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How do they work? Drone propellers, including quadcopter blades!

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The propellers are one of the most fundamental components of a drone. Understanding how drone propellers work is essential to understand how quadcopters fly entirely.

Virtually, all UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) are propelled by a set of spinning wings, lifting them forward to make them fly. Drone propellers are the spinning blades that act as the quadcopter's wings that create airflow to lift it into the air.

However, how does airflow make the craft fly? Airflow across the drone propellers creates areas of low and high pressure which results in lift.

As the props spin, air flows over the top of the wing to create low air pressure. At the same time, high air pressure occurs underneath the wing which effectively pushes the quadcopter upward.

To lift the weight of the UAV, drone propellers are angled to drive air downward specifically. This mechanism is necessary to create enough air pressure to raise the vehicle.

It's almost impossible to imagine that those tiny spinning blades could hold up the weight of a quadcopter. However, that's the wonder of the science of flight.

For the props to be able to spin to such incredible speed, it would require powerful motors.

The ability of the drone propellers to lift a quadcopter partially depends on the motor's capacity to spin them at high speeds.

However, there are also specific characteristics that drone propellers must have to generate efficient lift.

As you already know, drone propellers come in different sizes, structures, and construction. Although these models all provide the same purpose, each has its unique flight characteristics to offer.

It is also important to point out that propellers are the most vulnerable parts to break and damage. That’s why props are designed to be replaceable so you can easily remove and replace them when necessary.

There are several things to consider when choosing the best drone blades in the market. However, before we delve into that, let us give you an in-depth explanation on how do propellers work.

How Do Propellers Work

quadcopter propeller

Drone propellers are practically made up of multiple blades that are spun by a motor at amazing speed rotation.

The more power the motor generates, the faster the blades spin. Moreover, the faster they spin, the more lift they create.

The motor's power and capacity have a lot to do with the flight performance. However, there are also other characteristics that can influence the efficiency of the drone propellers.

Pitch – the angle of attack

A quadcopter propeller is designed to keep it within a specific range of angles while pushing the air downward. To achieve this, a quadcopter propeller must have angles to create as much lift as needed.

Flat blades can be quickly moved through the air, and they are easier to spin than the angled ones. However, obtaining torque is necessary to generate more lift.

In scientific term, torque is the force that causes an object to obtain angular acceleration. This type of acceleration is necessary for an object to rotate about an axis.

To spin through the air, angled blades will require more torque thus creating more lift. Unlike flat blades, angled drone propellers don’t need to spin super fast to achieve maximum thrust.

However, since they require more power to obtain torque, angled blades usually consume more battery life than the flat ones.

Size and thickness​​​​

Bigger doesn’t always necessarily mean better. Small UAVs such as quadcopters don’t need bigger wings to fly. Besides, a quadcopter can only go as far as the motor can take it.

With bigger blades, the motors are forced to generate more power to spin them through the air. While the result yields a higher lift, it can take a toll on the battery life and flight time.

Again, quadcopters don't need thick bladed propellers because these tiny UAVs are designed lightweight, to begin with.

Balance
how do propellers work

Quadcopters, based on the name itself, are remote-controlled aerial vehicles that are propelled by four rotors.

These small UAVs have a set of four propellers in which each is propelled by its electric motor. Each rotor has to generate the same level of force and speed to create a perfect balance.

You'll also notice that some rotors spin the blade clockwise while others turn them counter-clockwise. Having the props rotate in opposite directions will prevent the vehicle from spinning, thus creating balance.

When buying drone propellers, you'll likely notice the label that says ‘CW' or ‘CCW.' This stands for ‘clockwise' and ‘counter-clockwise' respectively. Hence, matching CW and CCW propellers are essential to generate balance and thrust.

Number of blades

Just like other smaller UAVs, quadcopter propellers usually consist of two blades. However, you may find other models featuring three or four blades. So, does the number of blades affect flight performance?

Technically, more blades provide more surface area to generate air pressure. This means that a four-bladed quadcopter propeller creates more lift and will provide smoother flight than its two-bladed counterpart.

