9 Awesome Rotary-Wing Drone/UAV Applications Explained

Rotary-wing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are some of the most popular types of drones today alongside fixed-wing UAVs.

Their potential applications are vast spanning across several different industries where they are a better fit compared to any other type of UAV.

Here are 9 awesome rotary-wing drone/UAV applications:

  • Railway inspections & monitoring
  • Military ISTAR
  • Ski patrol operations
  • Detection of harmful chemicals
  • Education
  • Multi-rotor FPV drone racing
  • Filmmaking
  • Anti-piracy operations
  • Maritime search and rescue

We’ve primarily included rotary-wing UAV applications that are more suited to the rotary-wing design rather than any other type of drone. The types of rotary-wing UAVs include single-rotor UAVs, twin-rotor UAVs, and multi-rotor UAVs.

Take note that hybrid fixed-wing/VTOL drones (tiltwing, tiltrotor, quadplane, tail-sitter drones) will not be included in this article as they are in a category of their own.

How Are Rotary-Wing UAVs Used For Railway Inspections & Monitoring?

Railways can span hundreds of thousands of kilometres. These steel rails require a lot of maintenance in order to ensure that they are safe for every train.

Rotary-wing drones/unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are used for railway inspections and monitoring by flying and sometimes rolling across the rails while observing these rails using various payloads.

Check out our full post on what rotary-wing drones/UAVs are where we dive into how they work, applications, parts/components, advantages/disadvantages, common powerplants and examples:

Related Post: What Are Rotary-Wing UAVs? Unmanned Rotorcraft Explained

Using drones instead of workers enables these jobs to be far safer and a lot less time-consuming.

They are more beneficial than other types of drones due to their hover abilities which enable them to hover in place when needed.

They typically will be equipped with electro-optical (EO) sensors in order to conduct these inspections.

The Staaker BG300 made by Nordic Unmanned is an example of a multi-rotor octocopter that is equipped with a landing gear extension in order to drive across rails to inspect them while also being capable of flying when a train passes.

How Are Rotary-Wing UAVs Used For Military ISTAR?

ISTAR stand for Intelligence, Survelliance, Target Aquisition, and Reconnassaince.

Rotary-wing drones/unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are used for military ISTAR by gathering intelligence to gain an advantage on the battlefield and to plan and execute the acquisition of a target using various payloads including EO/IR sensors and LIDAR.

These drones enable the military to be able to execute the safest and most effective plan in order not to be caught off guard thus potentially reducing casualties.

Rotary-wing UAVs are capable of hovering in place for extended periods of time depending on various factors such as propulsion systems and configuration.

Check out our full post on the types of rotary-wing UAVs where we dive into what each type is and how they work along with some examples of each:

Related Post: What Are The Types Of Rotary-Wing Drones/UAVs? (+Pictures)

This is especially useful when a single location needs to be monitored and the drone needs to be able to stay still for accurate data to be gathered.

The Black Eagle 50 made by Steadicopter and the HT-100 made by Anavia are two examples of rotary-wing UAVs that are used in military ISTAR.

How Are Rotary-Wing UAVs Used In Ski Patrol Operations?

Ski patrol teams are a crucial component of any ski resort. They conduct various safety and maintenance missions that help keep skiers out of harm’s way.

Rotary-wing drones/unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are used in ski patrol operations by inspecting pistes, equipment including ski lifts and communication towers, and conducting search and rescue missions after an avalanche.

Rotary-wing UAVs use their hovering capabilities to slowly and effectively inspect whatever they are tasked with inspecting effectively and efficiently while potentially being equipped with various payloads such as electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensors and thermal sensors.

Other types of drones such as fixed-wing UAVs specifically could not be used as effectively as they cannot be operated at such low speeds.

Check out our full post that dives further into how fixed-wing UAVs work, the differences between fixed-wing and rotary-wing UAVs, applications, parts/components, advantages/disadvantages, powerplants and some real examples:

Related Post: What Are Fixed-Wing Drones/UAVs? Everything You Need To Know

The Matrice 210 V2 made by DJI is an example of a quadcopter (4 rotors) that is currently being used in the Val Thorens ski resort today.

How Can Rotary-Wing UAVs Be Used To Detect Harmful Chemicals?

Pollution is a leading issue in our society and is only continuing to grow year after year.

Harmful chemicals can be found all over the environment and are often difficult, expensive and time-consuming to detect and monitor.

This can be facilitated by using rotary-wing UAVs to measure and monitor the hazardous pollution and emissions of hazardous chemicals.

This pollution can be found everywhere such as in the air and in water.

