When most people hear of drones, they think of quadcopter or multi-rotor drones. However, there are many types of drones. Another type is the fixed wing drone, which has a traditional aircraft design and glides with four wings instead of the propellers of a multi-rotor aircraft.
The popularity of fixed-wing drones is due to the short range and slow flight speed of multi-rotor aircraft, which do not meet the needs of large mining areas, road projects, large-scale agricultural applications, and urban planning.
Fixed wing UAVs serve as a means of upgrading systems, avoiding the need for frequent battery changes and increasing the efficiency of projects.
Fixed wing drone buyer's guide
When buying a fixed wing drone, you must consider a number of criteria to make a good choice. These criteria must be adapted to your needs. Below, we describe the most important aspects to consider:
The size of the fixed wing is very important. Partly because size affects other portability. Generally speaking, a fixed-wing drone can only be folded down to the size of a wing, so it is usually less portable than a quadcopter drone. Some drones can be taken apart by disconnecting the wings on either side of the fuselage, while others cannot even be taken apart at all.
On the other hand, size also determines its stability in strong winds. Larger drones can withstand higher wind speeds than smaller fixed-wing drones.
So you need to balance portability with your flying conditions before buying a fixed-wing drone.
Unlike multi-rotors, fixed-wing drones use aerodynamics similar to that of aircraft, so it has a much longer flight time. A typical fixed-wing drone will be able to fly for between 50 and 300 minutes. Basically, the longer a fixed-wing drone stays in the air, the more area it can cover, which means you can survey a larger area.
Choose a drone with a camera that meets your project needs, such as a thermal sensor, LiDAR, or optical camera. For deep integration of the drone and payload, it is best to choose a drone and camera from the same manufacturer and they have a range of different payloads for you to choose from.
Controls and operation
Fixed-wing drones have a variety of capabilities depending on their buildup, power, and controls. As a drone pilot, you want to make sure that your level of flight experience is catered to the controls and the way the drone operates in the air. Some drones allow the user to switch between flight modes and provide different levels of flight assistance while flying, which is suitable for novice pilots with little flight experience. However, some drones also offer single-touch controls on the controller that allows for aerobatics, making them more suitable for experienced pilots. These are all features you will want to consider to deliver the flying experience you want.
Material and design
The aerodynamics of a fixed-wing UAV depends on its manufacturing materials and design elements. There are six design configuration configurations to consider, namely the basic fuselage configuration, wing configuration, straight wing, tail configuration, fuselage material, and propeller position. In general, beginner and intermediate drones will be constructed of lightweight and absorbent foam, while advanced fixed wing drones use carbon fiber elements.
Vertical and takeoff and landing
Fixed-wing UAVs have very limited takeoffs and landings. Some fixed-wing drones, like real aircraft, require runways for takeoff and landing. So, you need to plan a large flat area for takeoff and landing in advance. Some fixed-wing can be launched into the air for takeoff by hand, which demands a high degree of pilot skill and is prone to accidents.
Other fixed-wing drones, like VTOL drones, have the ability to take off and land vertically. They are an ideal choice as they have no requirements for takeoff and landing sites and are safe to operate.
Top 3 fixed wing drones for commercial applications
Commercial drones also called professional drones, are any drones that are used for real business. Fixed wing drones are widely used in several top industries such as construction, real estate marketing, and even security.
Here is our list of the top 3 commercial and professional fixed wing drones on the market:
JOUAV CW-40 - Best multi-purpose VTOL drone with long range
Are you looking for a drone with a long flight time and fast speed? The CW-40, developed by JOUAV, a leading Chinese industrial drone manufacturer, features vertical take-off and landing capability, long endurance, long transmission range, heavy load flight, and a rugged carbon fiber body, which is ideal for harsh environments and large-scale surveying or drone surveillance.
Vertical take-off and landing (VTOL)
The CW-40 VTOL drone combines a multi-rotor and a fixed-wing drone. Unlike other fixed-wing UAVs that need a runway or hand launch, JOUAV CW-40 can take off in confined areas and land smoothly on gravel, between tree stands, or in mountainous areas.
