Types of Drones – Lesson 3.1

Here's what you're going to learn:

  • Large heavy drones
  • Consumer level drones
  • Micro drones

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This video is an overview of the various types of drones used in aerial imagery. First, I'm gonna talk about the large and heavy drones that can lift big professional cameras.

Then, I'll cover the more consumer-level and prosumer models that are much smaller and lightweight.

And last, we'll show you some microdrones that are great for fun, casual use or practice. The shrinking size of digital cameras as well as their improved image quality and battery life has made it possible and affordable to get great aerial images from lightweight RC aircraft. The concept isn't really new.

We've had the technology to do this for quite a while, but it's finally reached a point where now it's much more accessible for the average person. Just a few short years ago, the only option was to build a custom drone that had enough lifting power to lift your camera.

Many of these rigs were fully manual and required a very skilled pilot to operate. Cashes were really expensive. To get the high-end video, people would build an aircraft big enough to lift full-size DSLR cameras or other professional cameras.

You can still build or buy these types of kits today, but they are incredibly expensive. Some of them cost up to $15,000 or $20,000.

The motion picture industry and high level video production teams are using these types of platforms to lift large professional cinema cameras. Here's a look at some of the custom configurations.

First off, we have the standard quad-copter. This is four motors. You can see here we have an I4 configuration and an X4 configuration. These are pretty much exactly the same. The I4 has the fronted quadcopter in mind with one of the booms.

See here, there's only one boom in front. The X4 just means that there are two booms in front. And the front of the quadcopter is between those two booms.

Now I'll also mention here that each motor on the quad-copter spins in the opposite direction of the motor next to it. This is to keep the quad copter stable. Along with that, there are two different types of propellers.

One propeller is meant to spin counter-clockwise and the other one is meant to spin clockwise. And so if you're building or assembling a quad-copter, you're going to need to make sure that you have the right style of prop on the right motor.

Both propellers provide lift in the same direction but only if they're spinning in the correct direction for the style of propeller that they are.

On most ready to fly models, like the Phantom quadcopters, there's a marking on the propeller and the motor shaft that indicate which propellers go with which motors.

We have the hexcopter. This is just like the quadcopter, only there are six motors. And again you have an I6 or X6 configuration. More motors, you have more lift capacity, so you can lift heavier payloads, bigger cameras.

You also have some redundancy. If you lose a motor on a quadcopter or you damage a prop, you pretty much have no ability to land safely.

If you lose one motor or one prop, that thing's going to tumble out of the air. With the hexcopter, you might lose the ability to rotate the hexcopter or yaw it around, but you still should be able to land safely with six motors.

A few other interesting configurations of hexcopters: the IY6 and the Y6. And so you still have six motors, but you have two motors per boom spinning in opposite directions. The advantage of this is that it's much more compact than the standard I6 configuration.

So this is just another option. They call this an inverted or coaxial configuration, where you have two motors per boom. Okay, moving on. We have the I8 or V8 configurations.

Again, just like the hexcopter, except that now we have eight motors. You can lose a motor on one of these and not even notice.

There's enough redundancy with the eight motors that you could lose a motor or prop and still be able to fly just fine. You'll be able to come down and land, and you may not even be able to tell you lost a prop or motor until you've landed and inspect your octocopter up close.

And finally, we have the X8 configuration. So just like the hexcopters, you can make a coaxial version. Two motors per boom. Four booms. That's eight motors in total for the X8.

So each of these configurations has its advantage and disadvantage. With more motors, you'll be able to lift heavier loads, and you also do gain some redundancy in case some of those props or motors goes out. So that's a look at the heavy-lifting category of drones.

The cost of all of these larger platforms is getting hard to justify, when you can now shoot 4K video with a GoPro or the built-in camera on the DJI Phantom or the Inspire 1.

As these small cameras continue to improve in quality, I believe that these heavy-lifting drones will become more and more rare. The DJI Inspire1 Pro now has a micro four-thirds camera with interchangeable lenses. This kit costs around $5,000. And that's still substantially cheaper than a custom platform built to carry an equivalent camera or a more professional camera.

Lastly I wanted to show you some microdrones. These little guys are getting more and more sophisticated, and some of them even have built-in cameras. These are ideal for learning how to fly because they're so inexpensive and durable.

Amazon is a great place to find these microdrones, as well as HobbyKing. And we'll talk about this in a later lesson, but I highly recommend getting one of these cheap microdrones to practice on.

It's a lot better to crash and get your experience in on one of these small, cheap, inexpensive drones than a more expensive aircraft. You can build up your muscle memory and get familiar with the controls and how these things fly before risking a much more expensive model.

In the next lesson, we'll be talking about how to choose a drone for taking aerial images and video.

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