How Much Weight Can a Drone Carry?

Are you a drone owner? Or do you want to own one to use for aerial photography, drone racing, remote sensing, or even providing disaster relief?

Depending on your purpose, you are out to buy a model that’s configured to carry the equipment or object you need. 

You’ve asked one of the most practical questions before buying: how much weight can a drone carry?

Here are some of the frequently asked questions related to this subject – explained and answered.

How Much Weight Can a Drone Carry?

What’s Your Purpose?

Whether it’s a beginner drone or a mini-drone, one of the top factors to consider before buying is the unit’s maximum weight capacity, what you’re looking for here is the drone’s payload. Aside from its propellers, motors, and controllers, it has the ability to handle the extra weight. And that extra weight is determined by the drone’s purpose.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), the more formal name for drones, are used for a wide range of purposes. They have been deployed in intelligence and tactical missions. Professionals have relied on them for mapping, remote sensing, and filmmaking. 

With the technology becoming more accessible to consumers, they have been tapped for recreational flying, drone racing, and aerial photography.

Let’s check which factors can affect how much weight a drone can carry in the next section.

Factors that Affect How Much Weight a Drone Can Carry

Size and Number of Propellers

The power of the propellers should be twice the total weight of the drone and the payload. The propellers are responsible for the thrust of the aircraft, with different levels of this force applied for the ascent, hover, and descent. The thrust is increased, meaning the propellers should spin more when the drone is climbing to be capable of carrying all of the weight. 

You will need to maintain a certain degree of thrust once you reach your desired flying height. In this case, the propellers designed to handle more weight are stronger.

Battery Type 

The payload can affect the battery life of a drone. With a small battery, you can deduce that a mini-drone can only handle little weight. This is why toy drones usually can’t carry cameras. Adding this extra weight can significantly decrease battery life and reduce the flight time. Besides, most models won’t have a slot for the device and can’t initiate lift-off with a payload.

On the other hand, drones made for heavy-duty tasks use a battery with significantly longer flying time. This entails that the battery is hefty as well, adding to the total weight of the drone. 

Drone Body Weight

In connection with the first two factors, the weight of the drone’s body includes the battery and propellers. Models that can lift huge payloads require a drone frame that is strong and durable. This is why people think that a large drone or big drones can carry more weight.

You can easily identify these as the ones professionals use, such as what scientists employ to study climate change or filmmakers operate to capture beautiful aerial shots.

Recreational drones are lightweight, portable, and mobile because they can only carry consumer or prosumer cameras. Brands like DJI can produce drones for both purposes, so you can choose depending on what you want to do.

How Much Weight Can a Drone Carry?

The average carrying capacity of drones depends largely on their types. Recreational drones can weigh anywhere between 0.3 and 2 kg, while professional or heavy lift drones can go from 20 to 220 kg.

For more context, you should be able to identify what can be classified as the payload of a drone. These would be your cameras, GPS (global positioning system), radars, and sensors, among others. Meanwhile, the main weight of the drone, as touched on above, is the total weight of the batteries, rotors, propellers, and other design components.

Considering all of these parts, the weight of models can vary greatly. Let’s dive into each major drone type to understand how far you can take them in terms of payload.

Recreational Drones For Carrying Payload

A recreational or hobby drone is small and lightweight. The weight it can carry is relative to its size. It is primarily used for fun, basic flying lessons, and photography. Those that can be equipped by a camera may already have one installed. If it’s possible to add weight, remember the rule about thrust.

That said, most models are already pre-equipped with the payload. Beginner drones have pre-installed cameras or slots for cameras, with the maximum weight of the device indicated. They can lift around 200 to 300 grams of extra weight without a problem. Going beyond that can pose a risk.

Even sophisticated models are limited in this regard. The majority of them are not designed to handle the extra weight. That’s because the manufacturers tend to focus on optimizing flight range and flight time. Increasing the payload can reduce the distance and flight time the drone can achieve. So, you see, it’s going to counter their efforts.

Still, toy drones, mini drones, and beginner drones are targeted to hobbyists and enthusiasts. If you’re an amateur photographer, you’re likely going to be happy that your beginner drone is equipped with a camera that captures decent-quality aerial photos and videos. If you’re a drone racer, you probably are focused on the drone’s speed.

Professional Drones For Carrying Payload

As we said earlier, UAVs are intended for industrial or military purposes. Thus, they are engineered to carry extra weight. Typically, the payload comes in the form of a camera, which can film, inspect, or monitor. Other kinds of payload for a professional drone are sensors and mapping technology systems like LiDAR, which scientists use to study natural and man-made environments.

