An octocopter is a helicopter that has eight rotors, or rotary wings, that when spinning serve to drive the aircraft through the air. Each rotor is attached to a motor which spins the rotor. Fixed wing aircraft use propellers on engines to pull the aircraft through the air. Although rotors and propellers are shaped differently due to the nature of their use, in the drone industry, the rotors are commonly called propellers, and here we’ll use the terms interchangeably.
The octocopter design is most commonly found in drones. Remote controlled octocopter drones have the eight rotors placed horizontally in a circle, each with its independent motor. Often octocopter drones have two skis (think of them as legs) that allow for stabilization when landing. With eight rotors, this unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) can handle a much larger payload and is generally equipped with a heavier camera.
In terms of size of the drone, (mini or nano, micro, normal), an octocopter will be larger in build than a hexacopter (6 rotors) or a quadcopter (4 rotors). This makes them more expensive than the typical quadcopter or hexacopter. In general, octocopters are the most expensive and largest drones available to the public. But there are benefits to flying an octocopter. Since the motors powering the rotors are placed 120 degrees apart, if three or four of the propellers fail, the drone can not only continue flying but land safely as well.
Due to the four extra rotors, an octocopter drone can not only fly faster than the quad or hex, it can fly higher and with more stability. The power allows the octocopter to take on a larger payload than quads or hexes of similar sizes, so it is the better choice for aerial photography or anything that needs to sustain a heavier payload. With more rotors, the craft has a shorter battery life than a hexacopter and a much shorter battery life than a quadcopter. So it cannot be flown for as long.
Many companies have octocopters on the market, for both recreational and commercial purposes. Generally, the bigger rigs are equipped with heavy duty cameras and are pretty expensive. And most octocopters do not come ready-to-fly right out of the box.
In drone racing, the octocopter, while faster, is still not as common as the quadcopter, since they are bigger, more expensive, and less maneuverable than quadcopters. Replacement parts are more expensive as well. They are usually the drone of choice for more experience unmanned aerial vehicle pilots.
These are not the drone for the common hobbyist and newbie photographer to learn to fly on, due to the size and expense. In addition, the new pilot should learn how to handle the less autonomous drone before giving up controls to the programming
If you’re looking to purchase an octocopter, we’ll assume it’s not your first drone and that you are prepared to build the craft from the frame up. You’ll also be programming and calibrating the add-ons, utilizing your extensive knowledge and experience. It’s safe to say that you are looking for one because you want to mount a big camera, sustain a heavier payload, fly in heavier weather conditions with more power, and have a machine that is more failsafe.
It’s rare to see an octocopter as a mini drone or even a mid-grade drone. It’s harder to fit the mini or micro with eight rotors rather than four. The list below considers the best octocopters on the market. These are heavy duty machines, pricier than even the most elite professional drones, and take a fair amount of skill and experience to build and maintain.
Tarot X8 8-Axis Octocopter (unassembled)
For under $1000, this octocopter frame comes highly recommended. It’s relatively light for the size, often paired with a Canon 5d, and can support 10kg of payload. Once it’s assembled it has a flight time of about 15 minutes (which isn’t bad for octocopters of this size). It comes equipped with electronic retractable landing skids, foldable arms, an integrated PCB board to help protect the wire connections and to preserve power), a 4114/320KV Brushless Motor TL100B08, eight rotors, and four pairs of foldable propellers.
This machine is perfect for carrying DSLR cameras, especially since it supports the payload and can retract the landing gear so you’ll never have an obstructed shot. The battery (placed at a lower center of gravity) allows for higher flight stability, and the battery position is adjustable dependent on the gear that you attach to it (very helpful when trying to balance the drone for the most stable form of flight). It’s said to be one of the easiest octocopters to transport, which is unusual because octocopters are large. The motor mount has dampers to help mitigate the vibrations produced by the propellers – a boon for photography. It comes with an assembly manual, but these octocopters can be very complicated and often require ‘extra’ assembly dependent on your intended use. However, the reviews commonly note a fairly easy assembly process for the experienced drone pilot/hobbyist. These octocopters generally don’t come with everything needed for flight and are almost never RTF right out of the box. A few things you’re going to need:
-A flight controller with a GPS unit integrated
-A radio controller to transmit and provide direction to the actuators
-A First-Person-View transmission system
-Tarot Camera Gimbal (specifically for the Canon 5D or GoPro – although using a GoPro on a big rig like this is an odd choice unless it’s doubling for the FPV and that economizes on payload)
-The camera to attach to the gimbal
-DJI iOSD Mini with a display to show flight data
The gimbal, camera, FPV system, and DJI iOSD are all optional components, but it wouldn’t make much sense to use this drone without a camera. If, however, you intend to pilot it without a camera, then you won’t need all the extra gadgets. If you intend to use this octocopter for aerial photography or to support heavy payloads, then you’ll need all of the add-ons, which must be purchased separately. Research all the costs involved so the octocopter assembly doesn’t nickel and dime you to death.
DJI S1000 Spreading Wings Octocopter
This is DJI’s very own industrial octocopter. It’s made almost solely of carbon fiber, which makes it lighter and lots more portable. It has retractable arms and folding landing gear, so you’ll never have to experience any sort of obstruction in your field of vision (if you equip a camera). It can even adjust its arms midflight when squeezing through smaller spaces, which makes it a bit more agile than other octocopters. It comes with a low gimbal attachment allowing a better field of vision. As a whole, this machine was engineered to support heavy payloads and top-of-the line cameras like the Zenmuse Z15, the Canon 5D, Mark II, and Mark III, as well as other cameras.
