Classification of Drones

Classification by Size

  • Very small UAVs with dimensions ranging from the size of a large insect to 30-50 cm long. The insect-like UAVs, with flapping or rotary wings, are extremely small in size, are very light weight, and can be used for spying and biological warfare. Flapping wing-based designs allow perching and landing on small surfaces. Examples of very small UAVs are the Israeli IAI Malat Mosquito (with wing span of 35 cm and endurance of 40 minutes

  • Small UAVs (also called sometimes mini-UAV) applies to UAVs that have at least one dimension greater than 50 cm and no larger than 2 meters. Many of the designs in this category are based on the fixed-wing model, and most are hand-launched by throwing them in the air


  • Medium UAVs are too heavy to be carried by one person but are still smaller than a light aircraft. They usually have a wingspan of about 5-10 m and can carry payloads of 100 to 200 kg. Examples are the Israeli-US Hunter and the UK Watchkeeper. The Hunter has a wingspan of 10.2 m and is 6.9 m long. It weighs about 885 kg at take-off. There are also numbers of rotary-based medium sized UAVs.


  • Large UAVs are used mainly for combat operations by the military. Examples of these large UAVs are the US General Atomics Predator A and B and the US Northrop Grumman Global Hawk.

Classification According to Range & Endurance​

  • Very low-cost, close range UAVs: Range of 5 km, endurance time of 20 to 45 minutes, and cost of under $10,000. Examplesa: Raven and Dragon Eye. UAVs in this class are very close to model airplanes.

  • Close range UAVs: Range of 50 km and endurance time of 1 to 6 hours. Usually used for reconnaissance and surveillance tasks.

  • Short range UAVs: Range of 150 km or longer and endurance times of 8 to 12 hours. Like the close range UAV, they are mainly utilized for reconnaissance and surveillance purposes.

  • Mid-range UAVs: Super high speed and a working radius of 650 km. Also used for reconnaissance and surveillance purposes in addition to gathering meteorological data.

  • Endurance UAVs:  Endurance of 36 hours and a working radius of 300 km. Can operate at altitudes of 30,000 feet. Also used for reconnaissance and surveillance purposes.

EU Classification According to MTOM & Payload 















< 900 g​

0.165-0.5 kg​

0.05-0.1 kg​

0.02-0.1 kg​



900g-4 kg​

1.5-4 kg​

1-3.5 kg​

0.15-1.2 kg​



4-25 kg​

4.9-24.5 kg​

3-12 kg​

0.3-15.4 kg​

Variations of Maximum Take-Off Mass (MTOM), unladen weight and payload ​based on an overview of 47 different commercially available drone models. 

Most common consumer and commercial drones 

  • They typically weigh under 10kg and majority less than 2kg
  • Quadcopters with four horizontal rotor blades are most common 
  • Small fixed-wing drones are gaining more and more popularity
  • Consumer drones can stay in the air for up to 30 mins at a time
  • They can lift small payloads of 500g 
  • Commercial drones can carry payloads in excess of 6 kg