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When selecting a drone to purchase, one consideration that often gets pushed towards the back of your mind is the drone’s payload capacity. Once you start attaching accessories to your drone though, you’ll care a lot more about how much weight the UAV can carry. What is the average carrying capacity of a drone?
The amount of weight a drone can carry depends on its categorization as a toy drone, a mini drone, a hobby drone, or a professional UAV. For some drones, the payload is 5 lb (2.27 kg) and can be as much as 500 lb (227 kg).
In this article, we’ll investigate the weight payload of your favorite drone models, from inexpensive hobby drones to DJI models and even professional drones. We’ll also talk about how to lessen the weight of your drone, so keep reading!
How much weight can a drone carry? Factors that influence payload #
Drones are generally categorized into four classes: toy, mini, hobby, and professional drones. Those who are brand new to drones usually prefer a toy drone so that if they crash it, it’s not a lot of money out of their pocket to replace it (toy drones are about $30 on average).
These UAV pilots, if they continue flying their drones, will eventually upgrade to hobby drones. For many drone pilots, that’s the type of drone they always favor, but for those whose work involves drones, they might have a professional-grade drone.
We’re telling you this because the carrying capacity of a drone varies based on its categorization. Toy drones aren’t meant to carry a lot of weight, so you’re lucky if the UAV can tote even half a pound.
As you get into professional drones, the payload increases to as much as 25 pounds or even 500 pounds, which is 227 kilograms. These drones could theoretically lift a person!
What factors influence a drone’s payload besides its type? Let’s discuss those factors now.
Drone weight #
A toy drone can’t carry a lot of weight not just because it’s cheap, but these drones are usually quite small as well. Mini drones will have similarly low payloads for that same reason: there’s not much to them.
Professional drones can carry the most weight in part due to their often hefty size. These drones are designed for mine surveying, search and rescue, and other hard jobs, so they have to be built tough.
Battery weight #
A drone’s payload encompasses everything the drone carries, and that means batteries too. If your drone has a lot of batteries or if the battery pack is heavy, then that’s less weight that’s available for carrying accessories.
Propeller number and size #
The props are another factor at play when it comes to your drone’s carrying capacity. Propellers can generate lift, but if they’re too big, that makes them heavier. Like everything else, the drone has to support the weight of the props, which reduces its payload.
The number of propellers can affect the drone in the same way, as the greater the number of props, the heavier the props are in general, although more motors and props mean greater lift.
Motor strength #
A souped-up drone motor can fly a drone at its full payload without wavering. Cheap motors will begin to falter if you attach a smartphone carrying case to your drone.
Drone carrying payload – 11 examples #
To illustrate how much a drone can carry, we have 11 examples of real drone payloads in categories such as mini drones, hobby drones, and pro drones. The brands covered include DJI, Yuneec, and more.
Mini Drones #
DJI Mini 2
0.53 pounds (0.24 kilograms)
DJI Mini SE
0.18 pounds (0.08 kilograms)
0.17 pounds (0.07 kilograms)
Hobby Drones #
Yuneec Tornado H920
6 pounds (2.72 kilograms)
DJI Inspire 2
9.37 pounds (4.25 kilograms)
DJI Mavic Pro
2.2 pounds (0.99 kilograms)
Professional Drones #
Freefly Systems Alta 8
19.8 pounds (9 kilograms)
DJI Phantom Pro 4
6 pounds (2.72 kilograms)
DJI Matrice 600 Pro
15 pounds (6.80 kilograms)
26.5 pounds (12 kilograms)
The Griff 300
500 pounds (226.8 kilograms)
Which drones have the greatest carrying capacity? #
Drones are truly extraordinary things, as this section is about to show. We’ll showcase three drones celebrated for their astonishing payloads, starting with the drone that can carry the most weight to that with the least.
The Griff 300 – 500 Pounds #
Of course, we have to talk more about the Griff 300, because no, that wasn’t a typo when we said this drone could carry 500 pounds. It’s one of the only drones in existence that can do it.
Griff Aviation (link) is based in Norway and produces a variety of drones, but the Griff 300 is probably at the top of the list in terms of how sheerly impressive it is. After all, with a payload of approximately 496 pounds, the Griff 300 could easily carry a person with plenty of capacity to go.
The Griff 300 is loaded with eight props to keep it airborne for upwards of 45 minutes at a time. That’s impressive when you take a look at this thing, as the Griff 300 is quite a large drone. Here is a photo of it.
Running on electricity and batteries, the Griff 300 isn’t a recreational drone, and it’s not even for most professionals. Thus far, it’s only been used in search and rescue operations.
You can see the Griff 300 in action in the video below. The clip shows the drone lifting a person:
Ehang 184 – 260 Pounds #
The Ehang 184 is a unique drone as well, as it’s an autonomous passenger drone that can zip by at speeds over 60 miles per hour. Since 2015, the Ehang 184 – which is produced by a Chinese company also called Ehang – made 40 drone-assisted passenger journeys with the UAV.
The length of the Ehang 184 is approximately 12 feet, eight inches. It’s four feet, nine inches high, and has a wingspan of 18 feet, one inch. The single-passenger drone features eight dual-bladed fixed-pitch props.