For transporting, the 8 arms fold downwards and the propellers tuck away for quick and simple storing. Each arm has its own speed control and when you want to fly, pull the arms out, make sure they’re locked in place, and then power up the DJI S1000. Relative to other octocopters of comparable size, the DJI S1000 is easy to assemble.
Once paired with the right gear, the octocopter is fairly simple to fly. Its DJI technology is certainly to be trusted. A DJI A2 controller will pair with an iOSD onscreen display (something most of these octocopters need), and once the Lightbridge 2 technology is implemented, will allow for highly optimized control features, a HD livestream of FPV, and a long control range.
Priced at around $4000, this octocopter is no beginner or even intermediate drone – it is usually purchased by professionals who intend to rig up their expensive cameras and produce industry-standard footage. Things you’ll need:
-8-Channel Radio System
-Camera (and another receiver | transmission system, depending)
Again, the gimbal and camera are sold separately, but if you’re going to add them to the mix you might as well attach another transmission system to the camera and link it to the controller (this dual flight & camera system is how these drones are meant to be used). This drone is relatively easy to pilot once the proper hardware is implemented and is a perfect fit for all your DSLR cameras. Remember again to research what it will cost to fully rig-up a drone of this size, as the gimbal alone will run you almost the price of the drone. Yes, this is the rule of thumb for industrial octocopters.
This is by far one of the most industrial, impressive, and expensive octocopters on the market. It is a titan among the other octocopters available. It has a payload capacity of over 20lbs, and can easily support cameras like the Red Epic, the Dragon, the Scarlet, and the Black Magic (full sized). It has a wingspan of 5.5ft with foldable arms and retractable landing gear. It comes with integrated autonomous components such as GPS-lock, return home, follow me, course-lock, home-lock, waypoint following, and more. It’s designed to be completely customizable, as a machine that costs $15k is going to be tailored toward industry professionals needs to be adjustable depending on the intended use. It comes equipped with an FPV transmission system, a radio system, and a self-cooling flight system that keeps the motors from overheating (something that can happen with these powerful, industrial machines). It has integrated DJI flight technology, and comes with an A2 controller. Crazy as it may be, the Infinity 9Pro is actually ready-to-fly right out of the box.
Depending on the desired camera, the Infinity 9Pro offers packages tailored for specific setups. It’s worth the time to research the packages offered, as there could be one for less than what you’d pay for all the hardware separately. What else is needed to get this octocopter up and running? Nothing except for extras (gimbals, cameras, flight systems). If you’re an industry professional and want a drone that can support heavy cameras, 20LBS of payload, and can stabilize flight better than any drone of its caliber, then take a look at the Infinity 9Pro Octocopter. It would take hours to explain its full range of functionality and its extensive engineering.
AscTec Falcon 8 Octocopter
The Falcon 8+ is a highly advanced octocopter engineered for performance, safety, and agility. It is intelligent and compact enough to come as ready-to-fly right out of the box. It’s designed with an implemented full electronic system, automated aerial sensing solutions (to adjust autonomously to certain conditions), obstacle avoidance sensors, waypoint following, return home, and an assortment of other autonomous components). Unlike most octocopters, it comes equipped with an HD camera that offers 36mp resolution. It’s a prefect drone to fly at higher speeds while surveying or mapping large acreages of land.
It’s built to for user-friendliness. Intelligent flight technology allows for ease of use when first piloting, and the sensors onboard help fight against weather conditions (it’s said to be able to sustain winds as fast as 10 meters-per-second). It’s been proven to be an incredible search and rescue machine when coupled with a thermal camera. It was built for commercial purposes and surveillance, and it can fly for 26 minutes and venture to heights of 4000 meters of above sea level (an amazing! But it is). Priced at around $3500, this drone is going to be a huge asset to industry professionals who want an all-in-one octocopter.
If you’re wondering where to find the masterclass of octocopters, look no further. The Multirotor G4 Eagle V2 is one of the most compact, impressive, and high-performing machines on the market. It comes equipped with a full set of autonomous components, a gyro-stabilized brushless camera mount, a 32-bit dual-processor, and more. The entire drone can be customized for any needs, but generally it’s used for services such as search & rescue, agricultural mapping, and surveillance. It has a flight time of 31 minutes and a maximum speed of 40mph. Along with these features, it also contains:
-Dual data telemetry with language assistance
-Jeti dc-16 portable transmitters (including battery and charger)
-FPV transmission system
-Dual unit high-capacity battery
-Double battery charger
Generally, the G4 Eagle V2 is regarded as a service drone, and clocking in at around $28k it’s not exactly the most feasible option for most experienced hobbyists. If this drone is in your price range, you probably know exactly what you’re it can do. It’s generally a machine used by large industrial leaders that need it to provide a specific service. It is not usually used as an aerial photography drone.
Octocopters are the most professional and industrial machines in the drone market. They’re not only the most expensive drones available, but the most dynamic and feature-heavy. If you’re looking to build an octocopter that can support a heavy camera, your options are limited. If you’re looking for a service-vehicle that can perform extensive and dangerous search-and-rescue missions, the options are even more limited. These industrial use machines are not sold in large quantities, and not to the average consumer. However, as drone technology continues to evolve, it is speculated that more octocopters will be engineered, and some will tailored to the average consumer. At that point, they will be more affordable, practical, and easy to use.