7 drones that can lift heavy weights – How much can a drone lift?

Have you been looking for a drone capable of lifting heavy cameras and other objects? So have we. Fortunately, technology has developed to a point in which drones no longer are fragile machines incapable of lifting heavier objects. If you think your heavy photographing camera can’t be carried by a drone in the air, I’m happy to tell you that you are wrong.


Heavy Lift Drone

There is a drone out there capable of lifting your camera, allowing you to make the best of the very best aerial footage. Many professionals and even amateurs are already using them. Drones are not limited to GoPros (Best drones for GoPro) and other action cameras. Your Canon, your Red, or any other high-end photography and videography camera can be used to take the best photos and record the best videos without any hassle.

But such powerful drones are not just limited to cameras, they are also capable of carrying other heavy objects. Today we bring to you five of the best heavy lifting drones in the market, up to 20kgs some of these beauties are much more powerful than you could have thought possible. Let’s have a deeper look at these powerful machines and unveil their amazing features and specifications.


Table of Contents

7 Best Heavy Lift Drones

So, without further ado, let’s jump to our list of the most commercially feasible heavy-lifting drones out there:

COMPARISON TABLE: 7 Heavy Lifting Drones

ImageNameMax. PayloadBest Price
7. Intel Falcon 8+1.76lbsSee price now
6. DJI Inspire 21.79lbsSee price now
5. DJI Matrice 210 v22.95lbsSee price now
4. FreeFly Alta 8 Pro20lbsSee price now
3. FreeFly Alta X35lbsSee price now
2. xFold Cinema x12 u745lbsSee price now
1. xFold Dragon x12 u11100lbsSee price now


7. Intel Falcon 8+


Drones that can carry things.

The first heavy lifting drone we’re going to analyze today is the Intel Falcon 8+. Yep, it’s made by that Intel… and no, AMD doesn’t have drones competing directly with this one. With that out of our way, I feel like it’s necessary to inform you about the price tag right away… even though I shouldn’t. At the moment, it goes for slightly above $16,000, which is way above your typical consumer-grade drone purchase. But, in Intel Falcon 8+’s defense, it has a bunch of aces up its sleeves that bring forth a quick ROI that sweeps innovative business owners off their feet.

Used Across Several Industries

Such a capable and highly expensive drone is always bound to show off impressive versatility in industrial scenarios. Intel Falcon 8+ does that with style, having already revolutionized the oil and gas industry’s inspection tasks. What was once done with tethering cables and a lot of man-hours is now a one-man job… with a very capable drone, of course, and we can all agree Intel Falcon 8+ is exactly that.

Thanks to its excellent power-to-weight ratio, top-notch imaging ability, and pin-point precision, Intel Falcon 8+ offers unprecedented performance no matter the weather conditions. Additionally, its eight 125W brushless motors with 8-inch 2-bladed propellers aren’t there just for the sake of redundancy, but for the sake of carrying an extra payload. More precisely, Intel Falcon 8+ is capable of carrying up to 1.76lbs of payload, rounding off the maximum takeoff weight at 6.17lbs (2.8kg).

General Performance

We’re talking about an industrial sUAV primarily meant for survey and inspection tasks. As mentioned above, Intel Falcon 8+ is used across several industries, and a major factor of its success has been its impressive, state-of-the-art hardware-software combo.

The brain of the operation is AscTec Trinity flight controller, supporting both GPS and GLONASS data. The maximum operating range goes around the 1-kilometer mark while the maximum flight time can go for as long as 26 minutes… In reality, though, you’re looking at a lower flight time because of factors like payload weight and weather conditions. Last but not least, the maximum wind resistance of this bugger is 35.8mph (16m/s), making it well-suited for extremely windy locations.

Supported Payloads

You’re getting a ton of stuff in the package. The drone, obviously, a cockpit remote controller, sophisticated backpack, three batteries, and three chargers. What it doesn’t come with, though, is a payload that actually makes it a proper industrially-viable sUAV. There are two compatible payloads at the moment, and they are as follows.

Sony Alpha 7R Survey Package delivers top-notch inspection, surveying and aerial mapping capabilities with its 36MP DSLM camera alongside Sony Sonnar T FE 35mm lens. ZS50 Inspection Package, on the other hand, includes a hybrid RGB and 14-bit raw (almost infrared) sensor alongside a conventional high-res digital sensor, mounted in a parallel fashion. This camera combination delivers detailed visual and thermal data in real-time, and can be used in a variety of fully autonomous flight modes.

