Anyone new to the drone industry could find it difficult to come to grips with the acronyms, abbreviations, and other terms that are commonly used. Get yourself up to speed with drone terminology with our helpful list.
The Acronyms Used in the Drone Industry
A drone can avoid obstacles by detecting them using an Autonomous Collision Avoidance System. A drone may either change its route using sensors and navigation systems or hold its position until an obstacle is no longer present. ACAS can be used in fully autonomous flight, or to assist a pilot.
An Aerodrome is a small or large airport or airfield used for either private, commercial, or military aviation purposes. Aerodrome in the modern context typically refers to airports that aren’t large commercial facilities.
The Altitude Above Ground Level is the total height of a drone from the ground.
Parliament decides the laws surrounding civil aviation. These are known as Air Navigation Orders.
Still images taken from the air are known as Aerial Photography.
This is an acronym for civil Air Traffic Control.
A Battery Elimination Circuit is a special type of circuitry that can deploy power throughout a drone from a single battery.
The British Model Flying Association is responsible for all aspects of model aircraft flying in the United Kingdom.
Any craft operating beyond the visibility of a pilot is considered to be Beyond Visual Line of Sight.
In the UK, aviation regulation and enforcement are governed by the Civil Aviation Authority.
Official items released by the CAA are know as Civil Aviation Publications. These are essentially official memorandums.
Some drones are manufactured using Carbon Fibre, an advanced material weave with an excellent strength to weight ratio.
The CG or CoG is the Centre of Gravity of a drone.
This is the leading manufacturer of hobby grade drones and related technology. DJI makes popular drones including the Phantom, Spark, and Mavic.
Civil aviation in Europe is governed by the European Aviation Safety Agency.
Drones can be affected by Electro Magnetic Interference. This may result in loss of control or a disruption to normal operation.
Every drone features an Electronic Speed Control used to limit and govern motor speed.
A pilot that is flying a craft using line of sight beyond 500 meters is operating with Extended Visual Line of Sight.
Civil aviation in the United States is governed by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Every drone has a Flight Controller inside. This is the mission critical hardware that controls the drone using signals that come from a computer or pilot.
The Flight Information Region is a specific area of airspace for which alerts, and information are provided.
The FL acronym refers to Flight Level of an individual drone flight.
Field of View relates to how much of an environment a pilot can see through their camera feed.
A drone camera that faces forward will provide a First Person View to the pilot.
Some areas of the United Kingdom are Flight Restricted Zones. Pilots will require special permission to operate in an FRZ.
A Geographic Information System can collect, interpret, and store geo data so it can be presented to a pilot.
The Global Positioning System uses satellites to provide accurate and real time location data to drones and their pilots.
Some drones can be affected by interference in specific areas. Any such area is referred to as a High Intensity Radio Transmission Area.
The International Civil Aviation Organization is a multinational United Nations group that oversees civil aviation worldwide.
Pilots who operate their drones remotely and without visual data can use Instrument Flight Rules. Typically, only commercial and military drones are able to operate through instruments alone.
LIDAR is a system that uses Light Detection and Ranging for surveying. It utilizes lasers to determine targets and surroundings. It can be used for advanced and highly accurate mapping and navigation.
Modern Lithium Ion Polymer Battery solutions are used to power drones and their controllers. These batteries require special handling when being stored or transported.
Line of Sight refers to a drone pilot’s ability to see their craft with the naked eye while operating it. In the UK, Line of Sight must be maintained and kept within 500m of the pilot.
Any area where a government restricts aircraft access is known as a No Fly Zone. Pilots may not operate in these zones under normal circumstances.
One Nautical Mile is exactly one minute of latitude. This is used to measure distances at sea and more rarely in aviation.
Any adverse conditions and hazards can be provided to drone pilots as an official Notice to Air Men. These originate from the CAA.
Private organizations outside of the CAA can be given approved to grant Permission for Commercial Operations. Consider these as the go-between for pilots and the CAA.
The Obstacle Avoidance System is any number of sensors, hardware, and software that helps a drone to avoid hazards and obstacles, sometimes without pilot input.
The Operations Manual is a special document that all pilots must provide the CAA to be given Permission for Commercial Operations.
Some pilots may be given special permission to operate a drone outside of the standard rules. This is known as Operating Safety Case.
An On Screen Display is an overlay system that shows a pilot information like speed, pitch, yaw, etc. on their video monitor or handheld controller.
Commercial pilots are required to obtain a Permission for Commercial Operations. This is granted by the CAA in the United Kingdom.
The Pilot in Command is the operator who has sole control of the drone through a joystick or any other input device. This term does not cover the spotter.
The Civil Aviation Authority officially refers to any drone aircraft as a Remotely Piloted Aerial System. Some operators and enthusiasts use this term interchangeably with drone, UAV, and UAS.
