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What are fixed-wing drones?

29/04/2020

Studio Victoria

4 minutes

There is a huge variety of drones that can be used for different purposes, like 3D mapping, photography, delivery, law enforcement, etc. We understand that not everyone has a deep knowledge of drones, so in this new blog article we are going to answer the following questions: what are fixed-wing drones?, what are the main advantages of fixed-wing drones?, what are the disadvantages of fixed-wing drones?, and how do we use fixed-wing drones on a daily basis to #ONEUPYOURBUSINESS?

WHAT ARE FIXED-WING DRONES?

When people see a fixed-wing drone for the same time they always comment that the look like military drones or miniature spy planes, and both observations are true. Fixed-wing drones have a frame that resembles that of a normal airplane with wings, flaps, and motors. There are three types of wings:

  • Straight: this could be rectangular, tapered or rounded (also called elliptical)
  • Swept: this could be slightly, moderately or highly swept wing
  • Delta: this could be simple or complex

Besides the different types of wings, the fixed-wing drones could have 1 rotor or multiple.

With regard to take-off and land, there are two kinds of drones:

  • Vertical take-off and land: these fixed-wing drones take off and land in a vertical line, more like the multi rotor drones do. This allows for operations in confined locations
  • Hand launch: these fixed-wing drones are launched to take off by the operator into the air and then the aircraft flies away. To land they do either a corkscrew manoeuvre or a belly land. With the corkscrew manoeuvre they will descent in a spiral path until they land, requiring less space but having a greater impact when touching ground. With the belly land the drone will land like a normal airplane would do descending in a straight line to a runway, except that it does not have landing gear; while it appears that the belly land is a more aggressive landing, it is the recommended way of landing by most drone manufacturers as it is more gentle on the body of the aircraft

WHAT ARE THE MAIN ADVANTAGES OF FIXED-WING DRONES?

For us, fixed-wing drones have multiple advantages over multirotor drones:

  • Increased battery efficiency and longer flight time: our fixed-wing drones can stay around 55 minutes up in the air with a single battery charge, which is double of what we get from our multirotor drones. This is possible because the aircraft’s body design is more aerodynamic
  • More area covered in less time: depending on weather conditions, what resolution you need and the altitude that we are flying at, we can cover up to 400 hectares with a single battery charge
  • Improved stability: with their airplane-like design, fixed-wing drones offer much better stability in high wind areas than multirotor drones
  • Increased safety in cases of failure: unlike multirotor drones, which will fall of the sky in case of catastrophic failure, a fixed-wing drone could glide and land safely if something fails
  • Much lighter: depending on the brand of fixed-wing drone and the materials used, they could weigh less than 1 kilogram and have a wingspan of over 1 metre
  • Less parts and simplified design: since most fixed-wing drones have one or two rotors at most, there are less parts that could break. We always inspect the flaps and their mechanisms, to ensure that the drone can steer and manoeuvre correctly

With these advantages of fixed-wing drones, we can deliver the quality outputs that you expect from us.

WHAT ARE THE DISADVANTAGES OF FIXED-WING DRONES?

Despite all the great things about fixed-wing drones, they also have some disadvantages when compared to multirotor drones:

  • Less control of the aircraft during the flight: since most of the fixed-wing drones do not have a remote controller like multi rotors do, we are more dependent on expert knowledge of the fixed-wing drone and their software in order to prevent crashes and to pause the flight when necessary
  • Unless they are fixed-wing drones that can take-off and land vertically, they usually require more space for these manoeuvres than multirotor drones
  • No control of the camera angles: since the camera is fixed to the belly of the fixed-wing drone instead of mounted to a motorised gimbal, we cannot change the camera angles

HOW DO WE USE FIXED-WING DRONES?

For us, fixed-wing drones play a key role in our drone operations and we use them for a big variety of inspections:

  • Visual inspections: with our fixed-wing drones we can produce an unrivalled accuracy of 0.7 centimetre per pixel in our visual inspections of all sorts of structures like buildings, dams, bridges, structures, rail tracks, power lines, solar panels, wind turbines, etc. We can also use them to visually inspect plants and crops, animal count and location, etc.
  • Multispectral analysis: this is a crucial inspection that we conduct to assess the health of your crops, if there are any pests like fungi, where are your weeds located, etc.
  • Thermal reports: from energy efficiency analysis to people location, and from solar panel inspections to soil drainage capabilities, our state-of-the-art high-definition thermal camera will produce crystal clear results
  • 3D scans and mapping: our fixed-wing drones produce highly detailed and accurate 3D scans and 3D maps with applications in BIM, 3D Modelling, visualisations, videogame creation, accident reconstruction, etc.
  • Videography: our videos taken by fixed-wing drones can be used for Marketing, court evidence, etc.
  • Photography: high-resolution photos taken from a new point of view

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