7 Best Heavy Lift Drones in 2021

Infographic comparison of large drones

best-heavy-lift-drones

If you’re looking to buy a heavy lift drone or just want to find out of curiosity how big are the largest drones in the world, this is the perfect comparison page for that.

We’ll go through everything from cheaper heavy lifting drones that are used for cinematography and can be found for sale right now to huge drones that can lift people and are used in various industries.

Table of Contents

Drone Size and Payload Comparison Infographic

This is an infographic I made comparing all the drones on this list relative to one another while also underlining the main specs. If you like this size comparison, please share this article with your friends or link it from your blog 🙂

large drones sizes comparison infographic and payload capacity
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Pros and cons of large drones

ADVANTAGES

  • Solid structure
  • Motor Failure redundancy in hexacopters and octocopters
  • Ability to carry large amounts of weight
  • Large platform for additional technology
  • Long flight times
  • Personalization by the companies selling them

DISADVANTAGES

  • Require special regulation compliance most of the time
  • Special training needed
  • Very expensive

Best Heavy Lift drones for sale

heavy-lifting-top-drones

In this section, we’ll take a look at which are the best heavy lift drones for sale and some of the more extreme kinds that can even lift people off.

Matrice 600 ProYuneec TornadoAgras T16Airborne VanguardAlta 8Vulcan AirliftHoverbikeEhang 184Skyf
battery-test38 min24 min18 min94 min25 min20 min40 min23 min8h
wifi-test5 km1.6 km5 km-5 km-21 km16 km350 km
camera-icon.pngNoneDSLR-Zoom--NoneNoneNone
drone-slim-icon6 kg1.6kg16 kg4.5 kg9.1 kg30kg104kg150+400 kg
drone-price-dollar-icon.png Check Price Check Price Check Price

Heavy lift drone uses

Leveraging large drones has one main focus, and that is heavy lifting.

The ability to lift heavy objects as well as be filled to the brim with the latest technology allows these large machines to be used professionally for carrying professional equipment in everything from cinematography to mapping and agriculture.

So here are some of the main uses:

Cinematography – heavy lifting drones are mainly used in big-budget cinema films, mainly because those are the ones requiring the use of large professional cameras. An example would be the RED DSMC2 that weighs around 3.35lbs and the freefly movi gimbal that weighs 5.8lbs.

Mapping – While average weighing drones like a phantom 4 RTK for example can do mapping just fine, for more advanced mapping, larger equipment is needed, and therefore a more robust drone solution required.

Agriculture – One of the most important uses of powerful drones is agriculture, where the total weight of the reservoir directly influences how efficient the drone is in spraying the crop, as well as the time spent in the air in one go.

Military – Large surveillance drones or reconnaissance long range ones require to be quite large to get to extreme flight capabilities and finish the missions successfully.

Drone Delivery – Automated drone package delivery could completely transform the urban landscape in the following years, and for them to be effective in delivering larger packages, size is of utmost importance.

1.DJI Matrice 600 Pro - large DJI cinema drone

camera-icon-specs-180

None

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38 min

range

5 km

drone

6kg payload

If you’re looking for a very powerful drone that you can buy right now, the DJI Matrice 600 Pro is one of the most versatile and fair-priced hexacopters in the industry.

Being a redesign from the original matrice 100 which was a huge success and an upgrade from the original Matrice 600, the pro version comes with a lot of improved specs.

The 38 minute flight time makes it stand out even in the landscape of large drones and since it’s able to carry a payload of 6kg(13.2lbs), it can handle most camera rigs and gimbals out there.

While being made mainly for Aerial photography and cinematography, it can also be used for industrial applications.

The 5km range is achieved by implementing some of the best long-range transmission system called LIghtbridge 2 and everything is controlled by the A3 flight controller to achieve cm level precision in flight.

It’s made to be equipped easily with DJI Ronin Gimbals and can support most cameras on the market.

It operates ideally in temperatures between -10° to 40° C, making it one of the best in terms of extreme temperatures.

The Max speed of 65 mph (104kph) is outstanding and it means it’s unbeatable when you have to follow a fast object in motion, like a car.

