Types of Drone You Need to Know Before Buying

Not all drones are created equal. This guide will break down everything you need to know about the different types of drones.

Over the past few years, the drone has become a favorite device of many. It’s now easier than ever for customers to purchase a drone for personal use. However, not all drones are created equal. If you are looking to buy your first drone, you may likely be overwhelmed by the number of drones available. This guide will break down everything you need to know about the different types of drones.

The Number of Propellers

type of propellers

The quickest way for users to categorize is by breaking them down by the number of propellers they have. This is the case for all rotary drones. The rotor is the piece on top of the drone that allows it to gain momentum and fly. Typically, smaller drones only have one rotor, while larger drones could have up to eight rotors.

The more rotors on the drone, the more design options there are. For example, quad-rotor drones have two design options, the Quad I and the Quad X. The Quad I is shaped like a compass. There are rotors on the northern and southern tips of the drone that spin in one direction, either clockwise or counterclockwise. There are then rotors on the eastern and western points that spin opposite.

The other quad-rotor design, the Quad X, features four rotors in an X-shaped pattern. Mostly, it is the same as the Quad I except for the fact that the entire rotor system has been rotated 45-degrees clockwise. For example, imagine a clock with the numbers 1 through 12. On the Quad I, rotors are on the numbers 12, 3, 6, and 9. On the Quad X, the rotors are at 2, 5, 8, and 10.

Another fashionable design is the hex-rotor design. These drones, which feature six rotors, are available in four different patterns, including:

  • Hex I
  • Hex V
  • Hex Y
  • Hex IY

The Hex I is similar to the Quad 1, except that it features four rotors between the northern and southern points as opposed to two. The rotors spin opposite each other, which help stabilize the drone in the air. The Hex V pattern is also similar to the Quad X pattern, again except for the fact that it contains six rotors instead of four.

The Hex Y and Hex IY patterns are a bit more complicated. The Hex Y pattern is similar to a tri-copter in that it features three “arms.” However, each arm contains two rotors, which is why we classify this as a hex-copter. The rotors spin opposite each other. So, each division has one rotor that spins clockwise and one that rotates counterclockwise.

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The Hex IY features the same design, except it is inverted. The Hex Y design features one set of rotors at the northern-most point of the drone and two separate sets of rotors in the back. The Hex IY, on the other hand, features two sets of rotors on the northern-most point of the drone and one set of rotors in the back of the drone.

Lastly, you may see drones with as many as eight rotors. One of the oct-rotor designs that you’re likely to see is the Oct X. This design is the same as the Quad X except for the fact that it features dual rotors on every extension, just as the Hey Y and the Hex IY. Two other oct-rotor designs are the Oct I and the Oct V. These drones have eight arms, each featuring an independent rotor.

The last type of drone that you may encounter is a fixed-wing drone. These drones have fixed wings like a model airplane. Unlike the other drones mentioned previously, fixed-wing drones are not capable of standing stationary in the air or hovering. These drones must be kept moving forward at all times to prevent them from crashing.  

When browsing for drones, you’re likely to find that quadcopters are the most popular on the marketplace. That’s because they do not require any engineering adjustments, meaning they are ready to go as soon as the customer takes it out of the box. They tend to move quickly and transport moderate-sized loads without problems.

Types of Drones - The Size of the Drone

man flying a Drone

In addition to the rotors, another way to classify drones is by their size. Sizes can vary significantly, with each serving a different purpose. The smallest drones you’ll likely come across are those that are about 50 centimeters long. These are known as either Micro Drones or Nano Drones. Because of how small they are, they are ideal for spying in hard-to-reach spaces.

The next classification of drones is the Mini Drone. These drones are bigger than 50 centimeters but typically no more extensive than two meters. These are the drones that you are most likely to come across when purchasing a unit for yourself or your business. They are easy to maneuver and provide a host of features, such as the ability to mount a camera.  

The next classification of drones is medium drones. These drones are significantly larger than Mini Drones, as they are typically so big that it requires two people to carry them. Medium Drones can weight up to 200 kilograms. Due to regulations from the Federal Aviation Administration, it is difficult to purchase one of these drones for recreational use.

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The last type of drones is the Large Drone, which is the size of an aircraft. When you hear of the military using tactical drones in high-risk areas, Large Drones are often their equipment of choice. They also come with high-tech cameras and may also include features like heat-sensing technology. The average customer cannot purchase a drone of this size.

Types of Drones - The Range of the Drone

Drone

Another feature used to classify drones is the range in which they can communicate with the controller. Users often use close-range drones for recreational purposes. These drones can fly as far as 50 kilometers away from their controller, although many close-range drones feature much shorter ranges. Their battery life ranges anywhere from a few minutes to six hours.