Product Highlights
  •         Top to bottom 180-degree camera rotation
  •         1.76lbs maximum payload
  •         Two supported modules
  •         Three batteries plus three chargers
  •         Supports Intel Mission Control Software
  •         Maximum speed up to 40mph



6. DJI Inspire 2 Bundle

DJI Inspire 2 Novi

How much can a drone lift?

If you’re looking for a cheaper inspection/photography/cinematography platform, may I suggest DJI Inspire 2? More precisely, the highly popular DJI Inspire 2 Zenmuse X5S plus hardcase bundle that is widely recognized as the best value/money heavy lift drone on the market. Believe it or not, you can buy two of these bundles for the price of one Intel Falcon 8+. But, that doesn’t mean DJI inspire 2 combo is half the drone Falcon 8+ is. In fact, it has its fair share of quirks that, at the end of the day, make it a highly popular option for business across the US.

Let’s Talk About the Combo

First things first, let’s talk about the combo! B&H’s Inspire 2 Combo Bundle brings forth the drone itself as well as all of its supporting accessories, a cream of the crop Zenmuse X5S gimbal/camera system, as well as a hardcase and codec licenses. More precisely, CinemaDNG and Apple Pro Res licenses. These allow the Inspire to capture 4K and 5.2K footage in low-compression formats that allow for easy post-production later on. DJI’s CineCore 2.0 image-processing engine is in charge of the recording functionality… and that’s only a small portion of its superb overall performance.

Surreal Performance

As far as the general performance goes, DJI Inspire 2 can handle up to 27 minutes of flight time and reach 7 kilometers. Yep – SEVEN kilometers. That’s nothing surprising for a DJI drone. Heck, their newest lineup of Mavic 2 Pro models can reach even further. Top-speed-wise, you’re looking at a model capable of reaching 58mph at a 40-degree flight angle.

When it comes to the provided Zenmuse X5S photography system, it’s safe to say it doesn’t fail to deliver! With a 4/3-inch sensor, 12.8 stops of dynamic range, coupled with the aforementioned CineCore 2.0 system, DJI Inspire 2 is able to tackle even the most demanding cinematography tasks. In the last couple of years, DJI Inspire 2 became the go-to sUAV for aerial photography, thanks to an impressive price/performance ratio and 1.79lbs of maximum payload capacity which was, at the time of its release, one of its best traits.

Nowadays, there are models that can carry much more than DJI Inspire 2. But, the price/performance ratio remains, and it seems to be the main reason why DJI Inspire 2 is still as popular as ever. So, to wrap things up here, if you’re looking for a starting commercially-viable drone for aerial photography, they don’t come any better than DJI Inspire 2!

Product Highlights
  •         Equipped with advanced obstacle sensing systems
  •         Can handle up to 5.2K post-friendly footage
  •         Apple ProRes and CinemaDNG Licenses
  •         Goes up to 58mph
  •         Possesses battery and PWM signal redundancy



5. DJI Matrice 210 v2


How much can a drone lift?

Next up, we have another hi-tech DJI model. This time around, we are not talking about a consumer-oriented drone that’s affordable and can tackle both consumer and prosumer tasks. Instead, we are talking about a fully-fledged industrial-quality aerial platform that can serve a multitude of purposes. Whether you need heavy lifting drones for cinematography, surveillance, agriculture, or inspection work, DJI Matrice 210 v2 ought to be up for the task. It’s massive, sturdy, and can carry quite a bit of payload!

DJI Never Fails

If there’s something I’ve learned in all these years, it’s that DJI never fails to make a good drone. Whether we’re talking about entry-level selfie drones like the Mavic Mini, or consumer/prosumer hybrids like the Mavic 2 Pro, or their industry-grade models such as this one, one thing is always the same – the level of quality is unparalleled.

