Whilst many people fly drones as a hobby, taking cool pictures of their surroundings or just flying for fun, others, like businesses, for example, use drones for very different purposes.
Some drones are just not designed for carrying additional loads whereas others are. Amazon has even suggested that in the future, they’ll be pretty much running on drone deliveries using Amazon Prime Air which they’ve already piloted (no pun intended) and fulfilled the order in just 13 minutes.
This is just the beginning, and the tip of the iceberg when it comes to drone’s carrying capabilities. Today’s post will take a look at the various drones that have the capacity for carrying additional weight and how much weight that can be exactly.
- Factors affecting how much weight a drone can carry
- Hobby/consumer drone payloads
- Commercial drone payloads
- Top tips for using drones to carry weight
- Conclusion: How Much Weight Can a Drone Carry and What Does the Future Look Like?
A drone’s carrying capacity is referred to as its payload. Because there are varying factors when it comes to the question of how much weight a drone can carry, it’s hard to answer. It’s like asking “how long’s a piece of string” because the answer is that it “depends”.
The type of drone definitely has an impact on how much weight it can carry. Most small hobby drones have usually maxed out their payload when you come to purchase it. Parts such as the camera, sensors, and batteries will all have an impact on its lift. whereas commercial drones designed for deliveries can carry much more and have strong components that allow this.
Smaller drones inherently have smaller components and lighter propellors meaning they’ll only be able to carry very little weight due to limitations – just like a small aircraft.
In order to generate lift, a drone’s propellors need to be able to generate thrust that’s 2x the weight of the drone and its payload. The propellors that come on small hobby drones won’t be able to handle much more weight than it already has before the physics break down and the drone falls out of the sky.
The motor is also a big factor. Drones with powerful motors generate more thrust and therefore have the ability to carry more weight which then takes us to battery consideration. Of course, you need a powerful battery to generate more thrust, but this usually means the battery will weigh more. Consumption will also increase.
If you try adding weight to a small hobby drone like the Mavic Air 2, for example, you’re not going to get the full advertised flight time because it’ll be working extra hard to keep the drone in the air.
Finally, you need to consider the drone’s weight and take-off weight to establish whether you can generate enough thrust to get in the air.
How much weight can a hobby drone carry?
Most hobby drones have been designed just for that, hobbies.
The average carrying capacity for hobby drones is around 0.6 pounds to 4.4 pounds (0.3kg to 2kg) but you need to remember this will be taking into account the camera that’s on there and the battery, etc.
Drones with built-in cameras have already usually maxed their payload meaning you shouldn’t really be attaching any more items to it. It also doesn’t have any special kind of frame built into it that’s designed to carry items.
Nevertheless, if curiosity has the better of you, this YouTuber did some testing on the Mavic Mini, Mavic Air, and Mavic Pro 2 to see what their breaking point was. Unsurprisingly, the larger of the three drones, the Mavic Pro 2 was able to carry the most at just over 500g.
How much weight can a toy drone carry?
Most toy drones fall into the micro drone and mini-drone category. They’re small, really light, designed for kids, and have a short flight time of fewer than 10 minutes. Because of this, you’re not going to be able to lift much.
Nevertheless, because it’s so cheap it could be a fun science experiment if you’ve got kids. You’re probably limited to less than 5g of weight, but perhaps try attaching a coin or a piece of lego to the drone and see how it handles.
How much weight can a small drone carry?
Once again, this depends on how “small” small is to you. We’ve discussed toy drones above, but what about something a little larger, like the Mini 2 from DJI? With this drone, you should be able to carry around 150g-180g at a push.
How much weight can a cheap drone carry?
When it comes to how much weight drones can carry, price isn’t a factor like it would be if you were analyzing other features of the drone such as the camera. What you’re looking for is something that has a bit of weight, has got strong propellors, and a powerful battery.
Still, some of these factors may require a bit of monetary spend, like the battery for example but I’m confident you could find something for less than $100.
The great thing about buying a cheap drone though is that you can be a little more experimental than you would be with something that costs a thousand bucks.
How much weight can a commercial drone carry?
Commercial drones are different and have been specifically designed to carry weight, like those used for drone deliveries. The technology behind these is pretty impressive and in general, they can handle payloads between 20kg and 220kg. Some drones have the ability to carry more than 50% of their original weight as an extra payload.
Take, for example, the DJI Matrice 600 Pro which has a takeoff weight of 10kg but can haul an extra 6kg, and the DJI Agras T20; an agricultural drone that weighs 27.5kg with its battery that can carry an additional 20kg payload of pesticide.
What about Prosumer drones?
This term is something that’s been coined in the drone community for drones that are cheap enough to be considered a consumer drone but have some of the benefits of professional commercial drones.
Usually, these are drones that you can add an additional camera to, like the Yuneec Tornado H920 which has payload capacity to switch out the cameras.
What industries can commercial drones be used in?
So which industries can commercial drones that carry weight be used in? The truth is that the possibilities are pretty endless, commercial drones could set you back $15,000 or more but can do anything from delivering a McDonald’s, or custom-made cake to even shooting A-lister films. Let’s take a look at the options below:
eCommerce and Hospitality – I bundled these together because they’re both centered around drone delivery services a process that already the likes of Amazon have trialed as well as Uber Eats.
Agriculture – Commercial drones with large payload capabilities can be used to spray pesticides across large areas. Though they are expensive initially, forward-thinking and cash-rich agricultural companies know that over time, these will have a solid return on investment for their crops and don’t require hours spent in the fields every day.
Rescue missions – Since most drones can’t airlift a person to safety at present, drones that can carry weight can play an integral part in search and rescue operations. They can easily access inaccessible areas and perhaps transport food, water, and medical supplies to those who need them while a rescue team arrives.
Film industry – High-quality cinematography requires large cameras beyond the capabilities of your standard hobby drone. This is why commercial drones with large payloads can pay off for big film production companies. They’re also easier to operate and still likely cheaper than hiring a helicopter.
Military operations – Military drones are somewhat scary in terms of their capability. Of course, public safety is paramount, so they have an incredible budget to work with.
Developers of military drone tech are consistently pushing boundaries daily to establish what drones are capable of. Both surveillance drones and combat drones are used by the military. The latter have to be able to carry a lot of weight.
Before you start loading up your drone, be sure to read over the manual and the drone specifications so you don’t overload it and cause an accident. Assess how much flight time you’re going to have and calculate the power loss from carrying the extra weight.
Ensure that you distribute the weight evenly across the drone so it doesn’t drag to one side and cause the drone to flip.
We recommend also using some type of frame to hold the extra payload. Most commercial drones designed for lifting things will come with a frame of some sort.
Start with something light and less expensive for your test flight and gradually builds up the weight. You’ll probably need to practice your flying skills if you’re flying something heavier than you’re used to. YouTube is a great resource for tutorial videos.
So, as you can see, many factors can affect how much weight a drone can carry. But the technology is there and is being constantly improved and developed. In the next decade, having a drone deliver your packages will likely be just as normal as a delivery driver knocking on your door.
One thing that will need further development is a drone’s range from a delivery hub though. Some more expensive models do have a reasonable range of around 5-7km but we know that drones can do better than that, especially in a military capacity.
One interesting concept I came across was the Autel Dragonfish. A portable plane-like drone with an incredible camera and exceptional range of 30km. Though not designed as a drone to carry weight (it has a 1.5kg payload limit) it shows how impressive the range can be on drone tech and is designed specifically with government-based clients in mind.
Assistance with firefighting and wildfires, public safety management, traffic management, and monitoring, coastal security, and agriculture – this is the drone of the future.