In addition, it offers not only the accuracy of a multi-rotor drone but also the ability to cover a wide area of land like a fixed-wing drone. Moreover, CW-40 lies down flat for landing to improve take-off and landing stability in the wind.
Accuracy and high-resolution
CW-40 can deeply integrate CA-103 61MP full-frame aerial camera, 30x optical zoom and thermal imaging gimbal camera, high-resolution Micasense multispectral camera, long-range LIDAR sensor, and other payloads.
With 61MP full-frame camera and a multi-frequency PPK GNSS receiver, CW-40 delivers best-in-class Ground Sampling Distance of 5-8mm per pixel and absolute horizontal accuracy down to 1cm under optimal conditions. When this drone is equipped with LiDAR, the CW-40 LiDAR drone reaches down to 2cm vertical accuracy without GCP. Meanwhile, CW-40 can also be used in surveillance and security that transmits RAW 4K video in real-time.
Fast speed and large coverage
As a hybrid fuel-electric drone, the CW-40 is powered by a four-stroke electro-injected piston engine that recharges the on-board power supply while in flight, resulting in a flight time of up to 600 minutes and cruising speed of up to 90km/h. With up to 200km of transmission range, you'll be able to get the job done faster and easier than ever before.
Easy and safe operation
Flying the CW-40 is fully automated and requires no piloting skills and very little training. The flight planning is done through two very intuitive applications, JOUAV FlightSurv (for mapping missions) and Eagle Map (for surveillance missions). You can have various ways to prepare the flight plan as well as monitor and modify the mission in flight.
With modular design, CW-40 uses pins, snaps, and self-locking devices to make it possible for the entire system to be assembled in 15 minutes and easily dissembled in 10 minutes.
For comprehensive flight safety, CW-40's robust troubleshooting system supports system self-detection, automatic return function in case of system abnormality, automatic obstacle avoidance function, etc.
Robust and site proof
The CW-40 is made of carbon fiber material and operates and delivers results to the highest quality standards. It is widely used in different harsh environments, from the large deserts of Taklamakan to the high altitudes of Tibet, to the high salt and humidity of Qinghai, and the heavy rains of Zhengzhou.
WingtraOne Gen II VTOL fixed wing drone
Developed by a Switzerland-based VTOL drone manufacturer, the WingtraOne has quickly made a name for itself in fields such as drone surveying, precision agriculture, and large-scale inspection projects. With a 42MP Sony RX1RII full-frame camera, GNSS board, and PPK module, the WingtraOne Gen II VTOL drone empowers you to minimize your time flying and get more work done.
Tailsitter vertical take-off and landing
Same as JOUAV CW-40, the WingOne Gen II relies on vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) to offer the flexibility and ease of use of a multi-rotor drone together with the range and stability of a fixed-wing drone. Unlike CW-40, it takes off and lands on its tail, avoiding damage to aircraft from belly landings.
Efficient fixed-wing flight
The WingtraOne Gen II commercial mapping drone can fly at 36m/h for up to 59mins per flight for large coverage. The drone claims that it can cover more than 100 hectares on a single flight, which is equal to 240 football fields.
Carrying a 42MP Sony RX1RII full-frame camera, WingtraOne can fly at a high altitude while still providing low GSD images. If you choose to add the optional PPK OPTION, then you've got GSD down to 0.7 cm/px and absolute horizontal accuracy, down to 1cm. But This can only be achieved if the drone flies over hard surfaces and uses well-marked, highly visible, manually measured checkpoints and a well-established base station.
Ready to fly in 5 mins
Using WingtraPilot's tablet, the WingtraOne drone can take off in less than 5 minutes, including drone setup, all pre-flight steps, and planning a simple mapping mission.
The WingtraOne is capable of automatic launch, in-flight data collection, and landing without human interaction.
Sensefly eBeeX fixed wing drone
The SenseFly eBee X is a fixed-wing drone for meeting the exacting standards of surveyors and GIS professionals all over the world. Designed for improved quality, efficiency, and safety of data collection, eBee X has a wide variety of cameras to suit every job. Its coverage and accuracy are designed to meet the requirements of each project and work in almost any type of field.