SPECS

  • Weight: 9.5kg (21.2 pounds)
  • 1668 x 1518 x 727 mm
  • Flight Time: 38 minutes
  • Weight 9.5kg
  • 5km range
  • 6kg payload
  • Max speed 65mph
  • Max altitude 2500m(8202 feet)

2.Cheapest Heavy lift hexacopter - YUNEEC Tornado H920

camera-icon-specs-180

DSLR + gimbal

drone-battery-specs-180 icon

24 min

range

1.6km

drone

1.6 kg payload

The Yuneec Tornado H920 is the most affordable heavy-lift hexacopter and you can even buy it on Amazon. While its carrying capacity isn’t outstanding, it’s perfect for carrying a gimbal + DSLR camera combination, with everything being under 1.6 kg. 

It’s very well balanced in terms of specs, being able to stay in the air for 24 minutes with a payload and fly with 40km/h (25mph).

It also comes with an outstanding controller, which comes with a large included LCD screen that improves visibility and gives fast access to the main features.

Since it’s a hexacopter it also has a fail-safe system built within, so if one motor fails, the drone will still be able to land.

It’s overall a very capable system for aerial cinematography built from a carbon fiber frame, with folding arms and a case included.

SPECS

  • 1.6kg payload
  • 1.6km range
  • 24min battery life
  • 40 km/h speed
  • Weight 1.2kg
  • 165 x 219 x 196 cm
  • Retractable landing gear
  • Return home
  • Auto takeoff and landing
  • Air pressure sensors
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3.Largest agricultural heavy lift drone (DJI AGRAS T16)

camera-icon-specs-180

FPV cam

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18 min

range

5 km

drone

16kg/L

When we talk about large drones made for agricultural use, there’s nothing better than comes to mind besides the DJI AGRAS T16. It’s so great mainly because it’s made with simplicity in mind and comes with the entire package dedicated to agriculture and crop spraying.

The drone weighs 18.5kg and can hold up to 16L of fluid and since it can spray up to 6.5 meters in width it’s one of the most efficient agricultural drones on the market, being able to cover 10 hectares per hour.

It is water-resistant (IP 67) as well as dustproof and corrosion-proof, so you know that if you spend the money on this machine you’ll have it for a long time.

It can fly for up to 18 minutes with load and go as far as 5 km in range with extra measures taken to improve connectivity. 

For extra precision when flying it uses the RTK with GPS, GLONASS, BeiDou and Galileo, which are basically all the satellite systems available to man.

While quite large in size, it comes with a unique foldable structure that simplifies assembly (can be folded to 25% of its original structure size)

SPECS

  • 2509×2213×732 mm
  • Drone weight 18.5 kg
  • Speed 10m/s
  • AI engine
  • 18 min battery
  • 5 km
  • 3d operation planning
  • 16L of fluid
  • 10 hectares sprayed per hour
  • 4.8l/min
  • 6.5m spray width

VIDEO REVIEW

4.Largest Surveillance drone - Airborne Vanguard

camera-icon-specs-180

10x zoom & thermal

drone-battery-specs-180 icon

94 min

range

drone

4.5kg

A drone originally made specifically for surveillance, the Airborne Vanguard is both long-range as well capable to carry some really impressive weight.

It can be used for wildlife and game, surveillance and security, inspection and detection, surfing and mapping, delivery and transport, farming, and agriculture.

This is a large plethora of activities and it’s suitable for all of them thanks to the dual-camera configuration that consists of a thermal camera as well as a 10x zoom camera.

It also comes in the package with a dual antenna ground station and what’s most important… hold on…a 94 minute max flight time.

It weighs 9.5kg and the maximum payload is 4.5kg and a maximum range of 35km from what the manufacturers say.

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5. Heavy lifting consumer drone - Spreading Wings S1000

camera-icon-specs-180

drone-battery-specs-180 icon

15 min

range

5 km

drone

11kg payload

spreading wings s1000

A powerful DJI prosumer drone, the Spreading Wings S1000 is made for industrial applications that require the ability to carry that extra weight. Although the maximum flight time is considerably less than the Matrice 600, it is mainly created for short-span heavier lifting sessions.

It can also be used with a Zenmuse Gimbal and being an octocopter, it has extreme motor redundancy, so even if a few motors fail during flight, the drone can still come back and land safely.

The foldable design with retractable landing gear allows for more compact transportation, despite the large footprint it has.