Its cruising speed is up to 81 MPH and its average range is 9.9 miles with a service ceiling of 1,600 feet.
OnyxStar HYDRA-12 – 26.5 Pounds #
Although it can’t carry hundreds of pounds, the payload of the OnyxStar HYDRA-12 (link) is still remarkable at 26.5 pounds.
The drone features sensors throughout for determining obstacles and avoiding them. With Real-Time Kinetic or RTK precision, the HYDRA-12 has detection accuracy that’s even better than GPS.
Its carbon-made body is hard to ding up, and with automatic take-offs and landings, this drone will fly as smooth as butter anyway. Other features include waypoint navigation, flight control settings, and geo-fencing.
What happens if you exceed the recommended weight limit of a drone? #
Let’s say that you see the information in this guide a little too late. You got excited about all the accessories your drone could use, everything from propeller guards to a carrying case for your smartphone so you can capture the action as it happens.
How will you know if you’ve overdone it on the weight? Your drone will certainly tell you. Here are some signs to keep an eye out for.
Strained startup or failed startup #
If your drone’s payload capacity is especially low (under several pounds), then the chances are pretty good that when you add too much weight, it won’t even take off. The drone simply can’t support its own weight plus the weight of the accessories you’ve tacked on.
In some instances, you might get lucky, especially if your drone is new and in otherwise good shape. A drone with a decent payload, although it’s strained, might be able to ascend into the air when it’s overcapacity. However, the drone won’t fly very quickly, and you might hear components whirring and screeching.
Lack of flight control #
Your drone is up in the sky, but it’s not doing so well. Even though you’re maintaining a straight flight path (or trying to, anyway), your drone zigs and zags like there’s no tomorrow. Should you try a customized flight path, the drone still doesn’t want to fly as you asked it to.
Also, that sound you heard upon takeoff is a lot louder now.
At this point, your drone is struggling to stay up in the air. It’s flying in fits and spurts because that’s all it can maintain.
The whirring or screeching noises–which are likely your drone’s motor, by the way–are worsening because your drone is straining ever harder. It’s only a matter of time before it can’t take anymore.
Premature grounding #
And it seems like that time is right about now, as your drone is descending. Maybe the drone comes to a soft landing, but more than likely, it’s going to crash. Hopefully, you weren’t flying the drone too high when this happens.
Even though your remote works fine, you can no longer control the drone. The motor pushed itself so hard that it might be broken, so your drone can’t fly.
You go over to your drone and feel it with your hand. It’s hot to the touch. The strained motor generated a lot of heat as it overworked, so that’s what you’re feeling.
If you only flew your drone for a little while, then the engine might not be fried. Once your drone has cooled down some, you can take it home, charge it, and give it some time. It might come back to life.
Yet if your drone was pushed to the point where it crashed, the motor and your drone might be a goner.
How to reduce your drone’s load – 5 tips #
Whenever you can, it’s best to fly a drone without pushing it to its payload limit. The following 5 tips will help you travel lighter with your drone.
1. Bring only the accessories you need #
If your drone has a high-tech camera, do you really need to strap your smartphone to the UAV? No. The phone’s camera isn’t nearly as good as your drone’s camera, so what’s the point? All you’re doing is adding weight to the drone.
For each accessory you rely on, ask yourself whether you really need it. It’s okay to bring an accessory or two, but not many.
2. Change the frame #
The next four tips involve modifying your drone, so if the UAV is still covered under warranty, you might want to tread carefully. **Tinkering with your drone is a surefire way to void the warranty. **
With that caveat out of the way, if you’d still like to proceed, then one thing you can do is replace the frame of your drone. The frame is the plastic or metal housing that keeps the internal components safe. It’s also usually quite heavy.
If you can find a lighter frame that fits your drone, then you might deem it worth replacing its original frame and installing the one that weighs less.
3. Shrink the frame support #
Now that you understand the frame of your drone a lot better since you personally replaced it, you might feel comfortable swapping out the frame supports as well. Supports are available in 20×20 or 30×30 stacks. If you go smaller, you can reduce the weight of your drone by several grams.
It’s not much in the long run, but it can make a difference.
That said, double-check that the drone’s frame is still adequately supported by a smaller frame stack. You don’t want a poor setup just to whittle away the weight of your drone.
4. Replace the motor #
Now here’s some real Frankensteining of your drone: changing the motor. Before you go out and buy a new motor for your UAV, take the current one out and weigh it. Then research different motors. If you find one that’s several grams lighter, then you can go ahead and install the new motor. Motors that are only moderately more lightweight aren’t worth the trouble.
5. Take off prop guards or buy lighter props #
Propeller guards are handy when you’re a beginner, but they’re dead weight at the end of the day. Once you get comfortable with your drone, get rid of the prop guards. Your drone will automatically be a few grams lighter.
If you’re still not totally pleased with the weight of your drone, you can always take the props off and add new lighter ones. Double-check that the props are compatible with your drone before you buy them!
Drones are incredible, as evidenced by UAVs with a payload of upwards of 500 pounds. Although the average drone might carry a few kilograms, plenty of heavy-hitters for professional drone pilots have a higher weight capacity, sometimes around 25 or 50 pounds.
Whether you use your drone for work, play, or both, make sure you know its weight capacity to ensure you don’t overload it. Good luck!