However, take note that quadcopters are powered by a battery with a limited energy life. Propelling more blades would eat up more energy, and this automatically equates to reduced flight time.

Furthermore, two-bladed propellers are more recommended for flights that require agility more than anything else.

Unless you want a high-flying quadcopter in a very stable flight, we recommend the four-bladed models. On the other hand, we suggest the usual two-bladed wings if you want an agile flight with lots of stunts and turns.

Quadcopter Propeller Direction

Vertical Lift

drone blades

There is only one way to lift an aircraft into the air. Moreover, that is to create a force that can outdo the force of gravity. Quadcopters are equipped with a battery-operated motor to rotate the propeller blades. The spinning motion of the drone propellers pushes air down.

According to Newton’s Third Law of Motion: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. So, as the blades push the air down, an equal force is also created that also pushes the air up.

Moreover, as the drone blades spin faster, the opposite force becomes greater which in return lifts the aircraft into the air. In the vertical plane, you can control the direction of a quadcopter in three ways:

Hover Still

Once lifted, a quadcopter can fly at a certain height and maintain that distance for some time. To remain still at one place in the air, the props must generate a net thrust that is the same as the gravitational force.

Climb Ascend

If the net thrust is greater than the force of gravity, the aircraft rises to greater heights. This can be done by increasing the spinning speed of the props.

Vertical Descend

Reducing the spinning speed also reduces the net thrust. So, when the thrust is lesser than the pull of gravity, the quadcopter drops back down to the ground.

Yaw, Pitch, Roll 

Of course, a quadcopter can do other things in the air aside from hovering, ascending and descending in a vertical plane.

Setting the direction of the drone propellers also allows you to fly the aircraft in three different ways.

Yaw

You can change the direction where the aircraft is heading by turning the vehicle's head in the right direction.

Yaw is the primary movement when you want your quadcopter to make turns or change direction. On most remote controls, you can control the yaw by using the left control lever either to the left or right.

Pitch

Pitch is controlled when you want your aircraft to move either forward or backward. It is done by pushing the right control lever either forward or backward.

Forward pitch makes the aircraft tilt and moves forward while backward pitch oppositely moves the aircraft.

Roll

This movement should not be confused with yaw. As explained earlier, yaw is achieved by rotating the quadcopter around the vertical axis.

Roll, on the other hand, is the rotation around the front-to-back axis. This is controlled using the right control lever either by pushing it left or right.

Direction of Rotation

Take note that both pairs of props (front and rear) have one CW (clockwise) and one CCW (counter-clockwise) rotor.

This is to create equilibrium and to keep the quadcopter in balance while flying in the air.

Drone propellers are usually marked with CW or CCW labels so make sure they that match the direction of the rotors.

How to Choose the Best Quadcopter Propellers

Drone propellers

Before we give you our list of recommended brands, let us first talk about the things to consider in choosing the best drone propellers. Attaching the most suitable type of wings to your quadcopter can make a huge difference in its flight performance.

If you’re planning to purchase a new set of drone blades, we can help you make the best buying decision. There are important details to consider before, and we suggest that you pay close attention to these features.

Here are some of the factors to check to pick out the best drone propellers among the rest:

1. Material type

Aircraft propellers greatly vary depending on the kind of material they're crafted from. However, as far as quadcopters are concerned, there are only two types of materials that you can choose from.

Most drone propellers available in the market are made of high-quality plastic. Moreover, there are also those higher-end models that are made of carbon fiber. So, what’s the difference between these two types of drone blades?

Plastic types are lightweight, and these are the most affordable type of props. Not to mention, these are also the most widely available and most commonly used quadcopter propellers.

Since these types are made of lightweight material, they create greater thrust and provide more agile flight. However, plastic types may not be sturdy enough to maintain proper balance especially when impacts or wind surges are encountered.

They also produce too many vibrations and annoying sounds during flight. Moreover, they tend to break easily in case of a crash or collision. On the other hand, carbon fiber types produce less vibration and only give off minimal sound.