6. Heavy lift cinema drone - Freefly Systems Alta 8

camera-icon-specs-180

PRO

drone-battery-specs-180 icon

25 min

range

5 km

drone

9.1kg

A very popular drone for heavy-lift cinematography, the Freefly Systems Alta 8 is an outstanding machine capable of carrying a payload of 9.1kg(20lbs)  while weighing only 6.2kg (13.6lbs) itself.

It’s thoroughly tested by pilots before being delivered to the final consumer and comes with a quick-release system to improve speed on set, making it very suitable for on-the-fly movie scenarios.

The camera and battery can be moved either at the top or the bottom of the drone, which is a very unique system that can allow for recording above the drone too.

SPECS

  • 1325 x 660 x 263 mm
  • 25 min
  • Weight 6.2 kg (13.6 lbs)
  • Payload 9.1kg
  • Tested by a pilot before shipped to you
  • Quick release system  to improve speed on set, removing the camera  and battery compartments

VIDEO REVIEW

7.Heaviest lifting commercial drone - Vulcan Airlift

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drone-battery-specs-180 icon

20 min

range

drone

30 kg

The drone that can lift the most weight and is still commercially available in the Vulcan Airlift. With its 4 lipo batteries, 20 minute flight time, and incredible 30kg max payload, it becomes easily one of the top drones if you’re interested in raw power.

Even more, it's quite a good hexacopter at that, being waterproof and folding down to a smaller size, it's mainly used for agriculture or very heavy cinema rigs.

8.Drone hoverbike/motorcycle - Scorpion 3

camera-icon-specs-180

drone-battery-specs-180 icon

40 min

range

21 km

drone

104kg

We couldn’t miss the coolest hoverbike around, actually called “Hoverbike” with their scorpion 3 being the most recent version of what seems to be a very futuristic drone motorcycle.

If you have $150.000 and balls of steel you can actually buy this and use it for yourself.

It can support 104 kg (229 pounds) payload and can stay in the air for 40 minutes.

SPECS

  • Hover Surf, Russian company
  • Latest version of the hoverbike is scorpion 3
  • 104 kg (229 pounds) payload
  • 43 mph
  • 21km(13 miles) range
  • 40 min flight time 
  • Prototype still
  • $150.000

VIDEO REVIEW

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9.Passenger drone - Ehang 184

camera-icon-specs-180

drone-battery-specs-180 icon

23 min

range

16km

drone

150+ kg

Already making the news all over the world, the Ehang 184 might be a familiar resemblance.

It is the world's first electric passenger drone that weighs 260kg and can carry 2 people at the same time.

Its range is 16km(10 miles) and can stay in the air for 23 minutes.

It has already flown in over 200 test flights but isn’t commercially available yet.

A really nice feat that makes it sound even more viable is that the charging time is between 2 and 4 hours in total, which actually makes it relevant for short trips in the future where you can charge it and then come back.

SPECS

  • World’s first electric passenger drone
  • 3989 x 1447 x 4024 mm
  • Aircraft weight 260 kg 
  • Range 16 km (10 miles)
  • 23 min flight time (with one person)
  • 62mph (100km/h)
  • 2-4h time to recharge batteries
  • can carry 2 people at the same time

VIDEO REVIEW

10.Drone that can lift the most weight - Skyf

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drone-battery-specs-180 icon

8h

range

350km

drone

400kg

Now we already get into the legendary realms of mega drones. Again, Russians seem to have developed a drone that can presumably lift 400kg max payload and is a monster that runs on petrol. You can read more about it here.

It can stay in the air for 8h and fly at speeds of 70km/h.

However, even though I found this data online, don’t take it for granted, as the data might be wrong or misconstrued, even though we seem to have a video on it on youtube.

SPECS

  • World’s first electric passenger drone
  • 3989 x 1447 x 4024 mm
  • Aircraft weight 260 kg 
  • Range 16 km (10 miles)
  • 23 min flight time (with one person)
  • 62mph (100km/h)
  • 2-4h time to recharge batteries

VIDEO REVIEW

11.Largest GOPRO drone - Walkera TALI

walkera tali octocopter gopro drone

The walkera TALI is not huge by any means compared to the other drones on this list, but it is the only one that comes to mind as a capable gopro drone hexacopter than can carry quite a bit of weight.

It’s powerful and you can add any Action camera you want on it. This makes it quite unique in todays market.

Thing to know about heavy lifting drones

what to look for in a fishing drone

In this section we're going through the basics of the heavy lifting drones setups, what you need to know in terms of teminology and some cool questions answered.