That said, everything about DJI Matrice 210 v2 breathes quality. With IP43 water and dust protection, a generally sturdy body, and over 10lbs total weight (with the battery), Matrice 210 v2 is an imposing figure. It can handle up to 2.95 lbs of payload, which paves the way for numerous Zenmuse systems, ranging from hi-res digital photography to detailed thermal imagery. On top of that, you should know that the bundle we recommend you buy off B&H comes with two batteries as well as an Enterprise Shield Basic Kit. It’s well worth the price tag, but it’s known to sell out fast so make sure you grab it while it’s still available.

The Biggest Downside

If you haven’t realized by now, DJI Matrice 210 v2 is a pretty versatile drone. Thanks to a great combination of software and hardware, coupled with a sturdy frame and plenty of aerial photography solution, DJI Matrice 210 v2 is viable across numerous industries. However, it does have a downside—a pretty big one, for that matter.

You see, DJI Matrice 210 V2 is a quadcopter. In other words, it only sports four motors, meaning there is no motor redundancy. Yep, that means the drone will crash to the ground in what would be an immensely expensive shower of hi-tech shrapnel. However, that can only happen if a motor fails, and let’s just say that’s not such a likely scenario. There are a few reports of that happening, but we’re talking about premium-quality brushless motors that can take quite a beating and still work properly. If you’d like to get DJI Matrice 210 V2 but you’re worried about the lack of motor redundancy, you can always go for an insurance plan that covers such scenarios. Heck, there are even options that cover user error.

Product Highlights
  •         Excellent industrial-grade base platform
  •         Plenty of aerial photography solutions
  •         Lacks motor burn redundancy
  •         Features advanced obstacle avoidance
  •         Features DJI AirSense



4. FreeFly Alta 8 Pro


Heavy duty drone

The Alta 8 Pro is the first Alta drone we are going to be checking out here. Similarly to DJI’s Matrice series, FreeFly Alta platforms also deliver top-of-the-line sturdiness and flight behavior that’s well beyond anything you’d get with a mainstream, prosumer/consumer-oriented model. The price tag perfectly depicts its industrial-grade body and viability across a number of different tasks. It’s far superior in terms of payload capacity than any of the previously mentioned drones, which is why its versatility goes an extra mile. So, let’s take a closer look and see if FreeFly Alta 8 Pro is the perfect heavy lifting drone for your business!

A Proper Heavy-lifter

If we are talking about sheer lifting power, FreeFly’s Alta 8 Pro is quite an astonishing specimen. Thanks to a total of eight powerful brushless motors and an optimal, lift-friendly design, Alta 8 Pro delivers up to 20 pounds of lifting power. Thanks to such a monstrous lifting capacity, Alta 8 Pro supports MoVi gimbals either above or below the airframe. This allows it to become one of the most affordable aerial platforms capable of lifting proper RED cameras with MoVi gimbal systems. If you know what we’re talking about here, chances are you need something as powerful as FreeFly Alta 8 Pro.

The interesting thing about Alta 8 Pro is the fact that it can lift more than it weighs. Once again, it can lift up to 20lbs but weighs only 13lbs. Combine that with sinusoidal motor drives, sporting a custom tune for the model’s F45 motors and you’ll understand why it’s capable of delivering heavy lifting capabilities, extreme top speeds, a ton of reliability, and an extra dose of robustness.

Superb Versatility

With added extras like quick release, sophisticated altitude hold, closed-loop prop control, and pinpoint accurate positioning based on GPS, IMU, and barometer data, FreeFly Alta 8 Pro can go on missions no matter the weather conditions. On top of all that, it also sports QGroundControl AKA long-range telemetry modem that brings forth flight information as far as 1000 feet away. We’re talking about a relatively compact heavy lift drone here. Even though it looks massive, it folds down to a portion of its real size thanks to foldable props and swan neck booms.

The last thing worth mentioning about this bugger is the added PX4 integration featuring an advanced waypoint tech. PX4/QGroundControl/Pixhawk flight planning is here too, just like integration for third-party utility systems via Dronecode or MAVlink. As I’ve probably mentioned earlier, FreeFly Alta 8 Pro is an impressive commercial aerial platform, and I’m sure you now understand why!

