At Vision Aerial, we’re in love with tri-rotor aircraft.
This was not a random decision or a way to just be different in an industry dominated by quad-rotor drones. During a trip around the country prior to founding Vision Aerial, our founder Shane Beams, took a totally objective look at what makes a great drone. He built many different prototypes and after exhaustive research and experimentation, concluded that a tri-rotor design was best. This was in 2013 prior to the industry being totally dominated by quad-rotor aircraft. That choice required substantial invention and innovation to create a great craft but the hard work was worth it.
When Vision Aerial launched the SwitchBlade after a successful crowdfunding campaign, it was an extraordinarily capable aircraft that was substantially different from what the industry had seen to that point. Over the two year lifespan of that product, we continued to iterate on the design and make improvements. With the launch of the SwitchBlade-Elite, we have taken all of the knowledge and innovations from the past several years to create the best unmanned aerial vehicle on the market.
Here are the primary reasons that we think a tri-rotor is better than a quad-rotor drone:
- More Natural Flight Dynamics:
Tri-rotor drones are able to be flown in a way that closely mirrors the flight of fixed-wing aircraft. That is, they can make banked turns, rapid forward flight and accelerate or decelerate in a way that is very intuitive. Quad-rotors on the other hand are less intuitive to fly and must be operated much more like a single-rotor helicopter. The tri-rotor design and pivoting tail yaw mechanism allows the SwitchBlade to have all the advantages of both styles of aircraft – intuitive, natural forward flight and simple hover, take-off and landing.
- Easy Aircraft Orientation:
Current FAA regulations require commercial operators to fly by line of sight and many recreational users fly by line of sight as well. In a quad-rotor configurations, the orientation is lost at distance very quickly because the craft is symmetrical. Even with the help of LED lights, operators are easily confused during daylight. In a tri-rotor drone, the orientation is easily apparent at even great distances. Why is this important? If you’re inspecting a wind-turbine blade that costs over $150,000, knowing the orientation of your drone with absolute certainty is paramount. Flying forward when you mean to fly backward would be a very costly mistake.
- Superior Yaw Authority:
Yaw is the term for the rotation of an aircraft about its vertical axis. That is, yaw is what allows the drone to change the direction it’s pointed. In a quad-rotor aircraft, yaw is accomplished though the modulation of torque at the various motors. Slowing one rotor down and speeding up another causes the aircraft to rotate. In the SwitchBlade drones, an innovative pivoting rear yaw mechanism actually allows the rear rotor to rotate along the longitudinal axis. This forces the aircraft to rotate, not through torque vectoring which requires one or more prop to slow down but instead through applying force to the vertical axis. That means that all props can be operating at maximum capacity and the rear prop can still turn the aircraft. This makes for amazingly smooth motion. It also means that maintaining orientation in windy conditions is dramatically easier and more efficient. By simply turning the rear prop into the wind to counteract its force, the SwitchBlade drones can easily operate in conditions that a similar sized quad-rotor could not fly in or would be extremely inefficient in.
- Larger Props:
Using three props, rather than four, means that the space between them can be larger which in turn allows larger, more efficient props to be used. These can rotate at a lower speed than equivalent four-rotor designs which allows for more efficient flight and hover capabilities. For example, most competing quad-rotors use props that are around 15″ while the SwitchBlade-Elite uses up to 18.5″ props. This may not sound like much but it’s an increase of 35% in the disc size which means that the load on each prop is substantially smaller, allowing them to not have to work as hard to keep the craft aloft. The use of larger props directly translates to better battery utilization and therefore longer flight times.
- Faster and Easier Collapse for Transport:
Drones, while made to fly, spend the vast majority of their time on the ground. This is why Vision Aerial places a high degree of importance on ensuring a compact, convenient transport configuration for its aircraft. The SwitchBlade’s tri-rotor design enables quick, intuitive collapse for transport and deployment for flight. In fact, it can go from case to flight in under 30 seconds – quick enough to capture timely shots. When compared to the size of most quad-rotor drones, the SwitchBlade is unbelievably small and easy to travel with.
Please click here if you’d like to learn more about the SwitchBlade-Elite Tricopter drone.
If you have any questions about the tri-rotor design, please send us a note.