Types Of Drones
1. Single-Rotor Drones:
These are by far some of the most basic types of drones. As the name would imply, it employs only a single rotor (besides the tail unit in some cases) and can often generate thrust more efficiently than their multi-rotor counterparts. This can make them ideal for longer flight times.
That said, there are drawbacks to that design. First, the single blade design combined with their often gas-powered nature can mean that single-rotor drones can sometimes cost more than their counterparts. What’s more, larger rotor blades mean a higher chance of one accidentally injuring you.
In addition, the drones are often not as stable, and while they can still hover over areas, they can also be more difficult to fly than drones that have multiple rotors to keep them balanced and airborne. They can cost anywhere from $25K to a whopping $300K.
2. Multi-Rotor Drones:
Where a single-rotor drone looks like a helicopter and is able to maintain flight with a single rotor, these units have several rotors positioned at strategic points on the craft. These extra rotors can make it easier for the craft to maintain its balance and keep hovering.
However, when it comes to different types of commercial drones, as a general rule of thumb, the more rotors you add, the less time the craft is able to remain airborne. As such, while these units offer good stability, they often top out at half an hour of flight time.
In addition, most types of multi-rotor drones are not able to carry a heavy payload, as this would disrupt the balance maintained by its offsetting rotors. The price varies widely, from $5k for starter units to $65k for top options.
3. Fixed-Wing Drones:
The lack of rotors and fixed-wing style of these drones make them more similar to controllable airplanes rather than the helicopter style of other drones. Rather than rotors, their wings provide vertical lift, which means they only need enough energy to keep moving forward, making them ideal long-range drones.
Some fixed-wing drones can be gas powered. Where multi-rotor units cannot remain airborne long, a fixed-wing drone can remain in the air for as long as 16 hours of continuous flight. However, they are not able to hover the way drones with helicopter-style rotors can.
The lack of a rotor also makes them harder to land. They must be very carefully brought in for an extremely soft “belly landing,” and in less-than-expert hands, this can go very wrong very quickly. These types of drones generally cost between $25K and $120K.
4. Fixed-Wing Hybrid Drones:
This type of drone attempt to take the best from fixed-wing and rotor-based designs, making for drones that feature both. A fixed-wing hybrid drone will tend to have a couple rotors attached to the ends of fixed wings.
Many of these drones are actually based on designs for aircraft that have been around since the 1950s and 1960s. However, the technology to bring them to life was considered too difficult, and they were largely shelved before the rise of drones.
These units are still rather experimental, and so are far less commercially available than their single-rotor, multi-rotor, and fixed-wing counterparts. However, with several companies developing them, they may well be the wave of the future.
5. Micro Drones:
While smaller drones may mean recreation in the eyes of consumers, for militaries who use drones, micro drones are all business. The most well-known example of this type of drone in action today is the Black Hornet, manufactured for the British military.
Since their adoption in 2013, these tiny 1” x 4” drones have been used by the British military to look around walls and other installations in Afghanistan. While cameras may be too much for recreational small drones, the special micro cameras on these small drones can provide useful intelligence.
When they are not in use, Black Hornets can be stored in a special belt. They can fly for up to 25 minutes on a single battery charge, and have a range of up to a mile. In addition, some Black Hornets have been outfitted with infrared cameras.
6. Tactical Drones:
These drones are large enough to not be pocket-sized, while still being far smaller than the type used for general combat and larger tasks. The preferred tactical drone of the US military is the Raven, which measures 4.5 ft and weighs 4.2 lbs.
These types of drones are often used for surveillance work. As with the Black Hornets, the Ravens are capable of being outfitted with special infrared cameras, helping them supply soldiers with an accurate picture of the area even in the nighttime.
The units come with onboard GPS technology. While they are on the simple side and do not boast a lot of bells and whistles, this also makes them quite accessible and easy for soldiers to use without the need for special training.
7. Reconnaissance Drones:
With another military drone class, we once again move up in size a bit to drones that are not designed to be handheld. Instead, these drones measure around 16 ft long, are launched from the ground, and are called Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) or High-Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) drones.
These drones are among the most commonly employed by militaries around the world. The Heron, designed by Israeli Aerospace Industries, has manufactured drones of this nature for military recon use for the US, Canada, Turkey, India, Morocco, and Australia.
The drones in question can weigh over 2200 lbs. and remain in the air for 52 hours straight at a cruising height of 35,000 ft. The German military makes use of another type of drone, the LUNA, which is less expensive than the Heron, but has shorter operational periods.
8. Large Combat Drones:
Chances are when you think of “drones” in a military sense, these are the types you imagine. Variants such as the Predator and Reaper, used by the US, are around 36 ft long and able to fire on targets with air-to-surface missiles and laser-guided bombs.
These units can operate for 14 hours over a range of a thousand miles. These drones have been used for operations such as military strikes in Pakistan and other countries with which the US is not officially at war.
The US may be the most famous (or infamous) user of drones, but they are hardly alone. Fellow NATO nations such as the UK, Spain, and France use them as well, while China has manufactured its own version, the CH-4, which has been bought by Egypt and Iraq.
9. Photography Drones:
We’ve already touched on drones’ photo-taking capabilities. While a few smaller options can take limited photos and there are obviously several drones that are capable of doing so for militaries, if you are looking to take professional photos you’ll want a commercial drone specially designed to do that.
As indicated above, to get the kind of stability that is necessary for taking a good picture or video, you are going to want drones that feature multiple rotors.
If you are looking to take professional-grade shots, you will want to make sure that your drone is outfitted with a professional-grade camera. High-resolution pictures can be taken with 4K camera drones. Some photography drones also make use of precision stability and automated flight modes for taking pictures over vast spaces.
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