Product Highlights
  •         Eight brushless motors
  •         Supports MoVi gimbal systems
  •         Can lift up to 20lbs of payloads
  •         Possesses advanced waypoints technology



3. FreeFly Alta X


Heavy duty drone

Here’s the second FreeFly model we’re going to explore in our best heavy lifting drones guide. The name is Alta X and its price tag is roughly identical to that of the aforementioned Alta 8 Pro. However, these two drones couldn’t be more different. The biggest difference is definitely the motor count. While X could indicate there are ten motors, there are actually just four. Yep, we are talking about a $15,000 quadcopter here – now that’s a statement you don’t hear very often anymore… In Alta X’s defense, it does have more than a few virtues that justify the price tag and keep our mind off the obvious lack of motor redundancy.

Modular Monster

Yep, the biggest issue with this little bugger is the lack of motor redundancy. Even though some businesses don’t value motor redundancy as much as they should, it’s still among the key actors why I find octocopters to be far superior to their quad-rotor counterparts. Yes, motors don’t burn out often in mid-flight, but if it does happen, you’ll be thankful you opted for something with more than four motors.

On the bright side, FreeFly Alta X is a much newer model than the Alta 8 Pro, and features a modular design that allows it to overcome a multitude of different tasks. Thanks to several connectors, Alta X can carry a ton of equipment on both the top and bottom of the main body. Payload-wise, we’re looking at 35 pounds of lifting force. Even with such a heavy weight strapped to it, Alta X can handle roughly 10 minutes of flying thanks to the two 16Ah 12S batteries. Without a payload, it can fly for up to 50 minutes, which is absolutely amazing, even for a drone that costs as much as this one.

Alta X drone payload chart

Active Blades FTW

The key innovation on the FreeFly Alta X heavy lift drone lies in its propellers. We’re talking about the so-called ActiveBlade design that compensates for the dissymmetry of lift and cyclic loading, while at the same time actively (and quite effectively) reducing peak vibration levels. They are reduced to one-fifth of their typical levels, which paves the way for smoother flying with an added layer of reliability.

Unfortunately, you won’t get the flight batteries nor the transmitter in the package, you’ll have to buy them separately. What you will get in the package is a highly robust quadcopter featuring the Auterion Enterprise PX4 system that allows for automated data logging as well as custom software solutions for industry-specific tasks.

Product Highlights
  •         ActiveBlade propellers ensuring smooth flying
  •         Two 16Ah 12S batteries
  •         Quick-release mechanism for fast payload changes
  •         Simple folding mechanism
  •         Supports payloads on both bottom and top



2. xFold Cinema X12 U7

xFold Cinema-x12_web

Heavy duty drone

Let’s finish off our list of the best heavy lifting drones with two xFold’s models! First things first, they do cost quite a bit. On the bright side, their overall performance, capabilities, and lifting power, are unlike anything you’ve ever seen. The first model we’re looking at here is the Cinema X12 U7 which goes for $24,000. There’s an even more expensive model, Dragon X12 U11, which will be dissected later on. For now, let’s focus on the xFold Camera X12 U7 and see what sort of tasks it is capable of going up against!

Impressive Lifting Power

Starting off with the main body, xFold Cinema X12 U7 looks like a typical hexacopter, but it’s far from it. If you take a closer look, you’ll see there are two motors and propellers strapped to each of its carbon fiber arms. Yep, as the name suggests, we’re talking about a 12-rotor machine, which automatically means it’s one darn good heavy lift drone. More precisely, we’re talking about roughly 45lbs of maximum payload.

As for the machine itself, it runs on the popular DJI A2 flight controller that ensures a smooth flying experience with no hiccups, as well as a number of additional features that will come in handy no matter what sort of commercial missions you’re planning to take this thing on. On top of that, it also comes with a sophisticated 3-axis gimbal that supports DSLR cameras, as well as a 6mW video transmitter for lag-free downlink up to 2 kilometers away from the provided 7-inch FPV monitor.


Smaller Version Available

If all of the above seems like an overkill for your particular needs, but you still want stuff like solid payload capacity, Taray 3K weave carbon fiber frame, and DJI A2 flight controller, you’ll like the fact there’s another smaller (and cheaper) model. It’s called XFold Cinema X8 U7, and it’s basically an octocopter version of the real deal. It comes with the same base with the only notable difference being the lack of four additional motors/propellers.

