Apart from individual design and features available (such as camera, GPS, etc), there are various core differences that set Drones apart from each other.
What are the Different Types of Drones Available?
In general, there are 4 main differences that set Drones apart from each other;
- Number of Rotors
- Frame Type
- Size (ie Nano, Mini, Small, Medium and Large)
- Product Stage (RTF, BNF, PNP, ARF)
For someone new to buying and flying a Drone, having an understanding of the different types available and some of the basic terminology will help you make a more informed choice and pick the one that is perfect for you.
A Drone By Any Other Name
For anyone who isn’t aware, a Drone is also known as an “Unmanned Aerial Vehicle” which is shortened to UAV and you will see this a lot as you get more involved in the Drone communities.
In addition, you will also see the following;
- UAS – Unmanned Aerial System
- RPAS – Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems
- RC Drones – this just simply means Remote Controlled.
Check our differences between UAV, UAS, Drone and Quadcopter post for a straightforward overview on this topic.
Also in case you are wondering, the main difference between a Drone and a missile is the Drone is designed to return to the pilot after its journey and will be reused many times, whereas a missile will only be used once.
Whilst Drones have a variety of uses, it ultimately comes down to Military, Commercial and Hobbyist/Recreational. We focus solely on the Hobbyist/Recreational area in this article.
How Many Do You Need?
Whilst there are fixed wing Drones available (these look like traditional airplanes), the most popular and mainstream Drones are multi-rotors.
Here’s the list;
- Single Rotor
- Tricopter – 3 Rotors
- Quadcopter – 4 Rotors
- Hexacopter – 6 Rotors
- Octocopter – 8 Rotors
Quadcopters tend to be the most popular by far.
Anything above this would tend to be more expensive and probably for professional use.
What’s In A Frame…
There are a wide variety of frames available depending on what you want to use your Drone for and the number of rotors you have.
Frames for Quadcopters tend to come in either X or H design and can be down to preference, although the H frame is more suited to FPV Racing.
Mines Bigger Than Yours…
Drones come in all different shapes and colors.
They also come in different sizes;
- Nano / Micro – Extremely small Drone
- Mini – Small enough to fit in the palm of your hand
- Small – Normal for beginners, usually small enough so no need to register and can support camera and additional features
- Medium – More expensive and professional with more features – will need registration
- Large – Used for professional work
Know What You Are Getting
Drones are further categorized in the following terms;
Ready To Fly (RTF)
This is the complete package with no need to buy and additional equipment or accessories – basically you are ready to set up and go!
For beginners, this is normally the most popular and safest option to start.
Bind And Fly (BNF)
This is usually only the Drone itself and importantly does not come with a controller.
You would be expected to already have a controller that is compatible or alternatively buy one separately, and then Bind (connect) the Drone to that controller.
The key here is making absolutely sure the controller will work with the Drone being bought, so if in doubt always seek advice beforehand.
This choice is usually for more experienced Drone operators who still want to buy a completed Drone unit without worrying about assembling the vehicle unit.
Plug And Play (PNP)
This is where the quadcopter is pre-built but doesn’t have a receiver, battery, charger, or transmitter.
Some work is needed to install the receiver into the Drone before you can fly.
Almost Ready to Fly (ARF)
This is where it gets a bit more serious !!
These are normally in kit form and will require some assembly.
Be aware that not all components needed may also be included (sometimes things like motors, transmitters, receivers, etc) so it’s very important you understand what you are buying and review the list of components included in the package.
This is usually for the hobbyist who likes to build their machines as well as fly them.
As you can see it’s important you know what you are buying as you don’t want to end up with bits missing !!
We hope you found this introduction interesting and useful, and feel free to check out some of our Drone Reviews.
If you have any further questions please review our site resources further or feel free to leave a comment or ask us a question.