Efficient & precise
The eBee X's efficiency is unmatched. With the unique Endurance Expansion feature activated, it is capable of mapping a maximum flight time of 90 minutes to cover 500 hectares (1235 acres) at a flight altitude of 120 meters. Its available RTK/PPK option helps you achieve absolute accuracy of 3 cm (1.2 inches) without the need for GCP.
Multiple payload options
The eBee X is right for every job, whether you're performing drone photogrammetry or simply creating high-resolution orthophotos of a project site because it has a range of groundbreaking cameras. These include the new senseFly S.O.D.A. 3D for stunning 3D reconstructions of vertical environments, the best-in-class senseFly Aeria X RGB photogrammetry camera, the senseFly Duet T for creating geographically accurate heat maps, and the senseFly Duet M multispectral camera for monitoring and tracking crop health.
Rugged & reliable
The eBee X is a rugged mapping drone that allows you to work in virtually any location, thanks to its space-friendly steep takeoff and landing technology, ultra-rugged design, real-time air traffic data, and other features.
With over 1 million successful flights worldwide, from simple to complex missions, senseFly's fixed-wing drones are proven for their unmatched operational safety and ability to deliver high-quality data.
If you have a small project with low accuracy requirements (no more than 1.8cm/px and 3cm absolute accuracy) and enough flat terrain and space for belly landings and takeoffs, the eBee X would be a good choice. It is very portable and can carry multi-spectral, thermal camera, RGB multiple payloads, meaning you can diversify the capabilities of this drone to suit your needs.
If you need high precision and are mapping a large area with complex terrain, the WingtraOne is a safer drone because it won't belly land. Mapping project sites with gravel terrain or confined spaces is not possible with the eBee X. With the same GSD, it can cover 40% more area. For demanding projects, it can also achieve 3x the accuracy down to an absolute level of 1 cm (0.4").
If you have a large project with high accuracy requirements accompanied by extreme weather and complex terrain, the JOUAV CW-40 is a more reliable and powerful drone:
- Mapping area. With a GSD of 3cm per pixel and 50% image overlap, the JOUAV CW-40 provides 85% better coverage than the WingtraOne and 83% better coverage than the eBee X.
- Camera resolution. CW-40 is equipped with a 61 MP camera that can cover a larger area, fly higher for safety and efficiency, and produce higher resolution results.
- Flight time. CW-40 has a flight time of up to 600mins, 10 times that of WingtraOne and 7 times that of eBee X.
Accuracy. CW-40 is able to cover large areas quickly while achieving GSDs as low as 5-8mm per pixel and absolute horizontal accuracy of up to 1cm.
- Multi-purpose platform. If you want your UAV to be used for public safety, law enforcement, search and rescue, utility inspections, etc., in addition to mapping. CW-40 can carry more loads such as LiDAR or surveillance systems.
- Flight stability and safety. Tested in windy weather, heavy rain, high altitude, high salt, and high humidity, CW-40 can also fly stably and collect excellent data.
Top 3 FPV RC fixed wing drones for fun
Thanks to advances in technology and lower prices, first-person view (FPV) drones are growing in popularity, evolving from a niche collection of professional flying machines into a robust category of remotely operated aircraft designed professionally for specific use cases and applications. Some personnel wants to use drones to record footage, some pilots like to compete, while others just enjoy the thrill of flying.
If you are just starting to fly FPV drones, you should definitely try FPV fixed-wing aircraft. Fixed wing drones, by design, are super stable, so flying fixed wing FPVs is a super easy way to get into FPV flying.
Now, let’s take a look at the top 3 FPV RC fixed wing drones you can buy today.
Parrot Disco FPV fixed wing drone
Parrot is one of the world's leading drone manufacturers and its Disco FPV will be the best fit for most people. This is because it offers fantastic quality at an affordable price.
First of all, Parrot Disco FPV has a powerful motor that is not only capable of reaching speeds of 50 mph but also offers a fun and immersive FPV flight experience. The drone is aerodynamically designed with a lightweight carbon fiber frame that helps improve its flight performance. You can fly for 45 minutes at a time at a range of 1.2 miles.
