Weight is a critical parameter when it comes to flight. Flight becomes easier to begin and sustain if the weight that is being tried to lift up is less. That is exactly why birds have hollow bones and hence they are lighter in weight. The same principle stands true in the case of heavy lift drones. Flight dynamics are greatly enhanced and energy efficiently conserved due to frames made of wood, canvas, aluminum, and light composite materials.
Contemporary small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) are only possible since battery energy density has attained a stage where power to weight ratio is practical. There is still a long way to go to attain the energy density of gas but it is still decent enough to prop a half an hour long aerial mission.
In addition to making these gizmos soar across the sky, we want them to accomplish things that can be beneficial for us. That is called the payload of an aircraft which is the additional capacity of an aircraft to carry objects that are not required for the flight itself.
The camera is the payload when it comes to camera drones but we are witnessing a wide array of novel jobs and tasks that people have started taking from these drones.
To our disappointment, most of the heavy lift drones do not boast enough power to lift additional objects other than themselves.
However, in this post, we will be looking at drones that are not like the majority of the drones available on the market. These gadgets have been engineered to open up new vistas between lift capacity and electronic drone design.
If you are in search for a drone that can lift its own weight and more, we bring to you the 8 best heavy lift drones.
Important aspects for a heavy lift drone
There are a couple of important aspects that have to be taken into account when purchasing heavy lift drones:
- Type of payload
- What is to be done with it?
If you are familiar with the weight of your payload, then you will probably be satisfied with a large drone that will be enough for your designated task. You can also get a drone with longer flight timing for an under-loaded drone.
In addition to weight, you also need to be aware of the mechanism that you will be employed to carry the payload. Can it be carried with a conventional connection or will you be in need of a solution tailored to your specific situation? However, keep in mind that such a customized solution will bear a weight of its own.
It is also important that your drone can stay in the air for an extended period of time with a certain payload weight. Ensure that it has sufficient capacity to handle what you want it to do.
Drone payload comparison
Here is a list of 8 large drones from the smallest payload to the largest one. Let’s have a look at the payload capacity of heavy lift drones here:
- DJI Matrice 100 (1.17 – 1.25 Kg)
- DJI Matric 600 (6Kg)
- DJI Spreading Wings S900 (6.8Kg)
- Freefly Systems Alta 6 (6.8Kg)
- Freefly Systems Alta 8 (9Kg)
- DJI Spreading Wings S1000+ (9.5Kg)
- DJI Agras (10Kg)
- Griff Guardian (200Kg)
These statistics are true and let’s get to know these drones a bit deeper.
DJI Matrice 100
Boasting a payload capacity of 1.17 – 1.25Kg, the DJI Matrice 100 is probably not available at the official DJI online store. If you are interested, you can get DJI Matrice 600 instead.
You must be wondering whether the DJI Matrice 100 deserves to be regarded as heavy lift drones with a meagre payload capacity of 1.17 – 1.25Kg. Just looking at it proportionally, it is one of the strongest drones out there. The payload is about 33% of its entire weight which is a marvelous feat of engineering for an electronic drone.
The variable payload is due to the optional second battery which goes onto enhance the flight timing spectacularly.
However, DJI Matrice 100 is not a pro camera drone. It is essentially a developer’s drone that can be customized for different kinds of experiments.
The drone is likely to offer a flight timing of 40 minutes with both the batteries inserted. This is an impressive flight timing if your payload capacity falls within the specified range. You can mount a gimbal using the 10-pin or 8-pin ports if you want to attach a camera.
You can tailor this large flight platform, upgrade it and carry out tons of other innovations. With a magnificent power to weight ratio, it is a great drone that is certainly not for the drone enthusiasts who are looking for a ready to fly unit.
DJI Matrice 600
Honestly speaking, the DJI Matrice 600 is not a real heavy lift drone but with a payload capacity of 6Kg, it has been able to make a niche for itself in our list. Its greatest potential lies in its ability to do all kinds of spectacular stuff with the payload mounted and that is exactly why it is one of the best heavy lifting drones out there.