Rotary-wing drones/unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can be used to detect harmful chemicals using various payloads such as electrochemical sensors and water sampling payloads that can detect and measure these chemicals polluting our environment.

Rotary-wing UAVs are very beneficial for these types of operations as they can hover in place and carry various payloads of different weights depending on the mission while gathering accurate data.

They use various payloads including amperometric gas sensors (AGS), metal oxide semiconductor (MOX), water sampling payloads and non-dispersive infrared (NDIR) sensors to state a few.

Check out our full article where we dive into what single-rotor UAVs are along with how they work, the types, differences between all rotorcraft, applications, benefits/drawbacks and examples:

Related Post: What Are Single-Rotor Drones? Unmanned Helicopters Explained

How Are Rotary-Wing UAVs Used For Education?

Rotary-wing drones/unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are used for education in schools to help motivate students to learn and engage in different subjects they may not find interesting. This is called Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) learning.

These students can learn to program these aerial robots and use them for some fun activities.

Rotary-wing UAVs can be made very small and operated in much smaller spaces compared to fixed-wing UAVs.

Multi-rotor unmanned helicopters are going to be the best fit for these types of operations due to their high stability and ease of use.

The RoboMaster TT made by DJI and the CoDrone Lite made by Robolink are two examples of quadcopters currently used for education.

How Are Rotary-Wing UAVs Used For Multi-Rotor FPV Drone Racing?

Drone racing, specifically multi-rotor first-person view (FPV) UAV racing has blown up in popularity in recent years. These custom drones have continued to break records.

Rotary-wing drones/unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), specifically multi-rotor quadcopters, are flown by professional racers at very high speeds while manoeuvring around obstacles in a set course.

Multi-rotor UAVs are most popular as they are very quick to manoeuvre due to their extra rotors and can accelerate and maintain very high speeds.

These UAVs can be flown at speeds exceeding 193 km/h (120 mph). To achieve these speeds, they are built very light while balancing power and control.

The drone racing league (DRL) is an example of an organisation that handles these types of competitions.

The Vusion 250 made by Rise and the Hawk 5 made by Emax are two examples of FPV racing quadcopters.

How Are Rotary-Wing UAVs Used In Filmmaking?

Rotary-wing UAVs have even managed to reach the filmmaking industry.

Filmmakers have been using rotary-wing UAVs to film aerial shots that would have otherwise required them to pay a lot of money for alternatives such as manned helicopters.

Rotary-wing drones/unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are used to capture aerial shots that would otherwise have been impossible for a person to take. They provide an easy and cost-effective method that saves time.

Rotary-wing UAVs are a better option compared to any other type of drone as they are very stable while being able to hover for extended takes focused on a fixed position.

Typically, multi-rotor UAVs are often chosen due to their good balance between stability, control, and payload capacity.

High-end electro-optical (EO) sensors with high zoom are most often the go-to choice for these sorts of tasks.

The Inspire 2 made by DJI is a very popular quadcopter used for filmmaking.

How Can Rotary-Wing UAVs Be Used In Anti-Piracy Operations?

Piracy is still a prevailing issue plaguing our seas and therefore vessels found on them.

The EU Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) has created and maintained an anti-piracy naval mission and has deployed drones to monitor the coast of Somalia and search for piracy activity to prevent it.

This was named ‘Operation ATALANTA’ and was created to monitor fishing activities off the coast of Somalia, monitor arms and drug trafficking, among several other tasks.

Rotary-wing drones/unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can be used to identify and monitor potentially dangerous individuals and illegal activities to save time and prevent dangerous encounters at sea.

These UAVs are typically deployed from a manned vessel to carry out these tasks.

Thermal cameras and electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensors are some examples of possible payloads the drones could use.

How Are Rotary-Wing UAVs Used For Maritime Search And Rescue?

Rotary-wing drones/unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are used for maritime search and rescue by typically being quickly deployed from another vehicle and searching using various payloads at the scene for the target.

These UAVs can also be tasked with carrying and transporting emergency supplies to a trapped target with the essential survival and first aid equipment once the target is identified and can’t be reached for a time.

Rotary-wing UAVs are a better fit than other types of UAVs as they can hover in place to drop the emergency kit right beside the individual.

They can also be equipped with methods enabling the rescuers to listen and speak to the individual needing to be rescued to reassure and instruct them accordingly.


These are only a few of the applications for rotary-wing UAVs.

We tried our best to only mention those applications that would primarily benefit from the rotary-wing design rather than any other kind.

We hope you learned something new and we encourage you to check out our full post on rotary-wing drones for a general overview of this type of UAV.

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