This fixed-wing drone is intuitive to control using the Parrot Skycontroller 2. You can easily create autonomous routes using the waypoints on the app, and the automatic takeoff and return to home are perfect for beginners. Additionally, you can stream live videos of your drone to your smartphone via the FreeFlight Pro app. The controller can even be connected to your smartphone to further enhance your flying experience.
One of our favorite things about this long range drone is that it comes in a kit that includes VR flight goggles to make you feel like you're really gliding through the air from the drone's POV. This view is captured by a powerful 1080P full HD wide-angle camera. The footage can be captured in a variety of formats including JPEG, RAW, and DNG.
Yuneec Firebird FPV fixed wing drone
The Yuneec Firebird FPV is an attractive fixed-wing drone as it is equipped with different flight modes, which are created both for beginner drone users and for experts in mind.
The Yuneec Firebird FPV has Smart GPS, which allows your drone to automatically land and return to flight. This means that every flight will go smoothly without having to worry about losing your aircraft.
This fixed wing drone from Yuneec also has three different flight modes for beginners and more expert drone pilots. It's perfect because you can do more with your fixed-wing drone as your skills progress. Explore the additional modes you can use.
Unlike traditional analog FPV signals, Yuneec Firebird FPV transmits live images to your smartphone in clear, interference-free high definition. The video signal can be recorded directly on the SD card in 4K format. So you can easily view what the camera sees, whether it's taking pictures or recording video. You also have the option to share it with family and friends via social media.
Hubsan H301S Spy Hawk fixed wing drone
The Hubsan H301S Spy Hawk has many impressive features. Not only does it provide beautiful real-time video, but it also features GPS geotagging. It is the perfect drone for casual surveying and exploration while providing a truly immersive flight experience.
This fixed wing drone is constructed using high-quality EPO. It has a 1920x1080P ultra-wide camera and a 120° wide-angle lens that transmits audio and video and gives you the option to record your flight. This compact-looking camera plane weighs only 350 grams, which makes it easy to carry.
The drone's transmitter provides real-time, accurate GPS positioning to the controller, which makes it easy to follow the flight path and track the drone's location. It can definitely be considered the best fixed-wing drone for plotting flight paths. It has a handy auto-return feature that guides the drone back to your location.
Fixed wing drone FAQ
What is fixed-wing drone?
As their name suggests, they are those equipped with fixed wings, which do not rotate. Its better aerodynamics allows certain models to take advantage of air currents and their ability to glide to increase their flight time.
How fixed wing drone works?
As the name implies, they are those aircraft equipped with fixed wings that are designed to look and work like an airplane, providing lift rather than vertical lift rotors. Their better aerodynamics allow some models to take advantage of airflow and gliding capabilities to increase flight time.
What are fixed wing drones used for?
Fixed-wing drones are available for leisure and also models for professional use. This type is used today for environment monitoring, precision agriculture, aerial mapping, security and surveillance, disaster relief and humanitarian aid, and research.
What are the advantages of a fixed wing drone?
Firstly, fixed-wing drones are made up of flat wings. This wing makes these drones more suitable for long distances, and they consume less energy than rotary-wing drones while covering them.
Secondly, even though the lowest-end fixed-wing drones have only a few minutes of autonomy, they are still the best in terms of autonomy.
Thirdly, fixed-wing drones are faster than rotary-wing drones, so they can cover greater distances in the same amount of time. They can also fly at much higher altitudes. All these features allow them to gather as much information as possible in a single flight.
Finally, fixed-wing drones can carry heavier loads than rotary-wing drones. In fact, fixed wings provide exceptional stability, allowing drones to carry loads of up to 50 kg.
What are the disadvantages of a fixed wing drone?
Fixed-wing drones are more expensive than quadcopter and multi-rotor drones.
Fixed-wing drones are more difficult to operate and often require specialized flight training to fly them.
In most cases, you need a launcher or runway to get a fixed-wing drone into the air.
They are more difficult to land in forested environments than multi-rotor and quadcopter drones.
And they can only move forward, they cannot hover in the air for close inspection.