With six sizable rotors and motors, the DJI Matrice 600 is a hexacopter which is a newer device in contrast to its predecessors S900 and S1000+. DJI seems to have learned a lot from its previous products and enhanced the DJI Matrice 600 in the light of those learnings.
The drone offers a flight timing of 16 minutes with its conventional battery and the entire payload mounted. This is slightly lesser than that claimed for S900 but you can get the flight timing to go up to 18 minutes with a large battery inserted.
With minimal load, the typical battery offers 35 minute of flight timing and you get it raised to 40 minutes with a larger sized battery. This is where the DJI Matrice 600 is leaps and bounds ahead of S900 and S1000+.
The DJI Matrice 600 is equipped redundant systems and other sophisticated features that you would generally attribute to an advanced drone. Here is a detailed review of the DJI Matrice 600.
DJI Spreading Wings S900
Another hexacopter from DJI, the DJI Spreading Wings S900 is an entirely different beast from the conventional octocopter design for heavy lift drones. The fact that this state of the art drone is able to support a payload capacity of around 7Kg is pretty impressive.
This is definitely encompasses plenty of uses and if your payload requirement falls under the upper limit, then you should definitely stay tuned.
Here is an important fact to look into:
DJI claims that the S900 can accommodate its optimum payload for about 18 minutes before getting a recharge. That is if everything stays ideal but in reality, the figure is just about 15 minutes.
It is certainly not a long flight timing but most of the professional cinematographers do not require a flight duration longer than this. However, if you are looking for a drone that offers more than 15 minutes of flight timing then this certainly is not your cup of tea.
Keep in mind that lighter loads lead to longer flight timings but it is always quite complicated to forecast the amount of additional flight time you will get for a certain decrease in the payload. However, you can get a few extra minutes of flight if you are willing to compromise on the payload size. It can be helpful to check out the S900 forums to get to know what other drone pilots from different parts of the world what has worked best for them.
Another point to note here is that the S900 can be loaded with batteries of different capacities which will also affect the flight timing and payload capacity.
These heavy lift drones weigh just about 3.3Kg which makes it easily portable. It can be retracted into a compact shape and can be made ready for flight in just about 5 minutes if you have got a hang of it all.
When this beast of a machine was introduced, it came with intricate flight systems which exist till today. DJI has also depicted 72 hours of its regular flight using an external power source so that gives you an assurance that the machine is not going to get overheated or suffer from other malfunctions during the 15 minutes of its flight.
The payload that this machine can support is only in the shape of things that can fit into its gimbals end-effector. But you can always make slight adjustments and customize stuff.
When it comes to professional aerial photography and cinematography, the S900 falls in the lower half of the professional spectrum.
Freefly Systems Alta 6
The Alta 6 sports a payload capacity of 6.8Kg and resembles the Alta 8 in all aspects other than the fact that it has 6 rotors rather than 8. This implies that a slight decrease is made in the payload capacity but still the puppy is able to provide sufficient lift for majority of the heavy lift drones.
Similar to the Alta 8, this is a retractable drone with a versatile top and bottom mounting mechanism with quick release feature.
These advanced drones are formidable, possess the potential to sustain a wide array of system malfunctions and resist harsh weather conditions.
Other features in Alta 6 are also present in the Alta 8 so we are not going to waste your time repeating the same stuff again and again. So, to get to know more about the big bro, head over to the next heavy lift drone in the list.
Freefly Systems Alta 8
When in the unfolded state, the Freefly System Alta 8 is a massive device that comes with its retractable arms and jet-black paint job. These features make it look more like a military-grade war machine than a camera drone.
The retractable arms render this great beast of a machine into an easily portable unit. As a matter of fact, the Alta 8 is equivalent to half its unfolded diameter when in a folded state and retains its original height. These impressive features to be honest.
Similar to the Matrice 600, the Alta 8 boasts a high degree of redundancy in contrast to its predecessors. Each unit undergoes a rigorous testing procedure before being shipped which in turn does tend to amplify the price. But it also gives you peace of mind regarding the high performance of the heavy lift drones.
When it comes to the camera, the Alta 8 comes with a remarkable quick-release mechanism which is perfect for professional usage when the gear is required to be replaced rather regularly. There are markings on both sides of the drone which means that the camera can be mounted on the top of the machine as well.
