What Are the Main Types of Drones? An Ultimate Guide
Are you interested in getting your very own drone?
Drones have been around for a while now, and the technology for them only keeps on improving. Its market and uses also continue to grow as more people get into it. That said, drones have gone past only being “trendy” and are becoming more of a necessity for some.
If you’re looking to get a drone for yourself, don’t buy one on a whim. Look into the types of drones that would be most suitable for you first. Despite being more widespread now, drones can still be quite expensive.
Depending on their features, make, and model, looking for one can get overwhelming. That shouldn’t be the case, though – know more about the main types of drones available for you today by reading our guide below.
Things to Consider Before Getting Your First Drone
Drone prices can range from a few hundred bucks to several thousand. Before buying one, it’s best to know what to consider. A major deciding factor on where to start is whether you’re new to drones or a pro.
As a novice, proper research and several test runs could help you figure out how to run a drone with ease. Although doing so with an expensive unit isn’t the wisest option. If you’re new to drones, it’s best to stick to more budget-friendly units.
Entry-level drones tend to average around $500 and are slower and lighter. They aren’t as optimal for content creation but are still serviceable for hobbyists. The Mid-Range will run you over $1000 while higher-end ones can top $2000 with ease.
Beyond experience, you might need to consider the legal paperwork before you pick up a drone. If you’re asking what types of drones need to be registered, 250g is the cutoff. This makes many lightweight and compact entry-level drones compliant without needing a license.
You also don’t need to register them, making it easy to try them without committing to any paperwork. For drones over 250g, it’s sometimes possible to register them for recreational use. This lets you get around some of the licensing requirements as long as you follow the rules.
For the Experienced or the Bold
If you have prior experience with drones, then you’ll likely consider a better model. If you’re brave, you might jump right into mid-range. One of the best options available for semi-beginners is a DJI drone.
They are some of the most flexible and reasonably-priced ones on the market. The DJI Air 2S is a solid choice at only $1,249 and comes with plenty of nice features for content creation. It’s important to feel comfortable with your drone and what you’ll be using it for first, though.
You should always consider what you’re planning to use your drone for. This is especially true when leaping out of entry-level drones. Ask if it’s something you’re willing to invest in for work or if it’s only for leisure use.
Do you need a top-of-the-line camera and streaming capability? Then you’ll need to look for 4k capability, with a minimum of 1080p and 30fps streaming. These are common in the $1000+ range, but you’ll also need to consider range, storage, and vision system.
With this in mind, you’d need to familiarize yourself more with the different types of drones for the job.
Knowing What You Need
Drones are also known as Unmanned Aircraft Systems or UAS. They can fall into different categories, either through their weight or build. When classified based on their weight, drones can fall into five categories, which are:
- Nano (< 250g)
- Micro Air Vehicles or MAV (250g – 2kg)
- Miniature /Small UAV or SUAV (2kg-25 kg)
- Medium (25kg-150kg)
- Large (> 150 kg)
Most recreational and commercial drones fall into the nano, MAV, and SUAV categories. A great example of this is the Mavic 3 Fly More Combo. A micro air vehicle weighs less than 895g, less than a kilo.
This makes it one of the most lightweight yet versatile options available. Making it a favorite of both hobbyists and professionals alike. Alternatively, when categorizing drones by their build, there are four main types.
This category considers a drone’s rotors. Multi-rotor means having more than two rotors; its counterpart is a single rotor. Additionally, the other two types are fixed-wing drones and hybrid VTOLs.
As the name implies, this drone only has one rotor. It might also look a lot more different than most of the drones we’re used to seeing today. A good example of its look is the classic chopper or helicopter.
Despite this, though, other designs for it are also available. The “ball drone,” in particular, resembles a disk with a dome. Often, surveyors and engineers use them for fieldwork to do exploring or observation.
Given its design, installing a camera on these drones can get tricky. Hence, they don’t offer a lot of versatility for those looking to explore their field of vision. This also makes them unpopular for those looking to get into drone photography.
They aren’t as forgiving and stable compared to multi-rotor units, and acing their landing might also take a while. So if you’re looking for something more mainstream, this might not be the drone for you. That said, it’s still a nifty UAV, which a lot of drone DIYers like to experiment with.
When picturing a modern drone, you’re more likely to reference a multi-rotor one. Nowadays, they’re almost always the standard many drone enthusiasts go for. The reason for this is quite simple – they’re more modern and versatile.
They’re also one of the easiest to handle, making them perfect for both beginners and veterans. The DJI FPV drone, for instance, is well-loved in the Reddit drone community. Like most multi-rotor drones, it has a superb range, with good camera control options.
Compared to the other types of drones, multi-rotors are one of the easiest to operate. It offers good hovering and is easy to fly even in a contained or confined space. Depending on the make and model you get, their flight times can vary.
When choosing one, one of the most important specs you have to consider is its battery and camera quality. This is especially important if you plan to use it for aerial photography or surveillance. However, one of the best things about owning a multi-rotor is all the extra equipment to enhance it.
Most big-name tech companies tend to cater to this type of drone. This gives it an advantage over customizability, which both newbies and pros appreciate. In turn, this makes it a lot easier for drone owners to kit out their units.
Among the different types of drones, multi-rotor drones offer added flexibility and features.
Like single-rotor drones, a fixed-wing drone’s design is more similar to something we’re all familiar with – a plane. A good example of this drone is the ScanEagle drone. Unlike more commercial and recreational drones, these drones tend to be harder to fly.
They are also more expensive and also require professional training and handling. These drones are perfect for aerial mapping, and more often than not, military explorations. That said, they have a longer flight time than the drones available for commercial use.
Fixed-wing drones can also cover a larger area but can come at the expense of their adaptability. Vertical take-off, landing, and hovering are both out of the picture when dealing with these drones. More so, launching and recovery would take and need more space.
Indeed, fixed-wing drones aren’t the best options for casual hobbyists or un-trained pilots. They also don’t offer the flexibility that many videographers or adrenaline junkies look for. They’re best used by professionals and military services.
Last but not least is the hybrid VTOL. To recap, VTOL stands for vertical take-off and landing. Hybrids try to combine the best of fixed-wing and rotor drones.
These types of drones are still in development, though they are promising.
They attempt to give pilots better long-range and payload capacity alongside the ability to hover. A major weakness of fixed-wing and single-rotor drones is they’re more difficult to use.
Both require extensive training for safe operation. Multi-rotor drones don’t need the same degree of training and don’t pose the same risks. They aren’t yet as good at forward-flight or hovering as their specialized counterparts, but they’re improving.
In an ideal world, hybrids will bring the accessibility and ease of multi-rotor drones to commercial and industrial spaces. As of now, they are a work in progress, with some already available for early enthusiasts.
Beginner’s Guide to the Different Types of Drones
When it comes to variety, there are several different types of drones. Depending on your needs and preferences, these can range in use as well as in operation. Some are more versatile and perfect for videography; others excel at long-distance travel.
The price can vary as well, and any licensing that goes along with it. For the latest on drone technology and piloting, check out our site. We have tons of info for you to explore, whether you’re a rookie or a drone veteran.