Skip main navigation

Drone payloads.

Categories of payloads that may be attached to a drone.

There are many payloads available at different price points that can be carried by commercial UAVs. These typically fall in to one of the following categories.

Camera and Video Payloads

Whilst most UAVs are designed to carry some sort of camera, commercial UAVs will carry far more sophisticated imaging devices with enhanced features that could include: 4K video, optical zoom for commercial inspection applications, and GPS tagging for 3D mapping. More sophisticated camera systems may have camera gimbals which hold the camera in a level and stabilised position, eliminating any flight movement to produce a superior stabilised image and video output.

Thermal and Infrared Payloads

Traditionally reserved for higher end systems, thermal imaging can be employed in a variety of user cases, including: agricultural surveying, health and safety, law enforcement, and digital search and rescue applications. Infrared (IR) payloads can be particularly useful for effective operation of UAVs during dark or night time flying conditions.

Delivery Payloads

The use of UAVs to provide timely and efficient deliveries has become an ever-increasing area of investment in recent years, with Amazon most notably making headlines for their Prime Air service. While commercial and retail deliveries provide one opportunity for mainstream adoption, radio deployment and delivery technology could also significantly enhance other sectors, such as healthcare, with UAVs able to transport time-critical services including defibrillators on demand. However, the use of UAVs for delivery also offers opportunities to criminals, providing them with innovative solutions for transporting drugs, weapons, and other items. This tactic has been encountered in prisons internationally.

Weapon Payloads

UAVs possess the ability to transport weapons for distribution, or to conduct attacks using the UAV itself. This is now seen regularly in military user cases where devices are chosen as the attack method due to the increased precision and reduced risk of loss of life posed in comparison to traditional human-led combat methods. To equate the risk in an operational user case, a medium specification UAV has the capability to carry a payload of 3kg for 16 minutes at 16 meters/second. This could equate to an autonomous vehicle that can effectively carry and deploy 3kg of explosives to a range of 16 kilometres.

This article is from the free online

Responding to a Drone Incident as a First Responder

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now