Some useful definitions#
Before delving into the technical aspects, let’s clarify some commonly-used terms such as “drone”, “UAV”, “UAS”, and “RPA”. It’s important to know which term to use in which context. To begin with, it’s worth noting that every UAV is a drone, but not every drone is a UAV. Below, we’ve outlined the definitions of these phrases to help you understand their meanings and any potential differences.
While “Drones” make most people think of “an unmanned aircraft that can fly autonomously-that is, without a human in control.” It can actually be used to describe a wide variety of vehicles. For example, there are seafaring or land based autonomously vehicles that also count under the given definition of drone.
Of course, the most common usage of the term refers to an aircraft that can be remotely or autonomously guided. Unfortunately, the only thing most experts can agree on with this term is that a drone doesn’t have a pilot inside.
A UAV is an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. They are able to fly remotely such as with a controller or tablet or autonomously. So, is UAV a drone? Basically, it is. The two terms are often used interchangeably.
However, many professionals in the industry believe UAVs need to have autonomous flight capabilities, whereas drones do not. Therefore, all UAVs are drones but not vice versa. But for now, go ahead and use the phrase you’re most comfortable with!
A UAS or Unmanned Aircraft Systems includes not only the UAV or Drone but also the person on the ground controlling the flight and the system in place that connects both of them. Basically, the UAV is a component of the UAS, since it refers to only the vehicle itself.
Many pilots prefer the term “Remotely Piloted Aircraft”. This is because flying certain types of UAVs require a lot more skill than anything you could buy in a store. Taking control of an RPA requires more than simple handheld controls.
It is any person responsible for the safe conduct of the flight of a UAS through the use of its flight controls, either manually or, when the aircraft flies automatically, by supervising its flight (course, speed, height, environment …), being able to intervene and change the flight parameters (heading, speed and/or height) at any time.
It is any person, physical or legal, who owns a UAS or rents it. One person can be both operator and pilot if that same person is the one flying the UAS. However, you can be a remote pilot without having to be an operator, for example if the pilot works for a company that offers UAS services.