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Fixed Wing Drone or VTOL - Which is Better?

Updated: Nov 30, 2019

Let's start by defining these:

Fixed Wing Drone: Looks similar to an airplane. A central body that has two wings and a single propeller. Example below:

VTOL: Stands for Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL). Refers to aircraft that can take off, hover, and land vertically like the one below.

Which one is better? As always, the answer is depends what your need is. For surveillance and mapping, VTOL is definitely the way to go. You get the stability of taking a great shot and camera views in the tightest of crevices. VTOL make up on avg 97% of the drones mapping platforms and manufacturers. Source.

On the other hand fixed wing drone use has declined to just 3% as it finds its own niche in agriculture, oil, and gas applications where longer range, linear flight plans are more common. Source. Regulation also impedes the use of fixed wing drones typically requiring the operator to have line of sight of the drone.

VTOL also tend to be cheaper than fixed wing drones as 84% of drone mapping is occurring on drone models like VTOL that cost $1500 or less whereas a professional fixed wing drone of similar quality can easily be 7–10x as much — or more. The VTOL is also the preferred model to use for private flying. Source.

Due to the ease of use the VTOL is also the preferred model for personal use. Quick to maneuver, and capable of making movements in any direction. Copters have a shorter learning curve for beginners taking flight for the first time.

We are seeing the Fixed Wing Drone emerging as the choice for enterprise solutions in the delivery space. Companies like Wing and Zipline have opted for this model predominantly because of the range of the drone which can cover 100km in a 30 mins time span. Source.

So a couple of key things to keep in mind when choosing the right drone model. Consider your industry's use case, average flying conditions, and mapping subject before you buy. If you plan to map smaller areas, make 3D models of structures, or conduct site inspections that require maneuvering up and around buildings, then a VTOL drone model is the right choice. If you are mapping larger areas (hundreds or thousands of acres at a time) or flying long, linear flight plans such as pipelines or roadways, you may want to consider a fixed wing drone. Also keep your budget in mind. There is a significant price gap between a VTOL and fixed wing drone models.

We hope this provided some clarity as to the difference we see between VTOL and Fixed Wing Drones. Feel free to subscribe to our newsletter or even get in touch. Looking forward to seeing you around the drone community sometime.

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