One last thing, keep in mind that this is an RTF package. This means it packs everything you need to get it up and running, except the camera. In other words, you’re getting the machine, a proper 3-axis gimbal compatible with hefty DSLR cameras (Sony, RED, ARRI, Canon, etc), two xFold/Futaba transmitters, and two 10Ah batteries as well as a hard-shell travel-friendly case, among other equipment and accessories. All in all, if you’re in need of a drone that can lift heavy equipment, they don’t come much better than xFold’s models. Cinema X12 U7 and X8 U7 are there for “lightweight” tasks while our next entry is capable of dealing with, and I mean this quite literally, anything you put it up against!

Product Highlights
  •         Can lift up to 45 lbs
  •         Runs on xFold’s custom 390kV brushless motors
  •         Supports up to four batteries simultaneously
  •         DJI A2 flight controller is the brain of the machine
  •         Octocopter version available too



1. xFold Dragon X12 U11


Heavy duty drone

Looking at the specs sheet, this might as well be the most powerful drone out there. It can lift unearthly 100 lbs. Yep, you’ve read that right – up to 100lbs, which is more than double the maximum payload of its smaller brother, the Cinema X12 U7. The U11 delivers state-of-the-art performance no matter what you put it up against, but does cost a pretty penny too. We’re talking roughly $31,600, which is no small money, even for a drone of this caliber.

Typical Usage Scenarios

Primarily, xFold Dragon X12 U11 is used for AAA cinematography thanks to the included 3-axis gimbal and the ability to carry a ton of equipment. It’s not limited to smaller DSLR cameras but the real big boys as well as their lenses, microphones, and additional gear. These things might not weigh a lot on their own, but once combined, attached, and strapped together, they become quite heavy, and a real burden to carry. Luckily, they can’t put the xFold Dragon X12 U11 to strain, that’s for sure!

In addition to cinematography and film production, these drones are also used across numerous other industries, including government and military. The version we’re inspecting here can handle ridiculous 100lbs of payload, while its bigger brothers can do three times that. Yep, xFold has models that can carry 300lbs of payload… talk about raw power, huh…


Ultimate Aerial Platform

For $31,600, you’d expect a top of the line performance. Luckily, xFold Dragon X12 U11 does wonders! It’s based on the exact same DJI A2 flight controller (featuring 12 output channels and dual CAN-Bus system) as its smaller brother, and features the same kind of software/hardware combo. That means you’re getting two batteries, but the drone supports up to four simultaneously, as well as a gStabi H16 gimbal, and two xFold/Futaba controllers with 14 channels. The video downlink system is the same (600mW VTX Connex) as well as the 7-inch IPS FPV monitor.

This really is the ultimate aerial platform, if not for its raw power and versatility than for its compactness. Yep, this thing is compact; it’s easy to fold it right up and finish with your daily recording session. One thing you can bet on with this thing is that it will always get the job done. It will always produce professional-grade footage and overcome tasks other drones simply could not do. It’s powerful, robust, travel-friendly, and comes with everything except the camera. Luckily, its maximum payload capacity still has enough room with the gimbal on to support even the beefiest of cinematography equipment. That said, if you’re looking for the crème de la crème of what the heavy lifting drone market has to offer, you’re looking for xFold Dragon X12 U11… as simple as that!

Product Highlights
  •         Supports up to four batteries simultaneously
  •         Has video downlink up to 2 kilometers
  •         Comes with a 7-inch FPV IPS monitor with 1280×800 resolution
  •         Can carry up to 100lbs meaning it’s suitable for all types of work
  •         Comes equipped with a gStabi H16 3-axis gimbal




Drones that can carry things 2020

Best uses of drones that can lift heavy weights

As I already explained above, the biggest (and virtually the only real advantage over conventional drone models) perk of such drones is their ability to lift heavy objects. It’s as simple as that! Like it was ever going to be something else… What I am primarily aiming at here is definitely the imaging capability this brings into play.

You see, while most “premium” mainstream models on the market can barely lift an action camera along with its respective gimbal, these high-powered drones are able to lift half of one’s professional photography gear. This includes a state-of-the-art stabilization system as well as a fully-fledged DSLR camera that takes aerial images and videos to a whole another level.

But, besides being excellent at carrying huge chunks of photography equipment, these drones are also great for a plethora of other things. We’re talking about environmental mapping, military, agriculture, and good old fun… although we really doubt someone is going to buy one of these heavy-lifting drones solely for the fun factor.

