Confused by all the abbreviations and terms being used internationally and in the UK to describe drones? Here’s a glossary to demystify commonly used drone terms.
There are a large number of technical terms used within the drone industry as a result of its rapid spread. International aviation authorities, the European Union, military, hobbyists, drone manufacturers and other drone participants worldwide are continuing to refine and evolve the preferred terminology.
We will continue to update this guide periodically with suggestions and new terminology as it becomes established. Please let us know if you have any terms that you would like defined and added.
- Accelerometer: A device that measures the acceleration forces in a certain direction to help maintain the Drones orientation.
- AD (AIP): Aerodrome
- AGL: Above Ground Level
- AHRS: Attitude and Heading Reference System – The heart of the drone which includes inertial sensors, magnetometers and processing units. The AHRS estimates the device’s orientation, for example roll, pitch and yaw angle.
- AIAA: Area of Intense Aerial Activity
- AIC: Aeronautical Information Circular
- AIP: Aeronautical Information Publication
- AIS: Aeronautical Information Service
- AMSL: Above mean sea level
- AOA: Angle of attack
- ARF: Almost ready to fly. ARF units may require some assembly.
- ASSN: Application Specific Sensor Node.
- ATC: Air traffic control
- ATTI Mode (Non-GPS Mode): ATTI mode is a term that was coined by DJI to describe non-GPS mode on an aircraft.
- ATZ: Aerodrome Traffic Zone
- Autopilot: Flight without real-time human control, i.e, following pre-set GPS coordinates.
- Axis: One plane of potential flight. Quadcopters typically have 4 or more axis controls.
- BARO: Barometric Altimeter. Uses barometric pressure to measure altitude, controls the drone/quadcopter in flight from the ground.
- Balanced Battery Charger: A smart internal system to charge multiple cells that are located within the battery and balances them.
- Barometric Pressure Sensor: This device used barometric readings to determine the altitude of the aircraft.
- BEC: Battery Elimination Circuit. Provides the power for the onboard electronics like an autopilot and the RC system.
- Bind: A process for making the controller (Transmitter) communicate with the drone.
- Bluetooth: A wireless technology standard for exchanging data over short distances (using UHF radio waves in the ISM band from 2.4 to 2.485 GHz) from fixed and mobile devices, and building Personal AreaNetworks (PANs). Originally conceived as a wireless alternative to RS-232 data cables. It can connect several concurrent devices.
- BNF: Bind ‘N’ Fly. The unit is ready to bind to your transmitter and fly.
- Brushless Motor: Motors with permanent magnets that rotate around a fixed armature. Brushless motors are more efficient and hardy than brushed motors.
- BVOS: Beyond Visual Line of Sight.
- CAA: Civil Aviation Authority. Oversees and regulates all aspects of civil aviation in the United Kingdom.
- CAP: Civil Aviation Publication
- CB: Cumulonimbus. A dense, towering vertical cloud, forming from water vapor carried by powerful upward air currents. If observed during a storm, these clouds may be referred to as thunderheads.
- CF: Carbon Fiber. A composite material used to buildr racing quadcopters. Known for its light weight, strength and durability.
- (CG or CoG): Centre of Gravity. The average centre balance point of your drone.
- CleanFlight: Flight controller configuration software.
- (C)MATZ: (Combined) Military Air Traffic Zone
- Controlled Airspace: Control Area – Airspace type of air of defined dimensions within which air traffic control service is provided to IFR flights and VFR flights by the airspace classification.
- Controller: The controller is the handheld device used by the drone pilot to control the quadcopter. Controllers are also called Transmitters.
- CTA: Control Area
- CTR: Control Zone
- D&A or DAA: Detect and Avoid. The capability to see, sense or detect conflicting traffic or other hazards and take the appropriate action to comply with the applicable rules of flight.
- DGPS: Differential Global Positioning System. Differential correction techniques are used to enhance the quality of location data gathered using global positioning system (GPS) receivers.
- DJI: Manufacturer of a large range of drones for commercial and hobby use.
- Drone: UAV capable of autonomous flight.
