Drones are versatile devices that are constantly evolving as time goes on. The size of a drone affects many things such as the weight, physical size and the payload capacity of the drone (more on this below).
Small drones excel in portability due to their relatively small weight and size while being able to carry out a large number of tasks, just not as effectively or efficiently as large drones. Large drones can specialise in certain tasks depending on what they’re built for but can become heavy and large making it challenging to transport them. What impacts their performance and portability is more the price of the drone rather than the size.
Does The Size Of Your Drone Matter?
Overall, we believe that the size of your drone matters. The size of a drone determines how much the weather will affect the drone, how many features the drone will have increasing what it would be able to accomplish, how portable it is, the quality of the footage captured and the length it would be able to fly.
The size you choose when purchasing your drone is all up to you. However, below we’re going to try our best to show you just how important the size of a drone can be.
Understand the differences between small and large drones
There are many differences between small and large drones. The size of your drone will impact its overall performance and we can guarantee that you will need to make a few sacrifices when you try and decide.
Below we’re going to go into the different factors.
Take note that no drone will be able to accomplish all of these factors in the most efficient way.
Some drones available on the market can balance most of these features quite well which is ideal if you want your drone to be as versatile as possible.
When choosing or building your drone, you will need to decide where you want to put more attention to depending on what you intend to use your drone for.
Here are several factors that can differentiate small drones from large drones:
- Number of features
- Quality of footage captured
- Payload capacity
- Legal requirements
- Flight time
- Physical size
Number of features
Drones today are capable of being equipped with a large number of features. These features are often what differentiate cheap drones from expensive drones.
Check out our post on cheap vs expensive drones where we go into how good cheap and expensive drones are, how hard they are to fly and how long they can fly for and the main differences between the two:
Small nano drones that can fit in the palm of your hand are not going to have nearly as many features as a large drone that requires two people just to transport it, or at least they won’t be able to accomplish these features as well as a large drone.
These features include things such as folding propellers and arms to make it easier to transport, return to home (RTH) functionalities that enable the drone to return to a set position automatically, obstacle avoidance sensors, GPS capabilities and other autonomous functions.
Take note that the size of the drone does not always determine the number of features it may have.
This technology is evolving at such a rapid pace that small drones today can have many of the same features as large drones.
Price plays a large role in determining how many features the drone will have and how efficiently the drone will be able to carry out these features.
A smaller drone will in most cases weigh a lot less than a larger one. This is obviously due to their physical size being smaller.
However, this may occasionally be a false statement.
A large drone may weigh less than a smaller drone if it’s made of special lightweight materials and is not packed with features that may weigh it down.
You can explore in more detail what materials make up consumer and commercial drones in our related post:
A small drone could weigh more than a larger one if it’s not optimized in this way. This means that it’s made of heavy materials and is packed with heavy components and a lot more features.
Weight is one of the primary factors people pay attention to aside from what the drone is capable of and what it looks like.
Quality of footage captured
The price of your drone and the way the manufacturer designed the drone actually matters a lot more than the size if you are looking for a drone that can capture good footage, that can fly for long, or that can fly fast.
However, it is true to say that most large drones will be capable of capturing much better footage as they are much more stable and are capable of carrying much heavier and much nicer cameras.
We want you to understand that unless you absolutely need the best of the best in terms of camera footage, then settling for a much cheaper drone that’s still in the hundreds to a thousand range will get you good camera footage and camera quality and you wouldn’t really see much difference.
The stability of many drones all depends on the manufacturer that built and designed them.
If you’d like to discover what some of the best drone companies are in the world and some fun facts about them, we have a full post on this topic below:
Drones that are designed for photography are designed to be stable and to be capable of carrying certain payloads that enable them to hold bigger and better cameras.
Small drones will in most cases be unable to carry as much as a larger drone.
Large drones will be built to be capable of withstanding their own weight and will usually be capable of carrying a much higher payload.
Payloads may include things such as anti-collision lights, cameras and mounts (fixed, stationary and gimbal).
If you’d like to find out what a drone gimbal is, what kinds of drone gimbals are available, whether drones need gimbals, how a drone gimbal works, how to choose the right gimbal, how much they cost and much more, check out our post on this topic below:
There is also the registration requirements that will change once your drone surpasses a certain weight.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires all unmanned aerial systems (UAS) to be registered using FAADroneZone online if the drone weighs more than 0.55 pounds (~250 grams) and less than 55 pounds (25kg).
We have a full post that explains what the differences are between drones, UAVs and UAS:
If your drone weighs more than 55 pounds (25kg), then you will need to go through the paper (N-number) process that can be found on the same site.
You can bypass these rules if you only fly inside your own home (which you own)! However, there are many risks to doing so and it can become quite difficult once your drone exceeds a certain physical size.
Take note that there is no specific border between the airspace that you own above your home and the navigable airspace meant for public use.
Therefore you should not fly your drone carelessly above your home if you have not registered a drone that is supposed to be.
Large drones are going to be heavier than smaller drones. However, this does not mean that they are going to have shorter flight times.
They may weigh more, but they also have more room inside the drone to place a larger battery with more capacity. They can also take larger propellers which can generate more lift whilst using less power.
It’s also worth noting that these propellers, especially the larger ones on the larger drones, can potentially injure you if you are not careful as they are quite sharp and rotate at high speeds.
