase than some entertainment; they can be workhorses for professionals and semi-professionals alike.
Whether you want a drone for fun or for work, there is an option out there that will be a perfect fit for you.