- DSM / DSM2 / DSMX: Spektrum, an RC equipment maker, refers to their proprietary technology as “Digital Spectrum Modulation”.
- EASA: European Aviation Safety Agency. An agency of the European Union with responsibility for civil aviation safety.
- ECA: Emergency Controlling Authority.
- EEPROM: Electronically Erasable Programmable Read Only Memory. A type of non-volatile memory used in computers and other electronic devices to store small amounts of data that must be saved when power is removed.
- ELEV: Elevator. Also known as Pitch.
- EMI: Electromagnetic Interference.
- ENR (AIP): En-route.
- ESC: Electronic speed control. Controls the drones motor. It connects the RC receiver and main battery.
- EVLOS: Extended visual line of sight.
- Fail Safe: System that helps protect a multicopter in case of some type of error.
- FHSS: Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum. A method of transmitting radio signals by rapidly switching a carrier among many frequency channels, using a pseudorandom sequence known to both transmitter and receiver.
- FIR: Flight Information Region.
- Firmware: Software the drone uses to control its functions such as the autopilot system.
- FL: Flight level.
- Flight Envelope. The safety imposed limits of roll, pitch and yaw attitude are to protect the stability of an aircraft.
- Fly Away: Unintended flight outside of operational boundaries (altitude/airspeed/lateral) as the result of a failure of the control element or onboard systems, or both.
- Fly-Away Protection System: A system that will return the UAV safely to the surface, or keep it within the intended operational area, when the link between the pilot and the UAV is lost.
- FOV: Field of View. A measurement how much environment you can see through a camera lens. Usually measured in degrees.
- FPV: First Person View. The drone is wirelessly controlled by the pilot through use of a screen or mobile device. You see what the drone sees.
- Frequency: The radio frequency FPV equipment runs on. Can be brand-dependent. Allows for multiple channels so pilots don’t interfere with each other.
- GCS: Ground Control System: Software which runs from a computer on the ground. It tracks and receives telemetry from the airborne UAV and displays its status and progress. It can also be used for transmitting in-flight commands up to the UAV in the air.
- GEN (AIP): General.
- Geofencing: GPS technology is used to create a virtual geographic boundary, enabling software to trigger a response when a drone enters or flies within a particular area.
- GIS: Geographic Information System designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, manage, and present spatial or geographic data.
- GLONASS/GNSS: Global Navigation Satellite System.
- GoPro: A robust and resilient range of action camcorders.
- GPS: Global Positioning System. Tracks the position of an object in relation to the global spatial plane, track movement, or cause an airborne vehicle such as a quadcoptor to hold position.
- Gyroscope: A gyroscope or gyro, measures the rate of rotation of the UAV and maintains aircraft balance with respect to yaw, pitch and roll. Maintains a steady orientation of the quadcopter while in flight. Most quadcopters use a triple-axis gyroscope.
- Headless Mode: Regardless of the orientation of the craft or the way the front of the craft is pointed, it will follow your stick movements.
- Hexacopter: A multi-rotor aircraft having six rotors in which the beauty and advantage of the hexacopter is that it can lose any single engine and still maintain control to land.
- HIRTA: High intensity radio transmission area. High Intensity Radio Transmission Areas, flying through these areas could interfere with the electronics on board your drone.
- HL: Home Lock. Record a Home Point that the drone can return to if it loses connection.
- ICAO: International Civil Aviation Organisation. A specialised agency of the United Nations. It codifies the principles and techniques of international air navigation and fosters the planning and development of international air transport to ensure safe and orderly growth.
- IMU: The Inertial Measurement Unit. A controller which combines an accelerometer and a gyro, with the purpose of helping with the orientation and stabilisation of a quadcopter.
- Inner Loop / Outer Loop. The stabilisation and navigation functions of an autopilot. The stabilisation runs in real-time, as often as 100 times a second (“inner loop”), while the navigation function can run as infrequently as once per second and can tolerate delays and interruptions (“outer loop”).
- INS: The Inertial Navigation System. A means of calculating position that is based on the initial GPS reading. This is followed by speed and motion sensor readings that use dead reckoning. Useful when the GPS has lost its signal temporarily or is not available.