With all that in mind, let’s check out the best uses of drones that can carry weight and see what they’re all about!



Needless to say, the cinematography is still among the most typical use scenarios for heavy lift drones. With the rapid advancements in drone technology, we’re seeing a proper boom of heavy-lifting drones used in Hollywood’s AAA production. YouTubers are doing their sketches with the help of drones that can carry heavy weights too… although big-name production make up for a much larger portion of users.

The reason why AAA production drones need to be able to lift a ton of weight is pretty simple – professional photography/cinematography gear is heavy. For instance, the RED DSMC2 Brain weighs around 3.35lbs (with the integrated media bay), and FreeFly Movi Pro weighs in at around 5.8lbs. And that’s just the camera plus gimbal combo…


Environmental Mapping

While environmental mapping is an industry of its own, some of its key processes are used across a variety of additional industries. Whether we’re talking about 2D georeferenced orthomosaic maps, 3D point clouds, texture maps, index maps, chlorophyll maps, or just standard orthophotos – all of them are used across numerous industries.

Another thing ties all of them together, and that would be the typical weight of the equipment needed to produce high-quality, high-resolution maps with all the necessary stats and figures. And that’s exactly where heavy lifting drones come in. They offer fully autonomous aerial missions and are capable of lifting the equipment needed for all sorts of 3D mapping outputs.



Military drones are on a whole different level. After all, the military was the industry that kickstarted the whole commercial drones craze that transitioned to the casual portion of the market too. Needless to say, the US military has the most advanced heavy lifting drone you can think of. We’re talking about state-of-the-art transatlantic UAV beasts, possessing technology so advanced that us regular humans haven’t yet heard about it.

There are several types of military drones, but the two main types are scouts/surveillance and combat drones. The latter need much higher payload capacity because of the sheer number of hardpoints they possess. All in all, militaries still possess the most advanced drone tech, the one us regular folks will have a couple of years from now.



DDS, stands for drone delivery services, is a rapidly growing industry whose biggest obstacle are international sUAV regulations. More precisely, the limitations regarding automated or semi-automated drone fleets that operate autonomously, with or without a human operator/pilot.

Several countries are pushing for more lenient laws so they can create advanced DDS test scenarios to prepare the technology for the imminent legalization that ought to happen sometime in the future. Even though we’re still pretty far away from drone delivery fleets swarming the urban skyline, it might not be as far as most people tend to think.

drones delivery dhl

Agricultural Tasks

It’s a well-known fact that drones can be used for all sorts of agricultural tasks. When it comes to heavy lift drones, they’re typically used for aerial spraying of various pesticides. It’s one of the most cost-effective ways of applying pesticides. But, it does have an immensely high initial cost whose ROI takes quite a bit, which is why only the most innovation-friendly businesses get involved.

drones in agriculture_Web

Pure Fun

Last but not least – these drones can be a lot of fun! Of course, they are way too expensive for regular Joe’s, but some of the more affordable options might be worth the money if you’re interested in showing off and geeking out in front of your neighbors.

Grab one of the cheaper models, equip it with a quick-release mechanism, and attach something that’s within the maximum payload weight limit. It can be a can of beer, a bottle of wine, or a three-course meal – the choice is all yours. All you have to do is fly it over to your friend Nathan who lives three houses down the block. Wait a few days and you’ll become the talking point of the whole neighborhood!


Quadcopters vs. Hexacopters vs. Octocopters

All three types of drones that can carry things have their own set of unique characteristics. Here’s a closer look so you better understand which type perfectly fits your needs:

quadcopters vs hexacopters vs octocopters



Quadcopters are the most popular options in the consumer end of the spectrum. As their name suggests, they come equipped with four motors/propellers, which give them a great balance between stability, weight, and price tag. They’re relatively lightweight, can’t really handle a lot of payload, but work great for entry to medium-level aerial photography tasks. If you’re looking for AAA production quality, you’ll have to look for more propulsion force that equals better stability and extra safety layers.


Hexacopters have six propellers and they’re arranged in a circle surrounding the main body. Thanks to two extra propellers, hexacopters are able to carry more weight than quadcopters. Additionally, they can fly higher, make faster maneuvers, and cost quite a bit more…

They also have a massive advantage over their quad-equipped counterparts in the form of motor redundancy. Even if one of the six propellers/motors fails, the remaining five can keep the drone flying. If another burns out mid-flight, there’s a high chance the drone will still be able to land safely, but it depends on the location of both propellers.