Short-range drones feature a significantly higher range than close-range drones. Short-range drones can fly up to 150 kilometers away from their controller, giving them nearly 100 km more flying range. Because of the distance in which they can travel, these drones tend to feature better battery life, lasting up to 12 hours.

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The next range level is the mid-range drone. The range on these drones is incredible, as they can fly up to 650 km away from their controller. These units are sturdy and are often very fast, making them excellent for tactical missions. Lastly, the military may also use endurance drones, which can fly up to 36 hours without interruption while reaching a maximum height of 3,000 feet above sea level.

Types of Drones - Features on the Drone

In addition to the above, there are also numerous design features that help set drones apart from one another. These features are often the ones with which you must concern yourself when choosing a drone. For the average person looking to purchase a drone for at-home use, these design features will help set one unit apart from the other.

Ready to Fly

For those entering the world of drones, you should be on the lookout for those that are ready to fly. Some drones require users to construct them. Not only could this take time, but users unfamiliar with the equipment risk doing it wrong which would likely result in their product not working. Instead, you should be on the lookout for drones that can help you acclimate with flying these types of devices.

GPS Capabilities

Some drones come equipped with GPS capabilities. They link to a satellite and will travel to pre-planned coordinates that the user enters. Some drones come with GPS features that allow users to lock the drone into the coordinates of the phone so that when they move, their drone moves with them as well. The GPS could also be pre-programmed with software that comes with the drone.

Additionally, GPS capabilities are beneficial for those looking to send their drone on exploratory missions. Because the average drone user uses a machine with low range capabilities, they face the scenario of their drone running out of battery quickly. If the user enters GPS coordinates into the unit, the drone will return to its home base before the battery dies entirely.

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Stunt Drones

Another option you have when choosing a drone is whether it can perform stunts. These drones are often fast, lightweight, and easy to maneuver. They are usually always used for entertainment purposes, although both young children and adults alike can use them. Users can perform tricks such as backflips and barrel rolls.

Simple models feature a “Stunt” button the controller. When flying, users can press this button that causes the drone to perform a trick. We recommend ensuring that you have an abundance of space if you plan on using one of these drones. Similarly, be sure to purchase a product that is sturdy in design, as these drones are bound to run into something during flight.

Racing Drones

Another way to use drones as a form of entertainment is by racing them. Racing drones are incredibly lightweight, stripped of any components that would weigh them down during a race. These drones also tend to feature sleek, aerodynamic designs. These drones tend to reach a top speed of 60 miles per hour and feature responsive controls so that users can maneuver them accurately.

Drones for Photography

Photography drones again demonstrate how useful these machines can be for entertainment. These drones allow users to take stunning aerial footage, typically with high-powered cameras. Whether you’re looking to capture a photo of a large group of people or are looking to catch the view of an entire landscape, photography drones give you vantage points unlike any other.

These drones often tend to be incredibly durable, as they are built to withstand the elements. When choosing a photography drone, you can either choose between one that has a camera built-in and one that requires you to attach a third-party camera, like a GoPro. Your choice is likely very dependent upon your purpose for using the drone.

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Delivery Drones

Another feature that you may be interested in is whether the drone has a weight-bearing capability. This could make it easy to transport goods and materials from one location to another. One of the areas where this is becoming most popular is with delivery services. For example, Amazon has already begun experimenting with drone delivery for packages that weigh less than five pounds.

Alternative-Power Drones

Although not as familiar, another design feature you may come across is the power source of the drone. Most drones available for public purchase operate on electricity. Users must charge the drone’s battery once it dies. But, some drones run on gas, which could improve the longevity of the flight while also reducing the amount of downtime between flights.

Choosing a Drone

man playing a Drone

With so many features available, you may find it difficult to decide. However, new drone owners would be wise to consider how they most plan to use their device, and then narrow down their options from there. For example, it’s impossible for a user to purchase a high-powered racing drone that also has a camera attached.

If a user would like both of these features, they must consider purchasing two separate drones or adding third-party equipment to modify their drone. For example, they could potentially add a gimbal to the racing drone that could hold a third-party camera in place. They could they remove the gimbal whenever they were racing their device.

Another essential consideration is the cost of the product. The cost of drones can range considerably, from $20 to a few thousand dollars. You should consider your budget and find a piece of equipment that fits within your price range. You can always upgrade your equipment as time goes on. But, overspending on a drone will make for an experience that is not enjoyable.

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