Made from durable material, they are designed to create a highly balanced and more stable flight. They can withstand wind surges or impacts without losing equilibrium.

These features are essential in drone racing as carbon fiber props also offer higher speed and are more responsive.

Despite these fantastic features, the carbon fiber prop also have its downsides. Carbon fiber type designs are quite expensive, but it's a good investment if you're into drone racing or photography.

Moreover, since this type would require more thrust than the plastic kind, it will eat up more battery energy. Hence, flight time is significantly reduced when using this type of drone propellers.

Carbon fiber types are less prone to damage in case of a crash due to their durability. However, this also means that the motor bearing will have to take most of the impact.

If you think about it, replacing props is more comfortable and cheaper than buying and installing a new motor.

For beginners, we highly recommend starting with the plastic types because they are likely to crash over the course of their training. After mastering the skills, they can upgrade to carbon fiber types so they can further improve the speed.

2. Length and pitch

The overall length of a quadcopter propeller significantly affects the pitch, or the total distance traveled in a single rotation.

During rotation, each radius of the wing can have a different pitch. So, if you see a label that reads 10x3.8, this means that the blade’s length is 10 inches and the pitch is 3.8 inches.

This also means that the quadcopter propeller would move forward 3.8 inches in one revolution. Does it necessarily mean that drone blades with higher pitch are better?

Not necessarily. Take note that props with higher pitches would produce less torque. Furthermore, high pitch types allow more air to get displaced that will result in more commotion and vibrations.

Therefore, we recommend props with a lower pitch that can efficiently work well with the lesser current.

3. Size

When it comes to drone propellers, size does matter. However, this doesn't mean that bigger is better. When quadcopter propellers are concerned, less is more.

Smaller props are much easier to control as you can quickly shift from one-speed level to another. This is because their smaller diameter pulls less current and won't require much power to spin.

More massive props would require more time to shift speed because they would need more energy to be able to spin faster.

To put it simply, drone blades with a larger diameter can increase the speed, but they also consume more power.

If you want to use more massive props for your aircraft, make sure to buy a motor with lesser kV rating. This is the unit of measurement used to represent the number of RPM that an engine generates when 1-volt is applied.

For smaller props, a motor with a higher kV rating would be more suitable.

4. Blade count

As explained earlier in this article, drone propellers with more blades will require more thrust and power. Just like large-sized props, more blades mean more surface area which makes them less efficient.

In layman's terms, a quadcopter propeller with more blades provides a faster and more stable flight. However, you may encounter some issues with agility and flight time.

If you intend to operate props with three or four blades, you don’t need to use longer blades anymore.

5. Self-locking feature

Some models come with a self-locking feature that can make installation and replacement a lot easier. With this useful feature, the drone propellers automatically lock themselves into place and won’t come loose during flight.

Take note that two rotors spin clockwise and the other 2 spins counter-clockwise. The self-locking feature also helps you install matching props and rotor because it won't lock itself into the inappropriate rotor.

6. Folding or non-folding props

A folding prop has blades that automatically stretch out when the aircraft is turning, and then fold back when it stops.

Technically, the wings are geared together so that they open and close at the same time. The concept of using folding props is to reduce drag when soaring into the air.

Reduction of drag when not in use allows more speed and lower energy consumption. However, of course, it is only reasonable to think that a folding blade would unintentionally fold back against extreme force.

There’s a scientific explanation to eliminate your worry about this possibility. The outward force from the pivot is powerful enough to keep the blade folded out at rotational speeds.

At the same time, the motor would be able to fold back the blades when the aircraft comes to a stop.

When it comes to efficiency, drone pilots have different opinions about folding and fixed-blade props. So, your choice will depend on which type you're more comfortable with.

7. Price

Drone propellers greatly vary in price depending on the type of material used. Plastic models are the most affordable while carbon fiber types typically fall under the expensive side.

Some models also feature number of blades than the typical two-bladed props. Of course, the more blades it has, the more expensive it is.

Most brands of props are usually offered as a pack of 8 or 12 multi-colored props. When buying a new set of props, see to it that the package contains the same number of CW and CCW props.

