Drones are a leading piece of technology. They can take pictures and record videos, all done while flying. But you might wonder if these aircraft can fly with only three propellers.
The short answer is no; a drone can't fly with three propellers. But there are exceptions to this rule. And it will all depend on how they are designed. There are 3-propellers drones available in the market.
In this article, we will review more about the science and engineering behind drones. We'll see how drones fly and what to do if something goes wrong.
Understanding Important Aspects About Drones And Propellers
Drones Engineering: What They Need To Go Up?
We all wonder, how can these small artifacts fly? Here, we will review some of the factors that make drones fly.
Two primary components make drones go up: motors and propellers. Motors get their energy from the drone battery and use this energy to make the propeller rotate.
Other features help the drone ascend and descend. These three components allow the drone to come and go safely. The list includes:
- The GPS connectivity
Drones Physics: What Makes Them Go Up?
Now that we understand the physical components that make a drone go up. We will take a look at its structural design. A drone doesn't only fly because of the physical characteristics they have. We know several forces don't allow objects to float around the Earth.
What makes a drone go up is the ability to combine the four forces of flight. All aircraft use these forces to fly. Now, let's talk about these forces and how they work:
- Thrust & Drag
Thrust is the force that moves the aircraft in the same direction as the motion. Drag is the opposing force caused by the air pressure.
When the drone propellers are rotating, it is the thrust that allows it to move forward. When the drone is moving backward, it uses the drag force.
- Weight & Lift
These two forces allow the drone to go up and down. Lift is the force caused by the drone propellers that make the aircraft go up. More lift force is generated when the propellers move faster.
When descending, the drone will use the weight force. This is the opposite force to lift and is closely related to gravity.
Understanding Engineering Of Propellers
Propellers are designed to help with thrust and lift forces. These important pieces of hardware are responsible for keeping the aircraft balanced. Propellers are particularly arranged to keep up with drone aerodynamics.
You can find different types of propellers, depending on the type of drone. Engineers have to do some math to determine the number of blades and propellers. The battery life, weight, and size of the drone are some of the variables. All these aspects are very important to its performance.
Most drones have a pair set of propellers. The reason is very simple, balance. Propellers rotate in opposite directions. In the case of a quadcopter, you will find two propellers rotating clockwise, and the other two propellers will rotate counterclockwise.
This helps with the stabilization of the aircraft. If all propellers were to rotate in the same direction, the drone wouldn't be able to go up.
Propellers: How Blades React To The Forces Of Flight
Drone propellers range from 2 to 4 blades. The more blades it has, the more lift force can be applied. But, this also reduces the weight force needed to land the drone.
Blades also play an essential role in the thrust, depending on the angle of the blades. Your drone will be capable of efficiently handle the drag pressure.
Propellers: What Are They Made Of?
Depending on the manufacturer, you will find propellers are made of different materials. If you are looking for something more specific, you could get custom-made propellers. Some of the materials used for propellers include:
- Carbon fiber
- Glass fiber
- Polycarbonate (PC)
- Nylon Carbon composite
- Military-grade carbon fiber
How Many Propellers Can A Drone Have?
Now that we understand the basics about drones and their propellers, it's time to talk about our main topic. Drones can fly with three propellers. But this answer is limited to drones that have been designed to do so.
Here, we will explain how different drones will react if they had to fly with three propellers.
Three Propellers Drones
These drones are designed to fly with three propellers. In most drones, two propellers will rotate opposing each other. A third propeller is used to keep the aircraft steady, and its motor can rotate over its axis, preventing sudden sideway movements.
Some of the drawbacks about these drones are:
- Not easy to fly.
- The third propeller (also known as yaw servo) is a very complex piece of this equipment. If damaged, it can be hard to replace.
- The yaw servo makes these drones more expensive.
Can these drones fly with three propellers? Yes, they can.
Four Propellers Drones
This is the most popular drone on the market. Many popular brands choose to offer four propeller drones because of their production cost. They are also known as quadcopters or quadrotors. Each one of these propellers is attached to a roto, and all of them rotate at the same speed.
Here you'll have two clockwise propellers and two counter-clockwise propellers. Maneuvering this type of drone is relatively easy. If you crash it and there's no rotor damage, replacing the propellers is easy.
These are some of the reasons why quadcopters are so popular. You can find quadcopters for consumer and professional use. But, going back to our main question:
Can these drones fly with three propellers? No, if your drone doesn't have four propellers installed, it won't be able to fly. The reason is balance; the four propellers must be rotating at the same speed to keep the thrust and lift forces. If one of the rotors doesn't move, it becomes a dead weight that was not predicted during design.
Once you start the drone and one of the propellers is not rotating, it will immediately move sideways instead of going up. If your drone loses one propeller during flight, it won't be able to land safely and will crash down.
Six Propellers Drones
Also known as hexacopters, this setup is usually found in heavy drones. Also, drones are used in agriculture. As we mentioned before, each propeller helps the drone to take off. More propellers mean more lift force. Thus hexacopters are better than quadcopters when it comes to.
Can these drones fly with three propellers? Removing three propellers will certainly affect its performance. But, if one of the propellers fails, the drone will be able to fly. One static rotor won't represent important damage to the drone's capability.
Eight Propellers Drones
Also known as octocopters, this is the most powerful unmanned aerial vehicle on this list. These drones are used for very specific tasks so that you won't find many of them out there.
These are big pieces of technology capable of carrying up to 15kg. Some companies in the package delivery industry have been experimenting with these drones.
Can these drones fly with three propellers? You can remove up to 3 propellers from an octocopter, and it will be able to fly. The aircraft won't be performing as usual, but it is equipped with enough power to land safely.
What To Do If A Propeller Fails While Flying
If a propeller fails while the drone is flying, it will end up crashing down on the floor. You might want to prevent this because if it crashes, it might have structural damage. But we don't recommend this as you could result injured.
Even though the drone is falling, there are other three propellers still spinning. What you can do is take preventive actions:
- Don't fly your drone close to trees.
- Try not to fly during the cold season because low temperatures can weaken the blades.
Can You Fly A Drone With Broken Propellers?
No, you won't be able to fly a drone with a broken propeller. The keyword here is symmetry. Once the blade brakes, it unbalanced the propeller weight. And your drone won't be able to create the necessary lift force neither maintain thrust.
After reviewing the engineering and physics of drones, we can conclude that some drones are designed to fly with three propellers. But, these drones are not very common and are usually expensive.
Quadcopters are not able to perform correctly if one of their propellers fails. You must be aware each motor is a dead weight until the propellers start rotating. What makes the drone go up is the force created by the propellers. This force is what allows them to lift from the floor. And three propellers are not enough to make the aircraft go up.
Other drones with more propellers react better if a propeller fails. Their level of performance remains acceptable. And are capable of landing safely if any issue arises.
We hope this article can help you understand a little bit more about drones and their propellers.
Shawn Manaher loves to play with new toys and dive into new hobbies. As a serial entrepreneur, work definitely comes first but there is always room for hobbies.