Drone vs quadcopter: What’s the difference

In recent years, drones have become accessible to the general public after when the military decided that their use is no longer exclusive to them. Revolutionizing the air world, these high-tech objects today have many uses. But what is it really about? What are the different types of drones on the market?

What is the drone?

The drone is an unmanned, passenger, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) aircraft. It can fly autonomously or be remotely controlled by video transmission, computer mouse, or direct-view remote-driving.

Originally created to carry out military missions, the UAV is now accessible to the general public and used for various purposes: health, leisure, industrial, agricultural, journalism, audiovisual, racing, etc.

Different types of drones

There are so many varieties of UAVs on the market that many classifications can be made:

The different uses of drones

Among other things, we can distinguish:

The military: used for reconnaissance or espionage missions. Some models can even be used as missile launchers.

The civilian: used for recreational purposes, for entertainment. Its price can range from a few tens to several thousand dollars. It is in this category that we find in particular models of cheap devices.

The professional: the craft can perform different missions in many sectors, such as agriculture, building inspection, cinema, security, architecture, etc.

The ambulance:  helps rescuers by transporting equipment, such as the defibrillator.

Different shapes

First of all, you should know that these aircraft can hold 1, 3, 4, 6, 8, and up to 16 engines or rotors. Each rotor is placed in a blade or propeller. Depending on the number of engines, the shape of the aircraft is different. A single-rotor aircraft is when it contains only one rotor and a multi-rotor when there are several. Depending on the number of rotors, the name of the craft changes: tricopter (3 rotors), quadcopter (4 rotors), hexacopter (6 rotors), octocopter (8 rotors)… The most widely used model is the quadcopter drone.

There is another UAV design that is totally different: the device with fixed or fixed-wing wings. As the name suggests, its wings are fixed. It looks like traditional planes. This type of device is not able to remain stable in the air. Thus, it does not allow to take aerial photos.

There are different types of UAVs and each has qualities that make them more suitable for one type of work or another. If we compare fixed-wing machines and multirotor, such as quadcopters, it is based on a fundamental difference, its design.

Multirotors can have four (quadcopter), six (hexacopter), or eight rotors (octocopter). It’s the way they stand in the air and move their propulsion. They can be identified with a helicopter’s propulsion system. On the other hand, fixed-wing machines are more aerodynamic and tend to have a shape and movement similar to those of conventional aircraft.

The variable sizes of drones

Very small or micro drones: their size varies from that of a large insect to an object 50 cm in wingspan. In this category, we find nano-drones that are essentially used for espionage because of their tiny size.

Mini-drones: they are a little larger than micro UAVs, between 50 cm and 2m.

Medium UAV: they are more than 2 m long and are heavier. However, they are lighter than an airplane and can weigh up to 200 kg.

Large drones: they are comparable in size to an airplane and are mainly used in the military world

What’s the difference between a quadcopter and a drone?

What is the difference between a quadcopter and a UAV is a question we are often asked and thanks to this article clarify it once and for all.


The origin of this word ‘drone’ can be found in the English vocabulary and means false bumblebees (male of the bee). Subsequently, this term was introduced to mean an aircraft without military crews. Most of the time, these aircraft are large in size and do not have many propellers like for example the F-16 but modified into a UAV.

These devices are used as targets in exercises or are used on the battlefield to spy even used as an attack weapon. Finally, military UAVs are remotely piloted by a pilot in the vicinity or even several thousand miles away.


The quadra copter or shorter ‘quadcopter’, as the name says, has four rotors that propel the device. The composition of this aircraft, constituting a calculator and whatever unit of measurement (gyroscope and acceleration sensor), allows the craft to fly stable during the flight.

A quadrotor has no military relationship but it has recently become popular on the market. Of course, there are government agencies that use quadrotos. Think of the police or firefighters (probably the army) to detect fires, find missing people, etc.

In the private market, these cameras have become popular among amateur enthusiasts and photographers. A quacopter can easily carry a professional camera and take stunning photos of environmental landscapes. Of course, there is a lot of demand for this kind of UAV for commercial purposes. Think of mailings, real estate brokers, security firms, and so on.

Further reading

Beyond the differences in its structure, each model of unmanned aircraft has its own technical characteristics that make them more useful during certain tasks. In ToDrone, we spoke with Manuel de la Torre, an engineer from the company ATyges Ingeniera, to illustrate some of the differences between these two models of UAVs.

In the case of multirotors, their propulsion system allows them to perform static flights. This is quite the opposite of fixed-wing aircraft, as their characteristics mean that they must be constantly in motion.  Although their weight is less than that of a multirotor, gives them greater autonomy,” explains Manuel de la Torre.

Different applications for quadcopters and fixed-wing drones

Taking these differences into account, we can distinguish different applications in which each model is usually framed. Thanks to its greater autonomy and aerodynamics (which gives it more efficiency and speed of flight), fixed-wing UAVs are generally used for work in which large areas need to be covered, as is the case for mapping and remote sensing,” he explains. Engineer. They are also used for surveillance work because they have a lower sound impact than multirotors, making them difficult to detect.

The ability to fly in a static position makes the quadcopter and other UAVs more useful for more accurate work, such as inspection work in different sectors, such as industry.

Despite the differences between the two, Manuel de la Torre stated that “the two types of aircraft are complementary”. And they have common characteristics, such as multisensor quality, i.e. “different types of cameras can be delivered.”

About the author

David Evans

My name is David Evans and photography and videography is my big passion. In fact, I can consider myself as a professional photographer already. I love taking both aerial and underwater shots using drones. My passion for drones started when a bird accidentally hit one of my first drones. The camera captured the whole moment and produced one of the best videos I ever filmed. Since then, I traveled to many parts of rural North America to capture wildlife from the sky.