Differences Between Commercial and Recreational Drones

Recreational and commercial drones have both become more affordable in the last five years than they ever have been. This has seen drone ownership and usage become much more commonplace than it ever has. Though there are some similarities between recreational and commercial drones there are also some significant differences. We explore those differences in this article.


As obvious as it sounds the key difference between a commercial drone and a recreational drone is the purpose it is being used for. As a result of the different commercial purposes, the commercial drone needs to have different capacities that are not required for most recreational drones.

Weather Conditions

Commercial drones tend to have more ability to withstand a range of adverse weather conditions. From wind to rain and other forms of inclement weather, a recreational drone will not have the flying capacity to withstand these weather conditions. However, a commercial drone is built to handle drone surveys in these conditions, and worse. 

This is required because there is no significant downside to having to postpone a residential drone flight, apart from minor inconvenience, but there is a significant downside should a commercial drone operation be postponed.


In general, most commercial drones are significantly larger than recreational drones. Given that recreational drones are usually used to send a video camera out to a remote location, they do not need to be very big. In addition, when a drone reaches a certain size there are increased requirements in terms of licensing and regulation, making sure you have the appropriate permissions to launch and fly the drone.

Commercial drones however can be quite large. In many cases, they just look like recreational drones but are ten times bigger. However, other drones sometimes look like small planes up close. 

They are still unmanned flying vehicles but are drastically different in size from recreational drones.

Battery Capacity

As a result of both the size differential and the length of time that commercial drones need to be in the air, commercial drones tend to have significantly more battery capacity on board.

Even though a commercial drone will have significantly more capacity, it cannot necessarily stay in the air for very long periods because the increased weight means the extra capacity is used up supporting that extra weight.

Tethered Power

One feature that many commercial drones have that recreational drones do not have is the ability to access tethered power. Given the low battery times that result from keeping such heavy unmanned vehicles to stay in the air, commercial drones can sometimes only fly for 30 minutes before they need to return for battery replacement.

But tethered drones can stay up in the air for hours at a time without needing to come down for a battery change. the tethered power cord connects to the drone as well as to a permanent power source on the ground reducing the need for battery power for the drone.

This tethered power is great in cases where the commercial drone does not need to go significant distances but has limitations in that the drone cannot stray too far from the power station. Tethered-powered drones tend to be most useful for purposes such as traffic monitoring and event monitoring where the drone can add most of its value from a stationary position in the sky. 

Weight Carrying Capacity

Commercial drones can carry a significantly heavier load than recreational drones. Not only in supporting the more intense weight of the drone itself, but commercial drones are designed to carry heavier loads including chemicals and fertilizers, and even explosives in some military use cases.

A recreational drone has a very low weight capacity and cannot carry much more than the drone itself plus the onboard camera.

Camera Quality

Recreational drones can have high-resolution video photo lenses on board to give you good-quality footage. While commercial drones have industrial-level cameras that can not only take video footage but can draw information about the geographical profile and create 3D digital images of the terrain.

Licensing and Regulation

Drones up to a certain size do not require any licensing or permits for the pilot, though there are lots of free education courses and paid courses available for drones of a certain size.

Given commercial drones are occupying regulated airspace, people that fly commercial drones need to undertake the relevant education and of course, they must understand the nature of the airspace that there flying the drone in and the rules and regulations relating to air space, and what you need to be aware of.

Final Thoughts

There are significant differences between recreational drones and commercial drones. Not only in size but in features, complexity, and potential use cases. If you want to get into commercial drones then ensure you look up and abide by the appropriate rules and regulations.


Alex is a small business blogger with a focus on entrepreneurship and growth. With over 5 years of experience covering the startup and small business landscape, Alex has a reputation for being a knowledgeable, approachable and entrepreneurial-minded blogger. He has a keen understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing small business owners, and is able to provide actionable advice and strategies for success. Alex has interviewed successful entrepreneurs, and covered major small business events such as the Small Business Expo and the Inc. 500|5000 conference. He is also a successful entrepreneur himself, having started and grown several small businesses in different industries.