We highly recommend you check out our full detailed post on drone propellers including the different types, how they work, their different sizes and pitch, their materials, how to choose them and much more.
The final difference we’re going to mention is probably the most obvious one. Small drones are going to be smaller in physical size than larger drones.
This means that large drones are going to be harder to transport as they’ll require more room overall to store in a drone travel bag.
It’s also worth noting that small drones are going to be easier to lose if you decide to put them anywhere in your home.
If flown in confined spaces (inside your home, inside a warehouse…), then it will be much more difficult to safely fly a large drone rather than a smaller one as you will need to be much more careful not to run into any obstacles.
We have a detailed post where we dive into several reasons why you shouldn’t buy a drone:
Are large drones easier to fly than small drones?
Large drones are easier to fly than small drones.
This is due to the factors we’ve mentioned above such as the features the drone has, the weight of the drone, the payload capacity, and the drone’s physical size leading to increased stability.
Natural weather such as wind will almost always impact a drones stability.
Large drones however can withstand a lot more wind than small drones as they are simply bigger and heavier.
Larger drones are also often built with more advanced technology, or at least more of it, in order to battle the challenges of flying a drone (this will mostly depend on the price of the drone and the reputation of the manufacturer).
The ease of use of any drone will also depend on the type of drone. These types include multi-rotor drones, single rotor drones, fixed-wing drones, racing drones, camera drones…
We have a full post on the different types of drones where we dive into the different types of drones in detail, the alternative fuel methods and we include some cool examples of popular drones available on the market today including military drones. Feel free to check out our full post:
There is a learning curve to flying any drone that you may go through no matter what drone you fly. No drone is exactly the same.
It’s also worth noting that due to the difference in overall size, large drones will almost always be less agile than small drones while in the air.
This means that it will have less manoeuvrability and it will therefore be harder to pull off stunts mid-air, that is if those are your intentions.
What Are The Different Drone Sizes?
Understanding the different sizes drones can come in will allow you to grasp what is considered a small drone and what is considered a large drone.
The following drone sizes only refer to consumer and commercial drones.
Very small drones
Very small drones refer to ‘Nano’ drones which are very popular on the market today for kids and those that just want to safely fly indoors.
These drones can easily fit in the palm of your hand.
Here is a small table that gives the range of weight, length and propeller diameter of nano drones:
|200 grams (0.2kg, 0.44lbs) or less||150mm (15cm, 6 inches) or less||51mm (2 inches) or less|
Small drones are commonly referred to as ‘Mini’ drones. You can still use these indoors with the proper equipment (prop guards, cage…) but these are more often used outdoors for fun and for photography.
These drones can still comfortably rest in your hand.
Here is a small table that gives the range of weight, length and propeller diameter of mini drones:
|200-1000 grams (0.44-2.2lbs)||Up to 300mm (12 inches)||76-152mm (3-6 inches)|
Medium-size drones are most often used for professional applications and amateur photography. These drones can no longer fit in the palm of your hand and begin to take up considerable space.
In this article, the large drones we refer to include medium-size all the way to large drones.
Here is a small table that gives the range of weight, length and propeller diameter of medium-size drones:
|1-20kg (2.2-44 pounds)||300-1200mm (12 inches – 4 feet)||150-640 mm (6-25 inches)|
Large drones are most often just used for professional applications such as drone deliveries or filmmaking.
These drones can no longer be carried by one person and may even need equipment just to transport the device.
Here is a small table that gives the range of weight, length and propeller diameter of large drones:
|20kg (44 pounds) and up||120cm (4 feet) and up||64 cm (25 inches) and up|
We have a full post on drone sizing where we go into not only the various sizes drones come in, but we also talk about whether the size of a drone matters, consumer, commercial and military drone sizes, how to measure the frame size of a drone and much more:
How Do You Know What Size Your Drone Is?
To know the size of your drone, you can use the average weight, length and propeller diameter measurements we’ve provided above to get a general idea of where your drone falls.
Afterwards, you should measure the ‘wheelbase’, often referred to as the ‘diagonal length’ of your drone.
This can work for any multi-rotor drone.
All you need to do is measure the distance between two opposite corner motors of the drone that are diagonal to each other.
Make sure to measure in millimetres (mm).
Take note that the size you see stated on the specifications table of that drone provided by the manufacturer may be a few millimetres off.
Measuring fixed-wing drones and most other types of drones should be self-explanatory.
You will simply need to measure from the nose of the aircraft to the tail for the length, and measure in a straight line from the tip of one wing to the tip of the other for the wingspan.
What Are Some Examples Of Small Drones?
Here are 4 popular examples of small drones:
|DJI Mavic Air 2||570g||183mm (unfolded)|
|Parrot Anafi||320g||175mm (unfolded)|
|DJI Ryze Tello||80g||98mm|
|JJRC Heron X9PS||249g||148mm|
What Are Some Examples Of Large Drones?
Here are 4 popular examples of large drones:
|Autel Robotics Dragonfish (fixed-wing)||7.5kg||230cm|
|DJI Inspire 2||3.3kg||42.7cm|
|Phantom 4 Pro||1388g||289.5mm|
There are many factors which we mentioned above that determines which size drone is better. However, the final decision can only be made by you.
Everyone’s situation is different, and each of these drone sizes is better at some things than others.
We hope this article has helped you decide which is best in your specific case so you can choose which size drone to buy.