Technologies for drones and Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) aircraft are evolving all the time. As drones and VTOLs are becoming a fixture in all our lives, we at EASA are setting up rules for flying drones and VTOLs in Europe, to define how they are designed, manufactured and operated.
Drone and eVTOL designs are subject to safety requirements depending on the design, complexity of the system and the risks posed to operators and the public.
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Categorising drone and eVTOL design
- Fxed-Wing: A fixed-wing drone is essentially an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) with wings that remain fixed during flight, similar to a conventional airplane.
Unlike rotary-wing quadcopters, fixed-wing drones rely on aerodynamic wings for passive lift. They can stay in the air longer, carry heavier payloads, and exhibit better power efficiency.
Control surfaces built into the wing (such as rudders, elevators, and ailerons) enable rotation around three perpendicular axes: vertical (yaw), lateral (pitch), and longitudinal (roll)
- Single Rotor: A single-rotor drone (also known as a single-rotor helicopter or gyroplane) features a single large rotor for lift and propulsion.
Similar to traditional helicopters, it has a smaller tail rotor to maintain stability and control yaw movement. Single-rotor drones can stay in the air longer and carry heavier payloads compared to multi-rotor designs
- Multi-Rotor: Multi-rotor drones have more than two rotors (typically three, four, six, or eight). The most common types are: Quadcopters: Four rotors; Hexacopters: Six rotors; Octocopters: Eight rotors. Multi-rotor drones are versatile and widely used for various applications, including mapping, surveillance, and photography.
- Lift and Cruise / Vectored Thrust: The drones feature a combination of rotors and fixed wing and thus merge the benefits of fixed-wing and rotor-based designs, offering both endurance and vertical capabilities. This may be achieved by tilting rotors (“vectored thrust”) or independent sets of rotors that point in different directions (“lift and cruise”)