The machine is also suitable for flight in violent weather conditions. This does not mean that it will be able to sustain a tornado but it certainly implies that a little drizzle won’t be able to cause too much trouble in its flight.
The heavy lift drones offer a flight time of 9 minutes with the full 9Kg of payload and once that payload is decreased to about half its capacity, the flight time is increased dramatically to 20 minutes with a 16Ah battery. Whether the drone is loaded fully or lightly loaded, once recharged, the Freefly Systems Alta 8 offers about half an hour of flight time. So, on the whole, the Freefly Systems Alta 8 is a phenomenal machine.
DJI Spreading Wings S1000+
Boasting a payload capacity of 9.5Kg, the DJI Spreading Wings S1000+ happens to be the bigger brother of the prolific S900. The payload capacity is a massive increase from the mediocre figure of 6.8Kg in the case of the S900 which is sufficient to fly a bag of dog food if you are planning to introduce a drone-centric dog food home delivery business for some reason.
The fact that the DJI Spreading Wings S1000+ is an octocopter is one of the primary reasons for its larger payload capacity in contrast to the S900. This means that you get a full two additional rotors in contrast to the S900 but then a compromise has to be made with regard to the compact size of the machine.
Moreover, the machine also offers a slightly lesser flight time in comparison to its smaller brother as one gets just about 15 minutes of flight duration with a fully charged battery. Having said that, the heavy lift drone comes with a folding mechanism that does a commendable job to make it as compact in size as possible.
Versatility is one of the primary characteristics of the S1000+ in contrast to S900 or just about any other drone that utilizes a Zenmuse gimbal. The DJI Spreading Wings S1000+ is presumably the only drone that is compatible with any Zenmuse gimbal and is an ideal choice for professional aerial photography and cinematography.
Of course, this is not a device that can be used for non-camera purposes but it offers really smooth and stable flight which is essential for professional photography. It can be customized but we would strongly urge you to refrain from doing so unless you have loads of money in your repertoire.
Now, the days of expensive and harmful aircraft used to spray pesticides on crops are long gone. This phenomenal machine allows you to keep it away from the humans while spraying pesticides at a lower elevation and ensuring that the wind is not able to diffuse the harmful chemicals at higher intensities dangerous for human consumption.
The DJI Agras comes with a 10-liter tank and offers a payload capacity of 10Kg while offering a flight time of 10 minutes when fully loaded. This seems a flight time on the lower side but one should keep in mind that you only need it to be airborne long enough to dispose off its cargo. It flies at a lower altitude with a safe clearance from the ground.
The DJI Agras has brought about a revolution in agriculture in the East where farmers used to resort to manual foot-powered spraying. According to DJI’s promotional videos, manual human labor has been reduced massively thanks to this marvelous device.
Griff Aviation Guardian
The Griff Aviation Guardian is an entirely different beast from the rest of the drones discussed so far due to its massive payload capacity of a whopping 200Kg.
What’s really remarkable about this astounding machine is that it is not the strongest device in the Griff fleet. The Griff 300 was launched towards the end of 2016 with a payload capacity of 300Kg. The manufacturer is planning to launch a heavy lift drone in the series boasting a payload capacity of 800Kg.
The water resistant Griff Aviation Guardian offers a flight time of about half an hour and carries sophisticated optical systems for law enforcement and other associated safety observations.
The price is of course on the higher side of the spectrum if you are not one of the representatives of the Government departments.
The eight rotor design comes with each set of four rotors mounted vertically which gives it an appearance of a couple of quadcopters attached together.
The Wrap Up
The days of the past seem to be long gone when it seemed to be a massive stretch to lift your ghetto duct tape camera rig off the ground. Ever since, powerful motors, enhanced batteries and intelligent flight electronics have made way for some of the strongest, biggest and fastest machines on the face of the earth.
These machines are all powered by electrical sources but there are devices that can be powered by other sources as well such as gasoline or fuel cells. We are already hearing about passenger drones which are essentially autonomous heavy lift drones. There will be a point in time when we would be amazed at how it made us feel so enthusiastic to lift a big camera with a drone. Keep an eye on the future!