This acronym refers to Revolutions Per Minute. This is the number of times a drone motor shaft makes a full rotation in a single minute.
A drone that has been assembled, tested, and inspected is considered to be Ready to Fly.
RTL / RTH
When a drone returns to its starting point, it is referred to as Return to Launch. Sometimes the alternative term, Return to Home, is used.
Both air speed and Speed Over Ground are used to calculate the true movement speed of a drone craft.
A drone can sometimes be referred to as a Small Unmanned Aerial System.
A Transmitter device or any Transmission being received from or sent to a drone is known as TX.
UAS / UAV
A drone can also be referred to as an Unmanned Aerial System or Unmanned Aerial Vehicle.
The Visual Flight Rules are regulations that state a drone operator can only operate their craft when they have a clear visual line of sight.
This acronym refers to a Video Receiver that is connected to a drone’s camera through wireless technology.
Vertical Take-off and Landing refers to drones that can land or take off from a fixed position without the need for a runaway. These are more versatile than fixed wing drones.
Drone Industry Terms and Abbreviations
The 2.4Ghz range is a radio frequency used for drone control, usually on hobby grade devices.
3D mapping is a rapidly advancing technology that allows for the creation of 3D relief maps using images obtained by a drone at different angles and altitudes.
A drone that performs autonomous flight relies on waypoints and collision avoidance technologies without operator input.
Brushless motors are efficient, low maintenance, and durable. They use magnets to avoid contact between parts within the motor assembly.
Also see Sense and Avoid. Collision avoidance uses sensors to detect and avoid hazards and obstacles.
A drone performing a commercial flight is any drone used for business purposes. These drones require CAA approval and insurance to operate.
Commercial grade drones are designed for business use. They feature advanced construction, are serviceable, and can feature stabilization, return home, and Sense and Avoid systems.
Firmware is the software used to control essential functions on a drone or other device such as a controller. Firmware is read-only and runs mission critical functions.
Any drone that uses immovable wings like an aeroplane is known as a fixed wing craft. These are unique from helicopter-style propeller drones.
Geofencing is a boundary technology that prevents drones from entering restricted airspace. Geofences are plotted using GPS coordinates.
A gimbal is a camera stabilization device that allows for smooth in-flight video recording without any wobble (Jell-O) effect. An active gimbal uses brushless motors.
GoPro is a popular brand of cameras used by drone enthusiasts and some commercial operators.
A gyroscope is a device installed in a drone that senses movement using a triple axis of yaw, pitch, and roll. A gyroscope helps to assist in stabilization.
When a craft responds to joystick input regardless of its orientation, it is operating in headless mode.
A drone that uses six propellers working in pairs is known as a hexacopter. Both downwards and upwards thrust modes are used to control flight.
Hobby Spec / Hobby Grade
Hobby grade drones are sophisticated in design, may feature replaceable parts, and usually require some experience to be safely operated. They sit between commercial and toy drones.
Stabilized video can appear to be wobbling during playback, much like a Jell-O dessert. Jell-O can be limited with a hardware gimbal or software stabilization.
Drones use landing gear to safely leave and return to the ground. Landing gear may be retractable or fixed, depending on drone design.
Drones that use multiple propellers for flight are categorized under the broad category of multicopter. These drones rely on downwards thrust to operate.
Nano refers to miniaturized technology. In the context of drones, Nano-craft are those that weigh 250 grams or less.
An octocopter is a specialized type of drone that uses eight paired propellers to control flight.
Equipment and supplies carried by a drone are known as payload. Examples include cameras, medical packages, chemical delivery systems, armaments etc.
The movement of a drone along its lateral axis is known as pitch. Pitch describes upwards and downwards movement of the body.
Most commercial and enthusiast drones use propellers or ‘props’ to control flight.
Drones featuring four propellers separated into two groups are known as quadcopters.
Roll is the term used for movement along a horizontal access, such as the fuselage of a drone.
Sense and Avoid
Drones feature advanced safety systems such as Sense and Avoid, which help a drone to autonomously avoid hazards in the flight path.
Commercial pilots use drone spotters to watch for hazards and anything else that the pilot should be aware of while operating a drone.
Toy grade drones are designed to be disposable. They lack replaceable parts, advanced features like GPS, and return to home capability.
Trim refers to a variety of adjustable settings that determine how a drone hovers when in a stationary position.
While drones can transmit video in near-real time, there is always some element of latency. This is the time it takes for the drone to transfer video to a pilot’s monitor.
Each waypoint represents ‘legs’ of a drone’s journey. They are combined to represent a drone’s autonomous flight path.
Yaw relates to drone rotation movement, such as twisting or oscillating, around a vertical axis. It is the left or right movement of a drone in relation to its body.