RC Quadcopter Drone Vs. Drone – What’s the Deal?

Quadcopter Drone

If you’re in the market for your first drone, or buying for somebody else, you’re likely overcome with questions about what it is you need to buy. It is likely that you’ve scoured over some websites giving you information about various flying machines, like the RC quadcopter drone.  And even though these sites use the terms interchangeably, there are differences you must understand so that you buy exactly what it is you need.

The truth is that “drone” and “quadcopter” are both accurate terms used to describe unmanned flying crafts.  Whether you seek to buy a drone or quadcopter, this article will get you off on the right foot.

OK, What Are the Definitions?

RC Quadcopter Drone Vs. Drone
Sauvik_Ray / Pixabay

Now we will briefly describe quadcopter vs. drone.

A drone is a wide term used to describe any kind of UAV, or unmanned aerial vehicle. It can be used to describe UAVs that are remote controlled (sometimes abbreviated as RC), or by computers onboard the craft. These types of aircraft can look like small airplanes or even helicopters. The two shining characteristics of these crafts are that they can fly for a long time, and they are controlled by an engine.

A quadcopteron the other hand is a specific term used to refer to a drone that has four rotors as its means of control. They can also be called a quadrotor or quadcopter helicopter.  Each rotor consists of a motor and a propeller. These UAVs are always controlled remotely, not by an onboard computer. These crafts look like helicopters, and balance themselves by blade movement and not by the use of their tail rotor.

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The most important takeaway is that drones represent a rather broad category of aircraft, whereas quadcopters are a specific type of drone within that category. Other types of UAVS that you may encounter include tricopters, octocopters, and hexacopters also fit the definition of drone. Yet, a quadcopter is only a quadcopter if it has four rotors.

What Are They Used For?

Aside from being different in their construction, drones and quadcopters are used in different ways for different purposes. Drones, generally speaking, have a huge variety of purposes. For example, they are popular in military forces around the world. Drones might deliver an attack, be used in search and rescue missions, and complete reconnaissance, surveillance, or intelligence operations.

For example, NASA’s Global Hawk crafts were able to keep track of the 2016 El Nino storm system, flying over the remote area of the Pacific to gather data. The same drones flew 21 missions in the years 2012-2014, over nine different storms. The data gathered offered scientists some unique research opportunities. You can read more about it here.

Drones can also be used in commercial and civilian settings, too. A drone might be sent up by a farmer to review where his or her livestock is roaming, or to keep watch on a wildfire in the dense forest. They are especially useful in aerial surveying work and can also record video and take photographs so that landowners or construction companies can plan their work.

Drones are also helpful in keeping humans safe. They can go where human-operated crafts cannot, such as tracking the progress of a storm system to see where it will strike next.

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Because these machines are so powerful, and have many useful applications, they require strict regulation so that their use is safe and predictable every time.

Quad drone or quadcopters are used in the same way. But when a person thinks about flying a drone for fun and recreation, they are thinking about a quadcopter. They are almost exclusively the only drone type used for hobby and recreational applications. There are several drones available on the market today that offer various levels of fun and ability for the user.

You might purchase a tiny nanocopter for flying around your home or office or invest in a quadcopter capable of professional quality video and photography to take images of your home, neighborhood or family events. As far as regulation goes, quadcopters are not subjected to the same levels of regulation as other types of UAVs. There are certain rules about where and how you can fly your craft. It is also a good idea to inform your neighbors of your hobby so that they are not alarmed when seeing or hearing your aircraft.

What Are the Rules?

The rules and regulations will vary from nation to nation, but those in the USA can view FAA.gov for information about flying for fun. The helpful app B4UFLY can help you determine where is a safe place to bring your UAV and fly it without worry.

Keep in mind that you may have to register your machine with the FAA under the Special Rule for Model Aircraft (Public Law 112-95, Section 336). Under this rule, you will register your UAV with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), flu only for hobby or recreational purposes, and follow all necessary rules to remain safe while flying.

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You will also give way to manned aircraft, fly with in visual line of sight, and always give notification to any local airports or air traffic control towers if one is present when flying within five miles of an airport, says FAA.gov. Your craft must also not weigh more than 55 lbs. unless otherwise certified.


It is best that you perform additional research in your quest to decide which one is best for you. Chances are, you will be purchasing an RC quadcopter drone, unless you are partaking in a special military or work application that requires a different sort of drone.

It is a good idea to review all rules and regulations in your country and state so that your purchase can be enjoyed without worry of having law enforcement get involved. By knowing the difference between the two, and ensuring your local government allows UAVs, a safe and comfortable experience will be enjoyed by all.