The advent of multirotor radio-controlled aircraft has come with the need to proffer different names for various types of quadcopters. The name, “drones” is the most common among the general public in addressing all quadcopters, although this is not entirely right. A drone is best defined as an unmanned craft that is at least semi-autonomous. A quadcopter that cannot fly on its own and relies on the total control of an individual is a UAV and not a drone. The same naming dilemma extends to the traditional RC toys – no one knows what exactly to call them. Can we call an RC car a “ground drone?” RC planes also fall in the same category.
These uncertainties and more led to our interest in the subject – “Fixed-Wing Drones.” And the simplest reference to this name is the big military drones used in firing Hellfire missiles. They are also autonomous fixed-wing drone.
Most RC planes and similar products are referred to as drones just because they have a camera attached to them. Despite this, commercial fixed-wing drones have increased in demand, with the market experiencing continuous growth in that direction. Perhaps, this is due to the multiple and unique advantages the fixed-wing drones have over the multirotor aircraft.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Fixed-wing Drone
The flying approach in drones and multirotors are quite different. While they can both get into the air, what they do while in flight is a function of their designs. Let us consider the positive reasons and features that could make you settle for a fixed-wing drone.
The energy efficiency of fixed-wing aircraft is better than what is obtainable in multirotors. The batteries in fixed wing crafts are less burdened, courtesy of the excellent built-in aerodynamics. The same cannot be said of the multirotor, which is about as good as gliding as a brick. The direct implication of this is that your fixed wing aircraft will stay longer and travel further in flight.
The speed in fixed-wing craft is higher than in multirotor aircraft. Thus they are the ideal quadcopters for surveying or mapping large stretches of terrain. A fixed-wing also can roll and loop easily, thus enabling you to take some complex shots that the multirotor would struggle with.
There is a single motor in fixed-wing craft and several in multirotor aircraft. This means that maintaining the fixed-wing craft will be easier and cheaper, compared to the multirotor.
Generally, you get something more distinct, as regards flight character and niche-specific applications, from fixed-wing crafts, compared to multirotor camera drones.
The cons are not far-fetched. Let’s start with the primary one – a fixed-wing craft cannot take off or land vertically. You will need some space to get your large fixed wing aircraft off the ground, although you can hand-launch the smaller versions. The same also applies to landing, thus making fixed-wing aircraft less suitable for urban uses.
Landing issues and risks are not common in multirotor aircraft – there are multiple rotors. However, you will require some expert touch to glide down a fixed-wing craft with a faulty rotor safely.
In multirotor crafts, each rotor and motor can be used as a control surface. However, there are several servos for maneuvering in a fixed-wing craft and when one of these servos fail, landing safely may be almost impossible.
The camera attached to the fixed-wing aircraft is usually present at the front, and this limits its mobility, and ultimately how much it can capture.
Top Fixed Wing Drones
E-flite Opterra 2m Wing BNF Basic
- Advanced Aerodynamics and Lightweight Construction
- Easy to Assemble and Transport
- High-Output Brushless Power System with Folding Prop
- Up to 3 Camera Mounting Stations Available
- Large top hatch fits a variety of battery sizes and FPV equipment
“BNF” – Bind and Fly – is indirectly informing every potential buyer of this drone of the need to buy a separate radio controller. A controller doesn’t come with the Opterra 2m, although there is an inbuilt AS3X receiver that determines the compatible transmitters. The base package comes with three inbuilt camera mounts, but there are no actual cameras. You will be required to determine if you would prefer FPV equipment mounted up front or not. If you want, you may attach a GoPro Hero 3 or 4 or any other fixture with the same size and shape as the craft.
You will find some nice aerodynamic features in the 2m, which are responsible for its efficient flight and overall performance. You do not get a battery and charger with the basic package. Summarily, you only get the aircraft itself, alongside the servos and the primarily brushless motor all installed.
Thus, it is impossible to discuss the camera specifications or flight times, after all, the buyer determines which is best for them.
Interestingly, the 2m is very cheap, although it might get expensive if you end up adding fancy features. So, if you are the type that prefers to spec drones personally, you should try the 2m.
