Home Drone Payloads - Definition, Types and their Importance

Drone Payloads - Definition, Types and their Importance

Payloads are one of the sub-systems in Unmanned Aerial System (UAS), which are mounted in the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) and can be controlled from the Ground Control Station (GCS) or through a Remote Controller (RC).

Drone Surveillance Image Credits: People illustrations by Storyset

Some of the commonly used payloads in Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) are camera, LiDAR, Thermal Imager, etc.,

Types of Payloads

We classify payloads into four types based on the way they’re mounted to the drone and based on their operation throughout the flight/mission:

  1. Dispensable Payloads
  2. Non-Dispensable Payloads
  3. Active Payloads
  4. Passive Payloads

The former two were categorized based on the way they were mounted, and based on their working latter two were categorized as mentioned earlier.


Dispensable Payloads

All the deliverable payloads to the consumer end are considered dispensable payloads. The dispensable payloads can able to release from the aerial vehicle during the flight based on the received signal from the radio controller(RC) or ground control station (GCS). In some cases, it’ll automatically be released based on the previously entered destination location.

Drone Delivery Image Credits: People vector created by pch.vector - www.freepik.com

Non-Dispensable Payloads

The Non-Dispensable payloads physically remain on the UAV throughout the mission, but their part plays a vital role in mission completion. Some of well know Non-Dispensable payloads are camera, LiDAR, companion computers, etc.,

The most widely used payload types in numerous applications, such as Mapping, Surveillance, Wildlife Monitoring are Non-Dispensable payloads.

Drone Surveillance Image Credits: People illustrations by Storyset

Active Payloads

The payloads which are entirely or partially active throughout the mission are called Active Payloads. The purpose of the active payload includes mapping, data collection, surveillance, and so on. Camera, LiDAR, Thermal Imager, etc., are considered active payloads.

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Passive Payloads

The payloads which are inactive during the mission are called Passive Payloads. Mostly, passive payloads are deliverable at some predefined destination.

Drone Delivery Image Credits: Technology illustrations by Storyset

Importance of Drone Payloads

In recent times, growth of the unmanned vehicles is exponentially higher and there are many applications that are profoundly beneficial for the general public.

Artificial Intelligence Image Credits: Technology illustrations by Storyset

Nowadays, numerous drone organizations are simply replacing the payloads in the unmanned aerial vehicle for various applications instead of making a new vehicle.


Similarly, if the obstacle avoidance sensors (LiDAR) is not operative in flight means, then there are higher chances of physical damages to the vehicle and also to the humans near the flight area.

The criticality of the payload is proportional to how dependent the vehicle is on that payload. For example, If the landing procedure is based on the continuous correction from visual data (camera) and the non-operative state of that payload in-between landing phase may cause severe damages.


I’ve tried to explain the definition, types and importance of payloads used in drones with the acquired information from various sources. I’m expectantly waiting for your valuable feedback and suggestions regarding this topic.

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This post is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 by the author.




Dhulkarnayn - Elucidate Drones


I am 25 years old drone developer, holds a postgraduate degree in Avionics. I've worked on a few complex projects like drone swarms, drone light shows, autonomous landing of drones using computer-vision algorithms, etc. Since childhood, I'm much passionate about electronics, aerospace & engineering.

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Author Dhulkarnayn April 23th, 2023 12:45

Aditi, Some examples of passive payloads are Food, Medical and other packages added as a payload that are meant to be delivered at some locations.