Finally, we’ve reached heavy lifting drones with eight propellers. These are among the priciest models thanks to the sheer lifting power they bring to the table. Typically, octocopters are used for handling highly sophisticated missions. No matter the weather conditions or the type of task ahead, octocopters are made to succeed at all costs!

In recent times, we’re seeing plenty of x12 (dodecopters?) which offer even greater motor redundancy and more lifting power, but are also much more power-hungry and cost an arm and a leg. That said, hexacopters and octocopters still remain the most popular options for heavy lifting drones.


Empty Weight vs. Payload Weight vs. Maximum Takeoff Weight


How much can a drone lift?

Operating Empty Weight

Operating Empty weight (AKA OEW) is the standard basic weight for any particular configuration of an unmanned aerial vehicle. In layman’s terms, OEW is the weight of the aircraft without fuel, cargo, and passengers. In the drone world, OEW is typically used in transportation because it states the weight of the unit without stuff like batteries, sensors and the mount.

Payload Weight

Payload weight is divided into two separate factors – maximum recommended payload (MRP) and maximum effective payload (MEP). The former implies the maximum payload weight that ensures optimal flying conditions. MEP, on the other hand, indicates the maximum payload weight the drone can actually lift off the ground.

Maximum Takeoff Weight

Long story short – MTOW equals MEP+OEW. In other words, maximum takeoff weight equals maximum effective payload combined with the unit’s empty weight. It gives the idea of the overall maximum weight of the drone as well as its payload/cargo.


How do heavy-lifting drones work?

Heavy-lifting drones work in the same way as regular drones. They are based around sophisticated flight controllers that, as their name suggests, control the drone’s flight by giving instructions to all of its hardware. This includes all onboard sensors, modules, ESCs, and motors.

Upward propulsion is ensured by at least four motors, each of which has a propeller strapped on top. Quadcopters are the most common bunch, carrying four motors/propellers, but there are hexacopters, and octocopters too, which possess six and eight propellers/motors respectively.

Propellers/motors are doing all the hard work, ensuring higher maximum load capacity and higher top speeds. As far as maximum payload capacity goes, the good old saying is worth gold – the more, the merrier. This means that, typically, drones with more propellers/motors are capable of lifting more weight. Of course, this is affected by other factors too. Most importantly, the drone’s overall weight (the weight of its frame), which greatly affects its weight/payload ratio.


Can heavy lifting drones lift people?

Believe it or not, there are drones which are capable of carrying people. There are several videos cruising through social media platform, depicting a man just chilling in a hammock while a massive octocopter carries it around.

While we can’t guarantee that footage is 100% legit, we can guarantee that such drones exist. In fact, one of the aforementioned models is capable of lifting 100lbs, which is the average weight of a modern-age teenager. Up the price tag slightly, and you’ll be looking at heavy-lifting beasts capable of carrying 200+ lbs. Now those are some wicked ass drones that can carry people without breaking a sweat. However, just because they can carry people, doesn’t mean they are allowed to do so. Keep that in mind!

can a drone carry a person

Can drones lift RED cameras?

Even though there are drones that can lift people, it’s not really a wise move considering al the safety regulations you’d be breaking. What is a great idea, but an equally expensive one too, is lifting powerful camera equipment with your heavy-lift drones.

So, can drones lift RED cameras? Is the drone technology so advanced that the top-tier models are already reliable enough to carry such expensive equipment? Short answer -yes, yes it is! We’re talking about DSMC2 drone/gimbal packages here, and they can be mounted on several state-of-the-art heavy lift drones. The overall price is jaw-dropping, though, so make sure you’re sitting down when you read it.


FAQ on Heavy Lift Drones:

How much weight can a drone carry?

I’m sure most of you are well-aware of the fact that mainstream drones cannot really lift a lot. Perhaps they can hold the weight of an action camera and gimbal, but that’s about it. Come to think of it, I remember when I bought my first drone and wanted to put in a larger (more powerful, obviously) battery inside, only to realize my drone couldn’t liftoff due to the extra couple of grams onboard.