- 3 free camera locations
- Several noses for personal camera preferences, detachable wings
- Preprogrammed AS3x and launch modes
- Excellent and fast flight
- Preinstalled digital metal gear servos
- A stable camera for aerial shots or FPV, and free space for electronics in the cockpit
- Page 4 of the manual has setup error for the flight mode switch
Here is a craft with not only an excellent design but cheap price tag and simplicity of use. You can fly the Parrot Swing as both a fixed-wing drone and a quadcopter, with both options working perfectly. It’s even more interesting that the Parrot is the first mini-drone capable of landing and taking off automatically and flown like a plane.
In the quadcopter mode, the autopilot feature is handy for controlling and stabilizing flights. And if you feel like taking charge, put the craft in the plane mode, and enjoy amazing speed, up to 20mph, alongside flips, rolls, and loops. The Parrot Swing sports an excellent quality, and the build is not only durable but also lightweight.
Talking about the controller, you have a smooth and easy-to-use gamepad design that allows you to pilot the craft seamlessly. You may mount your smartphone to the transmitted while connecting it to the drone to enjoy on-screen setting statistics and modifications.
A major downside, however, is the battery life – you can only stay in flight for 7 minutes. However, if you are interested in staying longer, simply get a spare battery or two. And you wouldn’t even have to spend more on these spares. The only bright side to the battery life is the quick charge time; you can get your battery fully charged in just 30 minutes.
The Parrot Swing can travel up to 200m – a reasonable distance for a toy-grade drone. When we consider all these features, the Swing can be regarded as one of the best-fixed wing drones in the market that offers great value for money.
Here is the summary of the specifications and features of the Parrot Swing:
- Customizable piloting settings
- 2 modes – quadcopter mode & plane mode
- Piloted with smartphone app & transmitter
- Quick charge
- Excellent quality build
- Cheap and fast (20mph)
- Can transit seamlessly between a quadcopter and fixed-wing craft
- Unimpressive maximum distance
- Spare batteries required to complement short battery time
Xcraft XPlusOne Fixed-Wing Quadcopter Drone
Price: Check on Amazon
Camera: Fixed GoPro mount included
Speed range: hover – 60 mph (100 kph)
Control Range: 1.5 miles
Flight time: 20 min
Dimensions: 32.5 x 19 x 14 inches
Weight: 2.9 lbs
The X Plus One Hybrid is also one of the top premium static wing drones out there. It has a couple of features similar to the Parrot Swing. Thus, it can transit from being a plane to a quadcopter, even when in mid-air. The most impressive feature, perhaps, is its ability to take off and land vertically. Hence, no huge runways are required.
Although mastering the art of flying and controlling this large craft is a bit demanding, you can find a couple of helpful tutorials on YouTube. These video tutorials, created by Xcraft, will offer users in-depth controlling knowledge that improves their understanding and control of this beast.
Talking about the specifications, you have a mediocre battery that only offers 20 minutes of flight time when fully charged. The speed is very much impressive – 60 miles per hour or 100km/hr. There is simply no faster drone than the XPlusOne on this list. Note that you must have mastered the art of controlling this aircraft perfectly before attempting to fly at such high speed.
Overall, it is safe to say that this drone is not only a very versatile UAV but also one capable of doing even much more than we have highlighted here.
Here is the summary of the specifications and features of the Xcraft XPlusOne:
- Hybrid design
- Return to home
- Comes with Run HD camera & is compatible with Go Pros
- Can transit seamlessly between a quadcopter and fixed-wing craft
- Can take off vertically
- Excellent range
- An impressive top speed
- Expensive, especially considering the flight time you get
- A lot of learning is required to operate it fully
Hubsan H301S Spy Hawk FPV Airplane
Camera: 1080p ultra-wide angle camera
Control range: 0.62 miles
Flight time: 30 min
Dimensions: 40.5 x 7.1 x 14.3 inches
Weight: 5.8 lbs
We can boldly present the Hubsan H301S Spy Hawk as one of the best fixed-wing drones. When you get one, you can rest assured of getting the maximum value for your money. It is also an ideal choice for pilots seeking to master the art of wing flying.
