Helicopter vs Drone
Last week we started a discussion that focused on the advantages that drones have over helicopters in the aerial video industry. It’s hard to disagree with them, especially in aerial video. But in all fairness, helicopters have capabilities that drones won’t be able to touch for a long time to come.
If you missed Part 1 of this discussion, you can read it here.
The Top 5 Reasons for Choosing Helicopters over Drones
It’s hard to elaborate on this one because it’s fairly obvious. Until the day comes that drones can, and legally can, carry a reasonable payload, helicopters will completely dominate this industry. This relates to human transport, Emergency Medical Services (EMS), and all other charter services. Drones have made large strides, but no where near the point of doing it as well as helicopters.
2. Accessing Remote Locations
Helicopters aren’t particularly well suited for high elevation, but they do a phenomenal job at accessing remote locations. It’s pretty hard getting a drone 20 miles into the backcountry without a reasonable amount of work. Chartering a helicopter and being there in no time sure does have a huge benefit if that niche ever arises.
3. Long Line Capabilities
Where do most helicopter pilots wish to find themselves later in their career? -long-line operations. This type of work is typically reserved for the most experienced pilots, and requires additional training beyond normal commercial standards.
Long lines are used for wildland fire fighting, logging, construction, seismic, and forestry. This is one of the least impacted industries, and that seemlingly won’t change for a long time.
4. Flight Time and Range
Drones and flight time have a rocky relationship, and is one of the weakest links for drones. Helicopters can boast flight times of multiple hours, and have ranges that average 350 nautical miles. This is all weight, fuel, and aircraft pending, but pretty impressive in comparison.
5. Predictable Future
Since drones and helicopters are costly ventures, putting your time and money into something that has a fairly predictable future is important. As I’m writing this, the FAA has a task force that is slowly working out registration laws and future legal implications for drones.
Helicopters are a safe bet for the future. The debate of whether or not helicopters will be manned comes into question. The larger helicopter manufactuers have been developing unmanned systems for a while now. Unmanned systems will presumably have lower liability, lower insurance costs (no people onboard), are much more efficient than a traditional pilot, and no pilot error.
If these systems become more of a norm, we can expect operating costs to go down. One of the largest costs of running a helicopter is the insurance. No people onboard = lower insurance costs. This also eliminates pilot error, the biggest reason behind helicopter accidents.
Helicopter vs Drone Conclusion
To bring this helicopter vs drone debate to a close, we can safely say that both helicopters and drones have their own respective advantages. Drones are drastically impacting the helicopter industry, especially in the film sector. This will eventually start leaking over to search and rescue, fire scouting, police work, and many others.
If there is something I missed, be sure to leave it in the comments!