However, drones for commercial purposes can often lift impressive weights… but they also do cost a couple of times more than their mainstream counterparts. So, don’t be too surprised when you see drones listed below with more than 10 or even 15 kilograms of lifting power. All those drones are outstanding machines built specifically for precise flight and heavy lifting.


Can a drone carry a person?

Technically, drones that can carry people do exist… but it’s not really a smart idea. Okay, one thing is to test a massive hovering drone with a chair in between the rotors, but a whole different ballgame is to test it out by flying from point A to point B with a person inside. So yeah, while the technology does exist, we can’t really recommend you try it out…


What are the biggest perks of heavy-lifter drones?

If you are wondering what exactly can you accomplish with one of these drones, well the answer is quite simple actually. You see, these heavy-lifting drones (as their name suggests) excel at one thing and one thing only – lifting heavy objects and carrying them from point A to point B. So, their uses range from professional aerial photography, agriculture, surveillance, fishing to a wide array of additional ones that we won’t go into today.


Which of These Drones Has the Best Flight Range?

When talking about flight range, it’s pretty obvious which brand is the winner here. DJI, with its Inspire and Matrice models, takes the flattering title without even breaking a sweat. Inspire can reach seven kilometers while Matrice goes up to eight. Of course, we’re talking about the maximum range in ideal conditions. In other words, you can expect slightly lower readings; aka your mileage may vary… literally!


Which of These Drones Has the Best Flight Time Without Payload?

This is quite a difficult question to answer because some of these models don’t come with flight batteries, meaning you can use your own. However, generally speaking, I’d say the best flight time without payload goes to the FreeFly Alta X.

There’s a number of reasons why it’s the longest-flying drone with no payload strapped to it. For starters, it’s a quadcopter meaning there’s a lot less power draw than your typical hexa or octocopter. Additionally, it has unique ActiveBlade propellers which, even though indirectly, make up for an extra layer of power efficiency when combined with the rest of the software/hardware package. If you’re looking for the exact number, FreeFly Alta X can achieve up to 50 minutes of no-payload flying, which is quite the accomplishment if I may say so.


Which of These Drones Has the Best Flight Time Carrying Maximum Allowed Payload Weight?

Now this isn’t a particularly fair question because, let’s face it, the maximum capacity of a DJI Inspire 2 and that of xFold Dragon are nowhere near each other. It’s like comparing a mouse and an elephant. Objectively, Inspire 2 has the best flight time carrying maximum allowed payload… but it can carry less than 2lbs which is something xFold’s wouldn’t even notice. So yeah, Inspire 2 does have the best flight time while carrying maximum allowed payload weight, but take that with a massive grain of salt because it’s not a heavy lifter. If you want a real heavy lifting drone that can fly for a long time, you’ll have to go for one of xFold’s models or the much cheaper FreeFly Alta X.


Do I need to register heavy lift drones with the FAA?

Yessir, you will need to register drones that can carry things because they all weigh above .55lbs (250g), which is the FAA registration limit. So, if you’re ready to push your business to the next level by introducing a brand-new heavy-lift drone, here are several things you should know:

  •         The registration is valid for three years
  •         The registration costs $5
  •         You can initiate the registration process here
  •         Mark your drone with a printed registration “plate”


Do I need an FAA License to Fly These Drones?

When talking about flying commercial sUAV missions, not only do you need to register your drone with the FAA, but you also need to be an FAA-certified drone operator. And the latter is not such an easy feat. To get the certificate, you need to pass the so-called FAA Knowledge Test. If you want more information on this topic, please feel free to refer to our Part 107 prep test which ought to be of service!


Wrapping Things Up

That’s about it as far as heavy-lifting drones are concerned. Once again, we are talking about highly-sophisticated machinery here; machinery that is in no way suitable for casual users. These sorts of heavy lift drones are meant for industrial usage scenarios, scenarios in which tier heavy-lifting traits can do what they do best.

Massive heavy lifting performance comes at a high cost. Well, there’s more to cost than the ability to lift heavy payloads, but that’s a story for some other time. For now, let’s finish the list off and call it a day!

That said, let us know in the comment section below if you own or are considering buying one of these powerful aerial machines for your business. As always, we at DronesGlobe are always happy to read your opinion! Happy flying and, as always, stay safe!

Larry Haller