Over the last decade, the size of fixed-wing UAVs has decreased considerably, making them a more viable option for commercial projects. While the multirotor style of UAVs has been dominant over the past few years; increases in the demand for larger payload options, longer flight time and increased air stability, means that more and more projects are being carried out using a fixed-wing UAV solution.
What are the advantages of a fixed-wing UAV?
Mimicking the aerodynamics of aircraft, fixed-wing UAVs have over 100 years of aerodynamic history to draw upon from their aeroplane big brothers. This means that fixed-wing UAVs are aerodynamically refined and provide hugely stable flight, high-altitude flight with long endurance due to the passive lift created by the wings. This all works together to provide the ability to cover huge distances in a single flight; meaning you can map larger areas of land, more efficiently than a multirotor.
Of course, multirotor drones still have a huge purpose on smaller projects that require stationary imagery, but if your project requires data collection on a larger scale, a fixed-wing drone solution is a solution you need. Here are some examples below:
UAV Coastal Surveys:
One of the most challenging places to capture high quality data is on the coastline. This is because, as anyone who’s been to the beach will know, there can be strong localised winds coming from the sea, this is called “Sea Breeze”. This develops due to differences in air pressure created by the differing heat capacities of water and dry land. Thanks to their aeroplane design, fixed-wing UAVs offer massively stable flight, even in windy conditions, allowing stable imagery and data capture.
Coastal survey projects can also be larger-scale projects due to the demand of having to cover miles of coastline at a time. The passive lift created by the wings on a fixed-wing allows longer flight time, as you don’t have the aircraft fighting against gravity, therefore draining the battery rapidly.
Aside from being able to carry high-resolution imaging cameras, due to the higher payload of a fixed-wing drone, they can also carry technology such as gas-detection sensors or thermal cameras. These are hugely useful pieces of equipment on large pipeline/trainline survey projects. Having a drones that can operate over miles of pipeline or trainline is essential to maximise the efficiency of such projects.
Having a drone that can cover a greater area in less time can be valuable in an industry where funds are often limited. Due to the nature of the project, with high-rise treelines, a UAV that can sit comfortably above this is essential.
Fixed-wing UAVs also have the capacity to carry heavier LiDar sensors. LiDAR (light detection and ranging) is a remote sensing method that uses a laser to measure distances. Pulses of light are emitted from a laser scanner, and when the pulse hits a target, a portion of its photons are reflected back to the scanner.it develops due to differences in air pressure created by the differing heat capacities of water and dry land. are ideal for forestry and environmental drone surveys because the light from the laser scanner can pass through the tree canopy or vegetation and register a return.