As a renowned quadcopter manufacturer, Hubsan lived up to expectations with this excellent fixed-wing drone. With an in-built 1080pHD wide-angle camera capable of FPV flying, as well as a couple of safety features. As a beginner interested in learning the ropes of drone piloting, you will find quite useful the auto return to home, GPS positioning, and position hold safety features.
The manual offers detailed step-by-step directions on how to set up your Husban H310S Spy Hawk out of the box. When fully charged, you will get 30 minutes of flight time, and you can go as far as 1 km. And considering the price of this drone, having these features on it is absolutely a bargain.
And with these impressive features, we have no hesitation in presenting the Hubsan H301S Spy Hawk as one of the best fixed-wing drones available at an affordable price.
Here is the summary of the specifications and features of the Hubsan H310S Spy Hawk:
- Automatic return to home
- Position hold capabilities
- GPS flight control system
- Inbuilt 1080 Camera
- Excellent flight time
- Returns home automatically
- Camera’s inability to require audio
Parrot Disco Fixed-Wing FPV Drone
Camera: 14MP Full HD 1080P
Max speed: 50 mph
Control range: 1.2 mile
Flight time: 45 min
Dimensions: 4.7 x 45.2 x 22.8 inches
Weight: 4 lbs
Here is another one from Parrot – the pioneer of intelligent multirotor drones. Pioneer has always been about innovations and experimentations – in addition to quadcopter drones, they have delved into waterborne, rolling, and jumping drones.
Pioneer presents the Disco FPV as a camera drone that is not only attractive but also efficient. The drone sports a set of wings and neat-curved wingtips, alongside a rear-facing propeller that doesn’t block the camera in any way.
Yes, this is relatively not cheap, as with any other Disco. However, you get extra value with the inclusion of the FPV goggles, but it requires a smartphone to serve as the screen. The transmitting duties are handled by the Parrot Skycontroller 2, and you can access up to a 1.2-mile range. While this may appear really huge, the maximum speed of 50 mph means the Disco could be out of range in less than one minute after flooring. There is no need to be worried about this; as a true semi-autonomous drone, the Disco will take off and land on its own, and is capable of finding its way home in cases of loss of signal.
The inbuilt 14 mp 1080 camera has a wide-angle lens, and capable of handling all the visual capturing duties. You also get a whopping 45 minutes of flight time – that’s enough to cover a lot of ground.
Although the features are quite impressive, the same cannot be said of the aftermarket support and Parrot’s approach to the occasional glitches probably caused by software bugs. Some users have also reported that this drone is difficult to understand fully, and the manual is rather too complex.
If this is true, then the Disco might not be the best for a newbie. However, on paper, the Disco remains one of the best fixed-wing drones in the market.
Here is the summary of the specifications and features of the Parrot Disco FPV:
- Comes with Sky controller
- Comes with FPV goggles
- Automatic takeoff and landing
- Return to home function
- Anti-stall system
- Simple to fly
- Complete FPV flying segment
- Amazing flight time
- Excellent maximum range
- Top-quality camera
Introducing a Fixed Wing Drone
In simple terms, the fixed-wing UAV has a rigid wing with a predetermined airfoil, which is responsible for the flight. It does this by generating lift from the forward airspeed of the UAV. The airspeed is a product of the forward thrust, and usually requires the use of a propeller that is being turned by an internal electric motor or combustion engine.
There are inbuilt control surfaces in the aircraft wing, which are responsible for the UAV’s control. The control surfaces are conventionally made up of ailerons, a rudder, and an elevator. The three works together to enable the UAV to rotate freely around three axes perpendicular to each other, while intersecting at the center of gravity of the drone itself.
A fixed-wing drone is a machine with working wings, as seen in an airplane. However, there are propellers capable of vertical launching, landing, and hovering the machine. In more specific terms, a fixed-wing craft is expected to have greater battery life and higher travel speeds. There could be more weight than usual, but it depends on the build of the aircraft.
The simple science behind a fixed-wing craft is this; it moves through the air while the wings carry the weight of the craft, and the propellers ensure the forward movement. Thus, there is less power expended, compared to when the craft is outrightly suspended in the air by only the propeller power. The motor found in a fixed-wing aircraft has enough power to launch the drone vertically; drag the craft through the air at more impressive speeds than a quadcopter would.
