How fixed-wings outrank multicopters
Multicopters like the Phantom 4 RTK are an obvious choice for entry-level drone surveying because of their lower price tag and ease of use. They do a great job surveying small areas, and they excel at vertical mapping as well as monitoring small construction sites.
However, when projects scale up, multicopters fall short in their performance. Indeed, due to low flight efficiency, they require between 5 and 14x more time than fixed-wing drones to map the same area. What was saved when the drone was purchased is eventually overridden by the costs and time needed for a crew to map such large areas.
So in which case is a multicopter like the Phantom 4 RTK the most appropriate, and at what point should you switch to a professional-level fixed-wing drone?
If you have a limited budget and have never worked with drones before, a multicopter—like the DJI Phantom 4 RTK—is a good solution for small-scale projects that don’t require exceptional accuracy. As an entry-level investment, such a drone can provide proof of concept for its ability to revolutionize your workflow and ROI. However, it’s limitations become obvious when you approach projects demanding large coverage along with high image quality and accuracy.
Golden ratio of broad coverage, high resolution and accuracy
While fixed-wing drones by far outrank multicopters in terms of coverage, they feature some striking differences among themselves.
Depending on your application, you should carefully assess which fixed-wing solution best achieves the level of data quality necessary for your mapping projects. How large is the area? What are the flying conditions? Is the terrain appropriate for belly landings?
We discuss all these aspects and more in the following surveying drone comparisons.
senseFly’s eBee X drone is a foam fixed-wing survey and mapping drone offering a robust selection of payloads for a range of projects. Its in-flight features are impressive. The payload quality is, however, limited by the way this drone launches and lands: to hand launch and belly land without too much force on impact with the ground it needs to be light enough.
High-end cameras are heavy. So eBee X’s most powerful RGB lens, Aeria, is a 24 MP cropped-frame. While it is a popular drone for survey and mapping and offers good fixed-wing coverage, the eBee X presents a glass ceiling if you want to reach an exceptional level of precision in your results.
Quantix is a well-industrialized VTOL fixed-wing drone with good flight controls and a lower price point. It’s a possible solution for agriculture due to its fixed multispectral and RGB payload. However, if you want to use it in other industrial settings, you will find it too unpredictable and lacking in features. The Quantix does not offer PPK for location accuracy and its GSD is limited due to the low quality of its sensors.