Fixed Wing or Multi-Rotor Drone? USS Outlines Key Considerations

Published: 22 Sep 2016

Unmanned Systems Source have released an infographic designed to aid the decision-making process when choosing between a multi-rotor or a fixed-wing UAV.

Fixed wing or multirotor infographic

Ultimately, requirements will vary depending on project objectives, operator experience and budget. Below, Unmanned Systems Source have detailed a number of factors that should be considered:

Fixed Wing UAVs
Fixed-wing UAVs are generally better suited for rural environments and are work horses for many commercial and scientific applications. Though they may not offer the manoeuvrability of a multi-rotor UAV, when it comes to flight times and coverage, fixed wing drones excel.

Other advantages include:

  • Capability of operating at higher altitudes
  • Faster flight speeds
  • Power and capacity to carry heavier and, in some cases, multiple payloads – which in turn means the ability to gather more sophisticated data
  • Option to choose from a wider variety of sensors
  • Extended flight times, 60 minutes +
  • Larger coverage.

In regards to the operational area required, it depends on the vehicle. Fixed wing UAVs need more space for takeoffs and landings. While hand-launched models deploy quickly, others require a launching rail.

The initial costs to purchase a fixed-wing system are higher but these systems are fairly inexpensive to maintain due to their simpler design. And there is usually less operational “down-time” for fixed-wing UAVs.

Multi-rotor UAVs
The use of multi-rotor UAVs has exploded in recent years in large part due to their affordability and ease of use. But multi-rotor advantages certainly extend beyond these two points.
Other advantages include:

  • Highly manoeuvrable in flight which is great for urban and tightly confined areas
  • Ability to hover – which make it an excellent choice for inspections of infrastructure that require close-up examination
  • Easy to operate and deploys quickly
  • Small takeoff and landing footprint
  • Affordable price-point.

In flight, multi-rotor drones are incredibly manoeuvrable and can hover which make them the preferred choice for detailed inspection work and urban areas where space limitations are at a premium. They are also the obvious choice for video and photography work.

Though multi-rotor UAVs provide only limited flight duration (15-20 minutes on average), their operational flexibility makes it a favored choice for many urban applications.

Ultimately, the choice between a multi-rotor or fixed-wing UAV for a specific application depends on a variety of factors. Understanding the strengths and limitations of each vehicle goes a long way in helping inform your decision.

The team at Unmanned Systems Source are on hand to answer any questions you may have and have a broad knowledge of a number of different drone platforms.

Posted by Mike Ball Mike is our resident technical editor here at Unmanned Systems Technology. Combining his passions for teaching, advanced engineering and all things unmanned, Mike keeps a watchful eye over everything related to the unmanned technical sector. With over 10 years’ experience in the unmanned field and a degree in engineering, Mike’s been heading up our technical team here for the last 8 years.

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