These days, there’s a drone to suit every ability and every budget, from basic toy drones like the H36 mini drone to the obstacle-avoiding DJI Phantom 4 Pro. But do you know the difference between a quadcopter, a hexacopter and an octocopter, besides the number of rotors they each have?
A quadcopter is an entry-level drone and the most popular type of consumer camera drone on the market. The four-propeller design is cheap to make and offers stability and speed that most consumers are looking for. Larger and more expensive drones are powerful enough to carry small payloads, such as a GoPro or action camera including a gimbal.
Camera drones such as the DJI Phantom 4 Pro and the 3D Robotics Solo offer a solid professional level, introduction to UAV flying. The DJI Phantom 4 Pro has obstacle avoidance sensors in five directions giving the pilot extra safety features other drones do not have. The DJI Phantom 4 Pro also has Tap-Fly, gesture, tripod, waypoint, follow me, active track and beginner flight modes giving the pilot more control than ever before. It has a flight time of 30 minutes and a range of 7 kilometres
Image: The Cheerson CX10
You should always begin at the start with much simpler, cheaper mini drone like the Cheerson CX10 or the H36 mini drone. Learning how to fly AND how to crash is very very important. Then work your way up to a more advanced entry level drone like the Syma X6G camera drone, before looking at DJI Phantom 4 Pro.
Hexacopters are a step up, both in terms of price and performance. With six propellers, they don’t just offer more lifting power, but greater stability. They can carry larger payloads making them ideal drones for aerial photography and industrial inspection given their ability to carry high tech cameras.
There’s also the safety aspect to consider. With six propellers, a hexacopter can still remain airborne if one or even two of its rotors should fail. Hexacopters are bigger and more expensive than quadcopters, while the improved power puts a greater strain on the battery. So while a UAV like the Yuneec Typhoon H can reach speeds of up to 43.5mph and carry 250g of extra weight, flight times tend to average out slightly less than the DJI Phantom Pro 4 at around 20-25 minutes.
As you might have guessed, an Octocopter with out-do hexacopter for performance. Thanks to its extra rotors, it can provide better stability (even in windy conditions) and can carry a heavier payload. Like the hexacopter, a good octocopter should still be able to fly even if several of a couple of its rotors fail.
The extra power and agility of these top-of-the-line drones makes them ideal for aerial imaging, industrial inspection, surveying, mapping and monitoring. Octocopters tend to carry heavier payloads due to more sophisticated camera equipment being used which gives an average flight time between 12-22 minutes.
Ultimately, in a battle between these multicopters, there’s no clear winner. Quadcopters are ideal UAVs for beginners, hexacopters make a great semi-pro/hobbyist choice, while octocopters offer a fantastic aerial platform for professional videography, photography and remote inspection applications.
Whatever drone you fly or intend to buy, the truth is there is a drone for everyone’s ability and requirements and in 2017, we are just at the beginning of this amazing and fun technology.
I began my career as a builder and progressed through to the owner of Mojo NZ Ltd. The first drone I owned is to this day lodged in a tree on the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand. We now provide drones to all industries from toys to racing drones to professional camera drones. This blog is a look at ourselves and the industry in general.