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Fixed Wing Drone vs. Rotary Drone: 7 Key Differences Explained

Fixed Wing Drone vs. Rotary Drone: 7 Key Differences Explained

31 Jul 2023 Read time: 3 min

Drones have revolutionized surveying tasks, whether in a field or roadbuilding or contractors’ job sites. In fact, during the last five years, UAV owners and operators have increased productivity on both development sites and field crops.

When it comes to choosing a drone, one of the key decisions to make is between a fixed-wing drone and a rotary drone. Both types offer distinct advantages and are suitable for different applications. Here are seven things to consider. 

1. Flight Mechanism

Fixed-Wing Drones: Fixed-wing drones resemble traditional airplanes, with wings that generate lift to keep them airborne. They rely on forward motion to generate lift and maintain stability. 

Rotary Drones: Rotary drones, commonly known as multirotor drones, feature multiple vertically oriented propellers that create lift and enable vertical takeoff and landing. They use varying propeller speeds to maneuver and maintain stability.

2. Flight Efficiency

Fixed-Wing Drones: Due to their aerodynamic design, fixed-wing drones are more efficient in terms of flight duration and range. They can cover large areas and stay airborne for extended periods, making them ideal for aerial surveys, mapping and long-distance inspections. 

Rotary Drones: Rotary drones excel in maneuverability and hovering capabilities. They can hover in place, fly at low speeds and navigate through tight spaces, making them suitable for tasks that require close proximity, such as aerial photography, inspections and search and rescue operations. 

3. Payload Capacity

Fixed-Wing Drones: With their larger size and structure, fixed-wing drones typically have a higher payload capacity. This enables them to carry heavier and more sophisticated payloads, such as high-resolution cameras, LiDAR systems or even packages for delivery purposes. 

Rotary Drones: While rotary drones have a smaller payload capacity compared to fixed-wing drones, they are still capable of carrying lightweight payloads. They are commonly used for carrying small cameras, sensors and other lightweight equipment.

4. Takeoff and Landing

Fixed-Wing Drones: Fixed-wing drones require a runway-like area for takeoff and landing. They need sufficient space to build up speed and generate enough lift for takeoff and require a controlled landing area. 

Rotary Drones: Rotary drones offer vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) capabilities. They can take off and land vertically without the need for a runway or extensive space. This makes them suitable for operating in confined areas and on uneven terrain. 

5. Stability and Wind Resistance

Fixed-Wing Drones: The aerodynamic design of fixed-wing drones provides inherent stability, allowing them to withstand stronger winds. They are less affected by gusts and turbulent weather conditions, ensuring a smoother flight. 

Rotary Drones: Rotary drones are generally less stable in windy conditions due to their design. They can be more susceptible to wind disturbances and may require active stabilization systems to counteract wind-induced movements.

6. Speed

Fixed-Wing Drones: Fixed-wing drones are designed for efficient forward flight and can achieve higher speeds compared to rotary drones. They can cover large distances quickly, making them suitable for tasks requiring swift aerial surveillance or monitoring. 

Rotary Drones: While rotary drones have lower maximum speeds, they offer greater maneuverability at lower speeds. Their ability to hover and perform agile movements makes them ideal for applications that demand precision and close-quarters navigation. 

7. Training and Piloting

Fixed-Wing Drones: Piloting fixed-wing drones typically requires more training and skill due to their complex flight characteristics. They often require experienced pilots who can handle takeoff, landing and navigation in various flight conditions. 

Rotary Drones: Rotary drones are generally easier to fly and navigate, making them more accessible to beginners. They are equipped with flight stabilization systems and user-friendly controls that simplify the piloting process. 

Choosing between a fixed-wing drone and a rotary drone depends on the specific requirements of your aerial operations. Fixed-wing drones offer extended flight duration, longer range and higher payload capacity, while rotary drones excel in maneuverability, hovering capabilities and ease of use. After considering these factors, discuss with a trusted advisor, like the experts at RDO Integrated Controls and/or Wingtra team members. 

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