Despite all these perks, a con in the design is that there is a minimum travel speed for a fixed wing craft. That is, if you choose to soar the aircraft using the wings, rather than hovering by the propeller, your fixed-wing aircraft have a maximum and minimum stall speed.
If you are seeking an aircraft that can travel wider and with minimum speed, the fixed-wing craft is the ideal option for you. Although you get less stability, this is complemented by the craft’s ability to take excellent photographs.
Factors to consider when buying a Fixed Wing Drone
The maximum range is quite important. For a pilot just learning the ropes, a small range is not a problem; in fact, it aids your mastering of the control of the aircraft. Experienced pilots, who are interested in having the maximum experience, are better off with the crafts with an extended maximum range.
Short flight times can be annoying – you end up spending limited time in the air or spend money on getting spare batteries to buy you more flight time. A drone with long flight times will not only save you some money but also give you a better flying experience.
Each craft has its payload capabilities, which you must always look out for before buying. If you plan to add a third party camera and gimbal to your drone, ensure that you buy one capable of taking these extra payloads. If the payload ever gets too heavy, there may be serious damage to the drone. More payload also shortens the flight time of a drone, thus, get a drone with ample flight time if you are looking to attach other items to it.
Fixed Wing Drones vs. Rotary UAV Drones
Most times, people are left undecided on which is better between the fixed wing drones and the rotary drones. The “better” of the two depends largely on the preference of the buyer. However, are some key differences between the two that can inform your decision on which to go for, according to your flying needs.
Only advanced fixed-wing drones are capable of vertical takeoff, and if you ever find such too high for your budget, you may need to provide a pretty open space for your drone to take off. This difference in requirements for takeoff is arguably the biggest, because the rotary drone is capable of vertical takeoff, and thus, doesn’t need too much space.
The structure of fixed-wing drones is relatively simpler, compared to the rotary drones. Thus, you spend less on maintenance, with regards to time and money, with fixed-wing drones. The tweaking is needless in fixed-wing drones, and you hardly get to have a technical issue.
The fixed wing drones sport a simple and more aerodynamic design. Thus, they offer more efficiency when in flight. They can stay longer in the air compared to the rotary drones (except the DJI). Even at that, a DJI is not a match with the Parrot Discos – a fixed-wing drone with 45-minute flight time.
Fixed Wing Drones For Commercial Purposes
Fixed wing drones are not only made for personal uses – you can put them to good commercial use. Below are some helpful steps in that direction.
Pipeline inspections, over time, have consistently fetch several entrepreneurial pilots some good cash. Before now, companies spend up to $2,500 daily on a helicopter team dedicated to carrying out these inspections. However, with the advent of drones, they get the job done at only a fraction of the initial price.
Fixed wing drones are built to travel further and stay in flight for a prolonged period. These qualities make them ideal for aerial mapping. Some certain software, when installed on your fixed-wing drone, is capable of processing and constructing impressive 2d and 3d maps from the captured aerial imagery.
Again, the ability to stay in flight for a prolonged period makes fixed-wing drones perfect for the agricultural industry also. With your drone, you can inspect the conditions of your crop, even on a vast amount of land, and get it done in no time. Interestingly, you also get to spend less using a drone than the helicopter would require.
Fixed Wing Drones – Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some questions that are commonly asked by our readers with regards to Fixed Wing Drones. If your question is not listed here, kindly contact us, and we will help you in the best way possible.
What is a fixed-wing drone?
Unlike the conventional drone, the fixed-wing drone does not lift off straight into the air. Instead, they need a runway to take off and land efficiently and safety.
Can I find fixed wing FPV drones in the market?
Yes, several fixed wing FPV drones are available for sale in the market. While you find onboard FPV camera in some, you can include your preferred gears in others.
What is a fixed-wing drone kit?
The fixed-wing drone kit includes only the wings, and sometimes other pieces of gear. However, you will most likely be required to provide your gear when you buy a fixed wing drone kit. Such equipment includes motors and landing gear.
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