What is the difference between Drone vs Quadcopter?

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If you are interested in recreational drones, you have probably noticed that both the names quadcopter and drone are used pretty frequently. In fact, it may at times appear as these two names are interchangeable.

However, the truth is that although drone and quadcopter are both correct words to use to describe recreational unmanned flying craft, their definitions differ a bit. Understanding precisely what a quadcopter is and precisely what a drone is can help you to avoid misunderstanding and find the proper recreational drone for you.

The media tends to use the name drone to refer to what RC hobbyist call quadcopters. However, many people who use quadcopters would get uncomfortable or sometimes even irritated, when someone calls them drones.

There are many people discussing the very same topics on an everyday basis, why and should a quadcopter be called a drone? Does it matter at all? In this article you are going to find the answer to this question.

Without much fluff, let’t slide right into the nitty-gritty of differences between quadcopter and drone.

Definitions of Quadcopter and Drone

Drone is an empty media term that seems to refer to any kind of modern unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). In fact, drone has a lot of technical names, but they can all be defined by this – am aircraft without a human pilot aboard, either controlled autonomously by onboard computers, or remotely controlled by pilot somewhere else. These types of aerial craft can look either like a helicopter or like a small aeroplane. They normally have two characteristics that set them apart as drones – they can fly long periods of time and they are engine controlled.

A quadcopter is a more specific term for a rotary-wing aircraft that is controlled by four rotors. Quadcopters don’t have a tail rotor. They are also called quadrotors or quadrotor helicopters. The rotors on the quadcopter each consists of a propeller and a motor.

In addition, quadcopters are always controlled remotely instead of being controlled by a pre-programmed onboard computer. There’s nothing that says it has to be remote-controlled, but common usage of the term these days has given it that implied qualifier.

Quadcopters resemble helicopters, but difference is that they balance themselves by the movement of the blades and not by the use of a tail rotor. Also, quadcopters used for recreational use or hobby pretty much all come down at the small end of the size spectrum.

They can’t be used for business, because that is not provided for in aviation rules yet. Quadcopters have become popular nowadays for lightweight UAV form factors (there has never been a commercial or practical manned helicopter using this design).

Another essential difference between drones and quadcopters us that a typical drone has a GPS framework introduced in it unlike majority of the quadcopters. A quadcopter is a controllable elevated vehicle and a drone has segments which allow it to be independent, for instance, a GPS which then makes it totally programmable and does not necessarily require any form of human control. However, a couple of manufacturers are now making quadcopters with a built in GPS framework.

In view of these definitions, it is correct to think of drones as a general category and quadcopters as a specific type within that category. There are many other types of unmanned aerial vehicles, like octocopters, hexacopters and tricopters and they also fit the general description of a drone. If a drone has four rotors, only then can it be considered a quadcopter.

Uses of Quadcopters and Drones

Besides their structural differences, quadcopters and drones also have different utilization. For example, drones as a broad category, have a wide range of uses. Drones are most commonly used by military. In this use, drones conduct rescue and search operations, deliver attacks and conduct intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. Basically, a drone is a flying robot.

In addition to military uses, drones can also be put to work on commercial and civilian uses. For example, drones keep track the progress of wildfires or track of livestock.

Drones can also be used to perform aerial surveying, and they can even be used to film and take photos (to record sport events or for applications like movies). From time to time, drones are also used to conduct research in areas where manned aircraft cannot safely go (for example, tracking dangerous weather patterns such as tornadoes).

Finally, drones can also be used in law enforcement. Because of their wide range applications and their powerful capabilities, drones as a broad category require major regulation to keep their uses predictable and safe.

Quadcopters can be used in many of these same applications. However, when you think of a drone flying as a sporting activity or as a recreational hobby, you are thinking about quadcopters.

Quadcopters are, almost exclusively, the type of drone used for recreational reasons. Today there are many different types of quadcopters available, all designed to offer varying degrees of recreational uses. For example, you can buy nano quadcopters to fly for fun around the house or yard, or spend remarkably more money to buy state of the art quadcopter that allows you to take aerial videos and photos.

The quadcopters for recreational use are usually subject to less regulation than other types of drones. However, there are still some rules that guide how and when the quadcopters can be used.

For example, no quadcopters or any type of drones are allowed to fly near airports and must stay below 400 feet. Also, if you want to fly a quadcopter over your neighbours’ properties, it is recommended to inform them to avoid frightening them.


Quadcopters and drones are very closely related. However, they are each a bit different from each other. A quadcopter is a specific type of drone and it is usually use for recreation, offering you many options for enjoying a drone flying hobby. So unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is an unmanned craft, drone is a media word for unmanned aerial vehicle (often with some serious/negative connotations), and quadcopter is a helicopter design used on some unmanned aerial vehicles.

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