Types of Drones – A Complete Guide

Among the technical stuff that you must know about drones, the type should be at the top. Now, when we said technical, some of you may have squirmed in their seats. Don’t fret. This is not going to be a headache-inducing lecture to be followed by a quiz.

Instead, feel free to hop on to the approach that interests you the most. Our research led us to three perspectives on type: recreational and commercial, multirotor and fixed-wing, and specialized according to work or industry. Understanding all of them is the goal. But getting started with one should be fine.

That said, let’s not delay adding to your arsenal of fun yet important facts about drones.

types of drones

What are the Different Types of Drones?

Drones are not a novel concept, but their use drastically changed when they first entered the consumer space. What had once been accessible mostly to the military and flown by people with PhD became commonplace and user-friendly.

We’ll return to the history of drones and discuss their future later. But for now, let’s go over the different types of drones available in the market. There are three ways to go about categorizing, and we can start with:

Type of Drones: Recreational vs. Commercial?

Recreational Drones 

This type is composed of more than just toy drones. So, while some functions and features overlap with one another and with commercial drones, we’ll describe the sub-types falling under this category.

  • Toy Drones – This is the gizmo in some people’s minds when they think about recreational drones. Indeed, this tiny drone is often targeted at kids and adults alike who can fly it in confined spaces. Models are also known as micro and mini-drones, which are inexpensive, ultra-lightweight, and easy to use. However, they have a super short flight time.
  • Mini Drones – Some mini-drones, however, can be fitted with a camera. They are still mostly flown indoors, and some come pre-installed with low-resolution cameras. Others let you attach your own smartphone or action camera for taking selfies, travel photos, and the like.
  • Camera Drones – Some drones have higher camera resolutions and reasonable flying times. They also offer greater control, although at a higher price point. Beginners who want to capture decent aerial shots can benefit from this one.
  • Prosumer Drones – As recreational drones advance in features, they enter a subset best defined by the arrival of the DJI Phantom circa 2013. The Wired calls it neither a toy nor a tool, which perfectly describes the line the prosumer drones straddle. 
  • FPV Racing Drone – The last type under this category is the first-person-view racing drone. As the name suggests, this one is used in the newly founded sport of drone flying, which requires a high speed, superior control, and excellent stability while navigating through 3D race tracks.

Commercial or Professional Drones

Models under this sub-category can vary primarily based on purpose. Some can be used as a general tool for aerial photography, aerial mapping, or roof inspection. Others have specialized payload capabilities or industry-specific software. Quads that can handle rigs for holding heavy-duty and expensive cameras employed in cinematography fall under the latter.

Types of Drones: Multirotor or Fixed Wings

While identifying drones this way seems more technical, it is actually the most simple. Here’s how you can differentiate between the two:

Multirotor Drones

Usually, we think of quadcopters or a rotorcraft with four rotors when we refer to drones. But this is just a sub-set of rotorcraft. This type of aircraft can generate lift through the use of rotary wings, such as a helicopter. To promote stability, a multirotor system employs multiple rotors, mostly four (and that’s how you arrive at quadcopters; if you have six, you get hexacopters; and so forth).

The bigger the drone, the more rotors it will require. The price point also tends to rise in this regard. Larger drones are typically used for industrial and professional work, such as aerial data mapping and high-quality cinematography.

Possibly the most popular example of multirotor drones/quadcopters is the DJI Phantom.

Fixed Wings

Based on the term, you can infer that it is referring to an aircraft that uses fixed, static wings – together with forward airspeed – to generate lift. Airplanes and paragliders fall under this category. Even a paper airplane can be considered fixed-wing.

One advantage would be a longer flight time and heavier payload. They can cover larger areas of land, which is useful in delivery, surveying, sending supplies to remote areas. 

The Parrot Disco (maximum flight time: 45 minutes) is one of the most famous models for this sub-set. If you want something more affordable, you can try the Hubsan Spy Hawk (maximum flight time: 30 minutes). For higher-end industrial work, there’s senseFly eBee Classic, which can last 50 minutes in the air.

In addition, you can find special types related to this sub-set: the single rotor drones and the hybrid VTOL.

Single Rotor Drones

You can spot these drones by their looks, which are not so