Image Source: ‘Hussar’ by Eagle Pride Drones
With the explosion of the drone industry over the past few years, you’ll be used to seeing drones with helicopter-style propellers, known as multirotor drones. However, you may not be as familiar with fixed wing drones, the all-in-one SUA who’s form resembles that of traditional manned aircraft.
The fixed wing drone has a rigid structure that generates lift under the wing through forward airspeed, produced either by an internal engine or electric motor-controlled propeller. They require a handheld or runway take-off and fly continuously over long distances, rather than hover.
Up until recently, the fixed wing drone has primarily been used as a surveillance tool by government militaries of economically developed countries, operating in war-torn areas. However, the numerous benefits of fixed wing drones mean they are quickly transitioning into the mainstream commercial market.
Fixed wing drones are increasingly being used for mapping and evaluating large swathes of land. Due to their enhanced capability to reach higher speeds with a longer operating time, they can cover huge areas without the need to stop between surveys to change batteries or re-charge. This has cemented them as a cost-effective surveying tool across industries including Agriculture, Mining & Aggregates, Construction, and for Search & Rescue operations and Environmental studies across the globe. Drone operators can fix their preferred type of camera to the aircraft, creating a specialised drone solution for each industry.
Particularly useful for agriculture, farmers and landowners in South Africa are now using fixed wing ‘smart drones’ to help boost the productivity of their farms. Made possible with support from Cape Town start-up ‘Aerobotics’, the aim is to support local farmers with aerial surveillance of their crop to optimize yield, whilst minimising costs. Farmers in Australia and the Philippines are following suit, with Birchip Cropping Group (Australia) trialling a fixed-wing drone solution to create normalised digital vegetation index (NDVI) maps and Dole Philippines using QuestUAV’s Agri-Pro aircraft to reduce soil erosion on their pineapple plantation (the largest in the world!).
In terms of cost, the fixed wing drone is usually custom-built to meet your operational requirements. You can expect to pay anywhere between £5,000 to £20,000 for a bespoke aircraft for commercial enterprise. Commercial-grade multirotor aircraft usually cost between £1,000 to £7,000 depending on the requirements and camera capabilities required. Due to the simpler shape of the fixed wing aircraft, it’s easier to maintain and repair than a multirotor drone. The multirotor has more parts within its design, meaning that the regularity and costs to maintain can be higher. With this in mind, it’s important to undertake a cost-benefit analysis when deciding between fixed wing and multirotor for your business operations.
One capability the fixed wing aircraft misses out on is the ability to hover – an essential requirement for structural inspections regularly tasked to operatives within the Energy and Construction industries. However, they can carry heavier payloads than a multirotor drone, particularly useful when using an advanced camera system such as infrared, thermal and multispectral.
With the industry boom seeing an increased interest in the fixed wing drone, it’s only natural to assume that the initial costs will likely reduce over time. If you’re looking to introduce drone solutions into your business, choosing the fixed wing design could be a viable option. With new manufacturers emerging into the market each year, the fixed wing SUA may well fly to the top!
To find out more, check out our Fixed Wing Drones for Mapping and Surveying information page!
If you’re yet to decide between training with fixed wing or multirotor drones, now’s the time to speak with our expert training team about how your business operations could be enhanced. Don’t hesitate to get in touch and book a course today!