I'm learning to fly RC quadcopters, and before I go outside with an expensive, possibly dangerous (if it were out of control and hit something) large unit, I've decided to practice flying for a while on a smaller entry level "palm" drone (if I lose/break it, I won't be out more than $30).

While trying out the palm drone outside, I've noticed that a very tiny gust of wind will knock this thing out of the sky, or at least into a very different direction then intended. Intuitively I want to assume the larger drone will do better against fair-weather Kansas winds; however I've also learned not to assume that my ground based experience translates well into aviation experience. So


Will a larger, heavier drone be less impacted by wind gusts than a smaller palm drone?

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ To the exact question "Will a larger, heavier drone be less impacted by wind gusts than a smaller palm drone?", the answer is yes. That's a matter of inertia (resistance to motion), which is linked to mass. But this simple answer may not help a lot for your choice. See rather this: Stable flying and hovering drone $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Feb 10, 2017 at 9:46
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    $\begingroup$ In general yes, however if the larger drone has a larger surface area incident to the wind, then it may be just as, or more affected by the wind. The tiny drones are almost impossible to fly outdoors, the larger ones are meant to be outside but usually in very light wind. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Feb 10, 2017 at 15:02
  • $\begingroup$ I've flown my 250mm size quadcopter in quite high, gusty winds without a problem. The flight controller should keep things pretty steady, but the quad will be "tipped into the wind" to counteract it. $\endgroup$
    – Steve
    Feb 10, 2017 at 17:03
  • $\begingroup$ @RonBeyer: The key thing is the surface-to-mass ratio of the drone, which (for drones of a given shape) is more or less a function of its overall density. $\endgroup$
    – Vikki
    Oct 11, 2019 at 5:42

2 Answers 2


Scaling laws are your friend here.

While the area which can be attacked by a gust grows with the square of the length increase, the mass of the drone will grow with something between the square and the cube of length. This translates into higher disc loading of the props, which in turn requires them to operate at a higher dynamic pressure. The same wind gust will change forces relatively less on a bigger drone. It is the same with aircraft: Light indoor models have the same problems outside that you experienced with the small drone.

It gets even better when you look at the capability to resist rotation: Here the moment of inertia is the deciding factor which grows with the product of mass and length squared. This means the bigger drone will better resist attitude changes by the length increase to the fifth power. To be fair, gust moments will increase with the cube of length increase (area times lever arm), leaving you still with an advantage of length squared. This also means that all changes will happen more slowly, which improves the chances that the control system (the MEMS sensors onboard as well as your control inputs) will keep the situation under control.


I would heavily look into the forces of flight: Lift, which counteracts weight. Thrust which counteracts drag. I would also look into what software and guidance system you are flying on the small vs the big drone.

I have been a drone pilot for the military and a an owner of a drone company for years. I can confidently state that the smaller palm drones typically don't have a way to adjust for winds and GPS positioning(other than manual pilotage), however a drone like a phantom for example, can....and they are really good at it I might add.


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