Can drones lift people?

Yes, drones can lift people if they’re powerful enough. There are ways in which this has been achieved so far: by fitting the person inside it as a car, or by lifting someone through a cable.

One of the most popular moments when a drone has lifted a person was when the youtuber Casey Neistat partnered up with Samsung to create a drone that lifted him in the air while snowboarding.

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Quadcopter vs Hecaopter vs Octocopter

While in smaller drones, quadcopters are dominating, in the large drone industry, we see a bigger tendency for drones to have a need for motor redundancy and power.

quadcopter_hexacopter_octocopter

Quadcopters

As the name suggests, these are drones that come with 4 motors and make for some of the most effective drones in terms of price and stability.

These are relatively lightweight and can be used successfully for carrying lower amounts of payload for medium-level production quality in terms of cinematography, but if you’re looking for a really heavy lifting drone, we need to look further down the list.

 

Hexacopters

Hexacopters have six propellers and are more suitable for heavy lifting as well as better balancing the weight distribution, but this comes at a price… quite literally.

Hexacopters, because they come with more motors and tech, are also more expensive, but can carry more, fly higher, and have a great advantage with motor redundancy.

Motor redundancy is when a drone can still keep flying in case one of the motors completely fails. Up to 2 motors can fail during a flight and the drone would still be ok, but this all depends on the position of those failed motors.

 

Octocopters

Bringing redundancy at the next level, octocopters have 8 propellers and are used for some of the most heavy-duty tasks in any industry.

While more motors can be fit onto a drone (up to 12),  aren’t really feasible, since octocopters pretty much bring the maximum value out of the number of motors and reliability.

Octocopters are stronger and more reliable, but not necessarily better than hexacopters in every way, especially since the price can increase substantially.

Payload weight and maximum takeoff weight explained

take off weight graphic comparison

Operating Empty Weight

Also known as OEW, it’s the value in kg that the drone weighs without any payload, fuel (batteries included), passengers. Sometimes this also excludes the sensors and the mount for different gimbals.

 

Payload Weight

Because there is a spectrum in how much a drone can lift off the ground, this section splits into two main categories.

  • MRP(Maximum recommended payload) – which is the payload where optimal flight conditions are ensured
  • MEP (Maximum effective payload) – The maximum payload a drone can actually lift off the ground

Maximum Takeoff Weight

This equals the previous two numbers combined.

That means the drone operating weight and the Payload weight which gives you an idea of the maximum weight the drone will finally have ( depending on how much you prefer loading it and alter its flight characteristics).

World’s largest Race Drone

I had to also mention one very impressive custom made racing drone that the guys at Rotor Riot featured on their channel.

 

This is the largest FPV drone recorded to date and it’s special mainly because FPV drones are fast, unpredictable and don’t come with stabilization or GPS most of the time.

This is pretty much a human-sized FPV drone, with a huge dummy gopro on it to complete the look.

FAQ (Frequently asked questions)

faq-what-should-you-look-for-in-a-drone.png

In this final section, we're taking a look at some specific questions that people ask me, which might also be useful to you.

How much weight can a drone carry?

Large drones can carry between 10kg to 100kg in weight, from cinema drones to passenger drones.

While there are drones that presumably can do more, the most drones you can buy are somewhere around that lower figure of 10kg (22lbs).

What is the biggest drone you can buy?

The DJI Spreading wings S1000 is the biggest commercially available drone you can buy right now. While there are other ones custom made, this would be the best bet for something premade.

What is the most powerful drone?

The most powerful drone ever recorded is the Skyf, a russian-made drone that can lift up to 400kg and works with petrol as its main fuel.

Are bigger drones easier to fly?

While GPS drones are certainly easier to fly, really big and heavy lifting drones are some of the hardest ones to fly and with the most risk involved.

Can a drone lift a human?

Yes, drones can lift a human either tethered to a rope or by encasing the person as in a vehicle and use the drone as a taxi to drive around.

How much does a large drone cost?

Large drones can cost anywhere between $1500 and $100.000 depending on many factors like size, format, materials used, accessories and use case.

Paul Posea
Paul Posea

Hi, I'm a long-time drone reviewer and I hope my articles and comparisons on this site as well as Dronesgator's youtube channel are of as much help as possible.

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