A Guide to Fixed Wing Drones
The drone industry has grown significantly in recent years and shows no sign of stopping anytime soon. You may well be used to see drones that resemble a helicopter, otherwise known as quadcopters. Fixed wing drones, on the other hand, are an all-in-one SUA that resembles a more traditional manned aircraft.
Fixed-wing drones are better suited to certain roles than multi-rotors are. Some of them can take-off simply by hand, others, however, need a runway to take to the skies. Fixed-wing drones have been optimised for the professional use for collecting data, and due to their incredible ability to survive in harsh conditions, and to fly for long lengths of time and distances.
They very much resemble a more traditional looking aircraft, and are made up of a central body that has two wings and a central propeller.
What is a fixed-wing drone?
When you’re first buying a drone for your business, one of the first questions you need to ask yourself is, does your business need a fixed-wing or a multi-rotor UAV? The answer to this question comes down to what your needs are.
For example, a cinematographer/photographer would benefit more from a multi-rotor drone, however, if you need a drone to span larger areas in a shorter amount of time then you’ll want a fixed-wing drone.
Fixed-wing drones come in one of three different styles; straight, swept, and delta. A fixed-wing drone has a rigid structure which generates lift under the wing due to forward airspeed. This is produced by either an internal engine or electric motor-controlled propeller. They will require either a handheld or runway take-off and can fly continuously over long distances as opposed to hovering.
A fixed-wing drone is usually custom-built to ensure it meets your operational requirements. A fixed-wing aircraft is much simpler in design, and interest is rapidly expanding.
What are fixed-wing drones being used for?
Up until recently, you’d most find fixed-wing drones being used by government militaries to scan war-torn areas quickly and efficiently. Now, however, they are being more frequently used by the construction, agricultural, mining and environmental industries. However, they are now becoming an incredibly popular tool for other industries due to their impressive versatility and their ability to operate in harsh weather conditions.
One of the main advantages of a fixed-wing UAV is that their simpler construction means there are far less maintenance and repair work needed, thus lowering the cost. They also have the ability to carry greater payloads for longer distances on less power, this allows you to carry bigger sensors, as well as having the ability to carry twin sensor configurations.
What are the advantages of fixed-wing drones:
- Longer flight time: Fixed-wing aircraft can fly for far longer than multi-rotor drones on a single battery cycle. This makes them ideal for mapping large areas as they don’t have to return to base as often to replace/charge batteries.
- Covers large areas in a shorter time: In a single flight, a fixed-wing UAV allows you to survey surfaces (up to 10km²) with a single flight.
- Excellent stability: Fixed-wing aircraft come with an airframe design and this gives them greater stability, which is vital in areas of high-wind.
- Better control of image quality: you are able to monitor automatically and in real time the quality of your images.
- Safer recovery from power loss in the motor: In theory, fixed-wing drones are able to glide safely down to the ground in the event of a power loss. This process gives it a far better chance of survival.
Types of Fixed-Wing UAV’s
One of the most important considerations when it comes to buying a fixed-wing drone is the wing type. You are not limited to a traditional layout, there are a number of different layouts depending on your specific need.
There are a number of different layouts and types of fixed-wing drones:
- Rectangular Straight Wing
- Tapered Straight Wing
- Rounded or elliptical straight wing
- Slightly swept wing
- Moderately swept wing
- Highly swept wing
- Simple delta wing
- Complex delta wing
The WingtraOne PPK VTOL is a fixed-wing, fully autonomous drone that has been specifically designed to cover long distances. It allows for a flight pre-plan due to its intelligent WingtraPilot software. The WingtraOne can automatically capture surveying data at the touch of a button.
The WingtraOne also has the impressive ability to set off vertically like a quadcopter, even on difficult terrain removing the need to launch or catapult the aircraft.
It’s capable of flying for up to 55 minutes and has been designed to cover long distances. The Wingtra is suitable for the following locations:
- Precision agriculture
- Infrastructure inspection
The Pix4Dmapper is the leading aerial photogrammetry software. It can turn your images into highly precise, georeferenced 2D maps and 3D models. They’re extremely customisable, timely, and compliment a wide range of applications and software.
The Pix4D is ideal for fixed-wing drones as it creates a radiometrically-accurate map with a temperature value of each pixel. So you can scan large areas of crops, and it will give you an accurate heat map of the area. It can also create a high-resolution map with each pixel of the original images correctly projected on to the digital surface model, and leaves you with no perspective distortions and only incredibly accurate geolocation.
The software can be used to accurately interpret information about crops or forestry plantations. It can measure a variety of things from crop height, to assessing plant health and the level of watering.
For this type of work, it’s important that you have a solid and stable aircraft, thus making fixed-wing drones ideal for this type of role.