Fixed-Wing Drones vs. Quadcopters: A Project Comparison

By Amir Iliaifar  Drone DataLearning  

For many, the word “drone” has become a term that encompasses all types of drones. Much like how the word “aircraft” can refer to an airplane or a helicopter, so too can the word “drone” refer to both a fixed-wing drone, such as the senseFly eBee X, or a quadcopter.

But just like an airplane and a helicopter, fixed-wing drones and quadcopters are two entirely different technologies with different capabilities.

For the general public, simply knowing and understanding the difference may not matter, but for anyone seriously considering adopting drone technology, it’s important to understand which type of drone is best suited to your business.

Fixed-wing or quadcopter?

When evaluating both technologies, it’s important to understand that fixed-wing drones can fly farther and faster on a single battery charge. These two attributes alone can have a massive impact on your ability to collect data quickly and efficiently, which in turn has a direct effect on your business’ profit generation.

After all, you wouldn’t charter a helicopter to fly across a continent. The same logic holds true for fixed-wing drones and quadcopters.

To help new and existing operators adopt drone technology into their data collection process, senseFly conducted a sample project comparing the efficacy of a senseFly eBee X fixed-wing drone versus a popular quadcopter.

The sample project was set up in a 100 ha (247 ac) mixed-use agricultural area in Assens, Switzerland, wherein the same site was mapped using both a popular professional quadcopter drone and a senseFly eBee X fixed-wing drone, with the overall goal of the project to highlight the difference in five key areas:

  • Speed
  • Cost
  • Project capacity
  • Remote mapping capabilities
  • Corridor mapping capabilities
SiteMixed-use agricultural area (Assens), Switzerland
DateFebruary 2019
WeatherSunny/cloudy
Wind speed5-6 m/sec (11.2-13.4 mph)
Flight height AGL122 m (400 ft)

The table outlines the conditions for the sample project’s test flights.

The eBee X was flown over the designated site twice. Each time a different senseFly photogrammetry camera was used (senseFly S.O.D.A. and senseFly S.O.D.A. 3D) in order to ensure that any inherent benefits credited to the senseFly eBee X was due to the fixed-wing drone platform and not simply the payload (camera type).

Additionally, before and during each flight, every separate activity was recorded and carefully timed, including:

  • Set-up, battery change & packing time (from opening the box to beginning the drone’s take-off procedure, plus the opposite post-mission packing time and any mid-mission battery change times).
  • Take-off/landing times (the time it took to fly between the ground and the drone’s flight altitude (i.e. Home waypoint) or vice versa. One take-off and landing equal two such operations).
  • Data acquisition times (the time during which images are being captured).
  • Transition times (i.e. the time taken for the drone to fly between Home waypoint and first/next mission waypoint).

Let the drone data guide you

While the time-on-site data is interesting in an of itself, the project details four more reasons why flying a fixed-wing drone vs a quadcopter can benefit your business. These include:

  • Mapping sites up to 2.6x faster
  • Reducing labor costs by up to USD $385 (per mapping mission)
  • Completing 2x more projects per week
  • Mapping remote sites within a 5x larger flight radius
  • Mapping corridors that are up to 3x longer

For a detailed analysis of the above, including all the timings, statistics and potential savings recorded for each drone mapping mission—which was then used to extrapolate potential benefits for larger projects—download Expand Your Horizons: 5 Reasons to Fly a Fixed-Wing Drone.

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