Our Recommended Brands of Quadcopter Propellers

1. Gemfan Flash 2540

Coming from one of the most trusted manufacturers of drone propellers, Gemfan Flash 2540 is a three-bladed prop suitable for mini UAVs.

You can buy a set of 24 props, each piece only weighing 0.98g, measuring 2.5 inches diameter with 4 inches pitch. Plus, the props come in three different colors: 8 pieces blue, eight pieces yellow and eight pieces clear.

Key Features:

-Made of lightweight polycarbonate (PC) plastic material suitable for mini UAVs

-Compatible with 1104, 1105, and 1106 FPV mini racing drones

-Tri-blade props to generate strong thrust and high-performance flight

-Lightweight blades provide less moment of inertia for faster response and smoother turns

-1.5 mm center mounting hole

-Comes as a pack of 24 props

-Available in three different colors: blue, yellow and clear

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Lightweight and efficient
  • Does not produce annoying sounds just like most plastic type designs
  • Predictable trajectories

Cons

  • The fragile plastic material can easily bend in case of crash and falls
  • No self-locking feature


2. DALPROP Cyclone T5040C

Considered one of the best propellers for racing drones, Dalprop Cyclone T5040C has become a household name among FPV racers.

This tri-bade quadcopter propeller is capable of creating more thrust and generating more speed. Furthermore, its ability to maintain a stable flight makes it the top choice for drone racers.

Weighing only 3.2g, it has a diameter of 5 inches with 4 inches pitch. Dalprop Cyclone T5040C may not look promising despite its lightweight attribute, but its cornering control is top notch.

Some drone racers would even tag it as the best freestyle prop that they’ve used so far. The package comes as a pack of 16 pieces props (8 CW and 8 CCW). Moreover, the props come in 4 different colors (4 black, four red, four blue. And four purple).

Key Features:

-Made of PC plastic material; lightweight and efficient making it ideal for mini FPV quadcopters

-Three-bladed props provide excellent balance and more stable flight

-Improved grip and faster response to control

-5mm center mounting hole; cyclone-shape with 5 inches diameter

-Available in a set of 16 props, each weighs 3.2g

Pros

  • Suffers lesser vibration compared to other plastic types
  • Great control and stability
  • Acceptable weight for mini quadcopters

Cons

  • Some issues about its durability; fragile plastic material
  • No self-locking function


3. TELESIN 9450 Carbon Fibre Blades

If you want a more durable and more reliable drone propeller, then you may resort to carbon fiber types.

Compared to the fragile PC material, carbon fiber is much stronger and more robust. Not to mention, carbon fiber type looks better on drones that its plastic type counterpart.

Telesin 9450 drone propellers are one of the best carbon fiber type designs in the market. Despite its durability, the carbon fiber material is lightweight so it won't add unnecessary weight that can drag your quadcopter down.

Unlike plastic types, this two-bladed carbon fiber prop doesn’t make annoying sounds or produce vibrations when flying. A noise-free and smooth flight is necessary for aerial photography which can only be achieved in carbon fiber props.

How about its speed and flying efficiency? Carbon fiber props can perform with great dynamic balance and outstanding flight performance. Overall, it helps your quadcopter reach extensively higher lift, faster speeds, and more powerful thrust.

Plus, it is designed with a self-tightening feature that allows you to rotate the prop by hand. That's easy installation and replacement without the aid of any tool.

Telesin 9450 comes in a set of 2 pairs of two-bladed carbon fiber props in a silver/black finish.

Key Features:

-Made with durable and strong carbon fiber material that can withstand impact from crashes, collisions, and falls

-With a self-tightening mechanism for easier installation or removal as it securely holds the prop in place during flight

-Lightweight two-bladed props provide static balance with high-efficiency flight

-Creates more thrust, higher lift, and faster speeds

-Available in a pack of 2 pairs props, each weighing 28g, measuring 6 inches diameter with 3.8 pitch

Pros

  • Sleek finish design that perfectly suits any quadcopter
  • Fewer vibrations
  • Noise-free flight
  • Durable carbon fiber is less prone to damage
  • Useful self-tightening function

Cons

  • Some complaints about the self-tightening prop not locking down into its place

4. XOAR Carbon Fiber Propellers 1345

Drones are not only good for racing, but they can also be applied to many professional applications as well. For years, drones have been utilized for agriculture, aerial cinematography, mapping and survey, security, research and rescue, and more.

