Does Size really matter – Commercial or Consumer Drone?

by | Jan 27, 2021 | Thoughts | 0 comments

Does Size really matter – Commercial or Consumer Drone?

As with most Assets – Yes, size can matter.

However, there really are times when 2kg drones (UAVs) such as the DJI Phantom Pro or the Yuneec H520 can perform a similar role to the DJI Matrice 300 for example.

When on a Jobsite, I have been asked on numerous occasions why I am using a “consumer” UAV as opposed to a “commercial” UAV. Often, my response will ordinarily entail a return question such as, “what determines a commercial UAV”? More often than not, the answer will be “You know, the massive ones…”.

Arguably, this is a misrepresentation of the UAV/Drone industry and the equipment in use. A “consumer” UAV can be and is regularly used for “commercial” purposes. Does this then make a consumer UAV a commercial machine? I believe many people are misled into thinking there is actually a size point at which a UAV becomes commercial. There most certainly is a point where the price point and size of a machine steers its purchase and use toward commercial operations. CASA licensing requirements also play their part in “managing” the use of larger machines. Much the same way road transport authorities manage the use of heavy vehicles.

Although there are differences in sizes, shapes and specifications, it’s important to remember a commercial operator is looking for an outcome – generally, this outcome for a commercial operator also relates directly to a financial outcome – for both the operator and their client.

This outcome largely depends on the camera, portability, time of flight, conditions UAV is expected to fly in etc. Subsequently, not all shoes will fit one foot and a specific machine will need to be selected based on the many variables.

Take for example the Matrice M300 “commercial” machine (Our latest addition). this is a large (MTOW 9kg) UAV and is built for use in primarily “commercial” circumstances. With high wind and water resistance ratings, along with safety features not available on a large number of commercial machines currently available. This machine will be the preferred UAV for commercial operations, however, due to its large size and large batteries, there are times when it is not fit for purpose on a commercial job and a so-called consumer UAV will instead be used. Due to its size, its portability (in comparison to its smaller cousins) is reduced. A more portable solution such as the Phantom 4 Pro, Yuneec h520 and indeed the Mavic 2 Zoom may be preferred. This may actually provide a more suitable client and operator outcome – financially and data-wise.

On the flip side are the micro-drones. These little guys are simply amazing and are open to a much wider audience as a result of their price point and size. from a regulatory and safety perspective, they may provide a more suitable outcome than the larger machines however are more susceptible to weather elements. they are also limited in their capabilities which is reasonable given their small size. Their purpose is often limited to racing machines or for military purposes.

In conclusion – yes, UAV size does matter, however size won’t be the key determination in the final outcome. The final outcome needs to include the following critical high-level components: Safety, data collected, and finance (client and operator).

As such, the next time an operator turns up on-site with a small UAV. Please be aware there are reasons commercial operators select specific UAVs for specific jobs. Commercial operators are normally happy to discuss their operations with interested people however if they are setting up or actually flying it is advisable to allow them some space and approach cautiously.