Drone vs Quadcopter? Are they the same thing?

QDrone vs Quadcopter? The same thing?

What is the exact difference here?

AThe Answer

What are drones?
The term “drone” has come to envelop the gamut of all unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or remotely piloted aerial systems (RPAS) even though the formal definition is synonymous with flying robots that is being used by the military for attack, surveillance, research, observation, and search and rescue operations. From the RC quadcopter one can fly around in their living room to the MQ-9 Reaper and the MQ-1B Predator, all unmanned aerial vehicles can be considered drones. Their application is best witnessed in scenarios that make manned flights too risky or difficult. Drones are categorized by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) based on their mode of control:

• Autonomous units – Onboard computers enable these drones to follow a set flight path or complete a certain mission. The military routinely uses these flights for reconnaissance and surveillance.
• Remotely piloted units – A ‘pilot’ controls the activities of these drones. Remote control enable users to milk the maximum functionality out of these vehicles. These are subject to civil regulation.

Typically, drones can be fixed-wing aircrafts, helicopters, quadcopters, hexacopters or octacopters or some creative alternately propelled hybrids. Drones are characterized more by their small payload, self-sufficiency, and remote/computer controlled flights rather than by their mode of propulsion and their application. Compared to manned flights, their construction is lighter, smaller and less expensive that broadens the spectrum of their applications. However, this is not to say that unmanned aircrafts have to be a certain size to qualify as a drone.

Though the most common applications of drones involve military routines, they find a number of civil applications such as firefighting, policing, city monitoring, inspection of pipelines, and irrigation. To paraphrase Brian Tice, missions considered too dull, dirty or dangerous for personnel can be performed by drones.

What are quadcopters?
Quadcopters refer to a certain type of multirotor drone design that employs four rotors for their propulsion. Their design is characterized by a lightweight body with a central engine that controls four counter-rotating rotors on its arms. The rotation of the rotors in the opposite direction ensures model stability and keeps it level; this design feature makes it a perfect candidate for aerial photography.

Their simple yet effective design consists of a flight controller, a casing, electronic control system, propellers and a rigid frame. They are easy to manufacture and cheap to assemble and repair. They have pronounced advantages over fixed-wing aircrafts and helicopters.

• Unlike fixed-wing aircrafts, quadcopters have vertical takeoff and infinitely better aerial stability. While helicopters can take off vertically as well, the numerous gears, linkages and prime movers in their design can be hard to assemble and repair.
• Some advanced quadcopter designs have electronically assisted landing that bring flying them to a whole new level. Even a disastrous quadcopter landing costs you only $5 to $15 in parts for repair or replacement.

Differences between Drones and Quadcopters
Whereas drones is an umbrella term that points to all unmanned aerial vehicles, quadcopters refer to a set of drones that possess four engines that facilitate easy vertical takeoff and aerial stability for the purpose of aerial photography. Take for instance the Syma X11C Quadcopter, or the UDI U818A Quadcopter, both with four rotors and a built-in HD camera.

The mention of the word ‘drones’ immediately makes one think of military applications including attack and surveillance while quadcopters appeal more to hobbyists and makers.

Generally, drones are associated with “serious-business” applications; therefore, most drone designs have an integrated GPS framework that facilitate path-tracking and consequentially, autonomous behavior. Drones have a sophisticated design that allows them to be completely programmed. Quadcopters are simpler in design and most models do not have integrated GPS frameworks; this requires the presence of a ‘pilot’ to control the vehicle remotely. Modern quadcopters are being packaged with a lot of features such as assisted landing, extended range, extended battery life and flight time that bridge the divide between drones and hobby copters.