These loads can be immense, like 6 to 10 kg in some cases. This weight is more than 50% of the weight of the drone frame. The batteries powering these drones are also heavy. They ensure flying time is long enough to deliver the payload. 

The majority of heavy-lifting drones can lift around 18 kg. A company called Griff Aviation created the Griff 300, which can handle up to 225 kg. This model sports a highly powerful 8-propeller system to support the payload. Also, it can sustain a maximum airtime of 45 minutes.

Drone Sub-types and their Payloads

Not all drones are designed to carry payloads. Models also vary in what they can handle. But knowing the drone sub-type of the model you’re eyeing can help you understand if the payload works for you or not.

  • Trick Drones – With limited air time of 8 to 10 minutes, these tiny and affordable quads are safe and convenient for beginners, whether they’re kids or adults. They can be flown indoors and outdoors for fun. Most of them may not be equipped with a camera, but they can be enjoyed merely for their flight ability.

Also called toy drones, these are not intended for carrying a payload. But they can handle around 4 to 6 grams of extra weight.

  • Prosumer Drones – Straddling the line between professional and consumer products is the prosumer drones. You’ve probably encountered many of this subtype if you’ve been searching for drones with a camera. Indeed, you can add a GoPro, a Mobius, or a gimbal. The models under this category can handle an additional weight of around 3 kg.

Maximum flight time can also reach around 18 to 25 minutes. The long battery life is necessary for the prosumer drone to handle the payload capacity, which can require a lot of juice. Also, a prosumer drone can deliver a powerful thrust to handle the total weight. You can score under $500 versions, but the best value ones may cost between $501 and $1500.

  • Heavy Payload Drones – This is the ultimate mark of being a pro user. A heavy-lift drone requires several motors to keep it in the air. You can use this type for commercial, research, and military purposes. In business, it can be deployed to deliver cake or pizza. In filmmaking, it can be equipped with high-end cameras to shoot fascinating aerial footage.

These drones can lift around 18 kg. But the Griff 300 by Griff Aviation is said to be capable of handling 225 kg. You can leverage it for your search and rescue operations. It is certified by both the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) and the EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency).

How Much Weight Can an Amazon Drone Carry?

It is designed to carry packages that weigh around 2 kg. 

We are talking about the Amazon Delivery Drone here, one of the newest products from the e-commerce giant. It sports a hexagonal hybrid design that resembles helicopter and airplane movements when ascending, flying, and descending. If you ask us, it can also resemble a satellite. 

Its highlights include its sensor suite and safety features. Amazon says it will have full control of the drone during its trip from the warehouse to the delivery location and back.

Also, this updated version is a big drone. 

How Much Weight Can a Mini Drone Carry?

The tiniest drones can fit in your palm and can carry around 50 grams. Small drones, the next big sizes, are lightweight. They can lift payloads between 100 and 200 grams. Some models considered mini or small drones can handle more. But this can significantly reduce or endanger flight time. So make sure to add only what’s advised by the manufacturer.

Better yet, do not mount other accessories than those already came with the drone.

Can a Drone Lift a Human?

This may not necessarily be a day-to-day experience, but yes, there are drones that can lift and carry humans. These heavy-lifting drones employ special motors and powerful thrust. They are among the professional drones we have been talking about throughout this article.

Back in 2016, a drone that carried and flew a person around was exhibited at the CES in Las Vegas. The model was called the Ehang 184, which was manufactured by a Chinese company. This one, however, was classified as a passenger drone, in that it is manned yet independent.

Check out how it works in the following video:

Do I Need to Register Heavy Lift drones with the FAA?

Yes. Drones that can handle extra weight or payload are most likely going to fulfill the 250 grams minimum weight required for registration. Meaning, FAA registration is a must for your model. This is why it is important that DJI Mavic Mini records a 249-gram weight (or 55 lbs).

For newly purchased heavy-lift drone owners, know that registration costs only $5 and is valid for three years. You can register your drone on this FAA page. After completing the process, you can label your drone with a printed registration plate.   

Conclusion

Knowing the payload capacity of the type of drone you want to use can inform your decision and actions after purchase. Chances are if you’re aiming for a heavy lift drone, we assume your work is requiring you to get one. And you already understand what kind of situation you’re getting into.

But for our readers who want to try drone flying for fun, they can go for a prosumer one if they also intend to take photos and videos. Otherwise, speed and flight time should be their main concerns.

Among the examples we looked at in this article, we’re particularly excited about the drone that carries packages. Delivery drones are becoming more common, although regulations in the United States can prevent the likes of Amazon from maximizing this mode for their delivery services.

If drones can also lift humans in the near future, then maybe our Star Wars-inspired (or Harry Potter-inspired) dream of riding flying cars may soon become a reality.

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