However, to be able to achieve an optimum result, your drone would need high-performance props.

Xoar Carbon Fiber 1345 drone propellers are specially designed to provide a stable and balanced flight. It allows your drone camera to hover still and capture footages without making unnecessary shaking movements and noises.

Lightweight yet durable, it maximizes torque and flight efficiency. Additionally, it is constructed to provide endurance and optimum strength through its unique structural design.

Engineered explicitly with thin hub and unique blade shape, each pair has same pitch and weight for more precise and consistent performance.

The package comes in a set of 2 pairs, each blade weighing 17g with 13 inches diameter and 4.5 inches pitch.

Aside from its 6mm bore diameter, the blade also comes with two sets of side holes. This feature makes it compatible with most motors mounting pattern such as DJI, KDE, and T-Motor.

You can take advantage of its self-tightening adapters to hold the props securely in place during flight. Although you can install the props without using the adapters, we highly recommend that you use for security purposes.

Each adapter consists of 3 pieces, the top plate, top self-tightening adapter, and bottom self-tightening adapter.

Keep in mind that adapter only works when it is installed at the proper motor location. The black-colored adapter is for CW motor, and the silver-colored adapter is for CCW motor.

Make sure that the arrow on the adapter is facing to the direction of the prop rotation. Use the short screws to connect the bottom part of the adapter to the motor. Then use the longer screws to mount the props to the top part of the adapters.

Key Features:

-Made of high-quality carbon fiber material known for its lightweight, durable, rigid, and reliable characteristics

-Precision-engineered to provide balance on both vertical and horizontal planes

-Produces less noise and fewer vibrations making it ideal for professional drone applications that require high-definition video recording

-Delivers smoother, more stable, and more responsive flight performance

-Comes with self-tightening adapters for a more secure installation

-Available in a set of 2 pairs

Pros

  • Sturdy material
  • Perfectly balanced and stable flight
  • Greater control and increased speed
  • Comes with optional self-tightening adapters

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Matte finish, as opposed to the glossy finish shown in the pictures
  • Some users noticed that the props are loud despite the product’s claim of a quieter performance

Conclusion

Drone propellers may look so basic and straightforward for some people. However, there's more to them than meets the eye. To master the skills of drone racing, it is a requisite to understand how do propellers work.

Learning the basics of how to do propellers work can give you a deeper understanding of the science behind it all. Taking all of these facts into consideration can help you choose the best drone blades for your quadcopter.

A quadcopter propeller isn't just a piece of a blade or a wing that makes a drone fly into the air. There are specific characteristics of a prop that can influence the flight performance of a quadcopter.

How can you boost up the speed of your mini racing drone? Smaller props allow you to change gears easily because they won't take much time to shift speed levels. Although the same can't be said for more massive props.

What props should I use if I want minor vibrations and sounds with higher stability required for aerial cinematography?

In this case, bigger props that are made of carbon fiber would flawlessly pull off this task. However, make sure that your quadcopter is powered by a lower kV type motor that can easily handle more massive props.

What are the most appropriate props in performing acrobatics mid-air? If you're after agility with lots of stunts, rolls and turns then more lightweight and smaller props will do the trick.

In other words, smaller props are for agility while more massive props are for stability. Aside from its application, other factors such as energy efficiency, blade count, and self-locking feature should also be considered.

Remember, drone propellers come in a wide variety of designs, sizes, and features. If you purchased a particular model of UAV, search for props that are compatible with your model.

Moreover, if you are building your quadcopter, it is essential to understand the different characteristics of drone propellers. This way, you can figure out which drone blades are the best for your quadcopter.

About the Author Alyssa Omandac

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