- IOC: Intelligent Orientation Control. Usually, the forward direction of a flying multi-rotor is the same as the nose direction. A feature found in DJI brand drones. IOC allows the pilot to lock the orientation of aircraft in different fashions. It has three working modes selectable from in the DJI GO app.
- ISA: International Standard Atmosphere. A model used for the standardization of aircraft instruments. It was established, with tables of values over a range of altitudes, to provide a common reference for temperature and pressure.
- LAANC system: Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability system. American application that controls airspace near airports through near real-time processing of airspace authorizations below approved altitudes in controlled airspace.
- LCD monitor: A screen, usually attached to the controller, used to view what a drone’s camera is seeing.
- LiPO: Lithium Polymer Battery. LiPo is the type of battery favored by most drone manufacturers due to its low weight and maximized charge capacity and power.
- LOS: Line of Sight.
- Magnometer. Electronic compass used by the flight controller to determine which direction it is oriented.
- mAh: milli Amp Hours. A unit of measurement that describes how much ‘power’ a battery can provide before it needs to be recharged.
- MAV: Micro Air Vehicle. A small UAV.
- MEF: Maximum elevation figure. A VFR altitude of interest to pilots, who want to be aware of the highest mountain peaks and tall towers nearby, so that they can fly above them to avoid controlled flight into terrain.
- MEMS: Microelectromechanical systems.
- Mobius Camera. Lightweight camera for small quads and RC drones – capable of 1080p high definition.
- Mod/Modding: Modifications. Custom upgrades drone enthusiasts do to their machines to integrate new functions or cool features.
- Mode 1 Transmitters: have throttle on the right stick, and are popular in the UK.
- Mode 2 Transmitters: have throttle on the left stick, and are more popular in the USA.
- Model Aircraft: An unmanned aircraft capable of sustained flight in the atmosphere; flown within VLOS of the person operating the aircraft and flown for hobby or recreational purposes.
- Multicopter: A generic name for a drone with multiple propellers, also known as rotors.
- Multi-rotor Copters: are referred to by many names, which include: Drone, Quadcopter, Quadricopter or Quadrocopter.
- NQE: National Qualified Entity.
- Nano: an extremely small drone, can fit in the palm of your hand and easy to fly indoors.
- No Fly Zone: Areas where flying a drone is restricted by government regulations.
- OAS: Obstacle Avoidance System. Smart tech uses sensors on your drone to detect how close it is to large obstacles and actively controls the drone to stop or re-route the drone away from a collision course.
- Octocopter: A drone with 8 horizontal propellers or rotors.
- OSC: Operational Safety Case: A reduction of operational limits in congested areas you can apply for with the CAA to receive as amendments to your PfCO.
- OSD: On Screen Display. Shows flight data in text or graphical form. Typically used to show telemetry information such as speed, battery life, heading, etc.
- OM: (Operations Manual): This is the document you will complete as your last step to a PfCO recommendation, which is reviewed by us before you submit your application to the CAA. It details everything in your operations from pre-flight checklists and contact details to emergency procedures.
- PfCO: Permission for Commercial Operation. Granted by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and allows a drone pilot to use their drone to undertake commercial work.
- Payload: The amount of additional weight a drone is able to lift in addition to its own weight.
- PDB: Power Distribution Board. Component that allows power from the battery to be distributed to the various components on an aircraft.
- Pitch: A measure which describes the flight angle along one axis, usually measured from level in case of aerial vehicles. Forward and Backwards motion.
- Pre-Flight Planning: The activities conducted by the pilot and flight crew prior to take-off to ensure that the flight will be conducted safely and in accordance with all applicable standards and regulations.
- Prop: Propellor.
- Quad: Quadcopter. A UAS that typically has 4 propellers, each with its own motor and propeller, situated in a square formation for smooth and precise flight.
- Raceband: A set of 5.8ghz frequencies commonly used in Drone racing when multiple pilots are flying.
- R/C: Radio Controller. A wireless handheld device that is used to control flight of the drone.
- Receiver: Accepts the camera’s feed and relays it to your LCD screen or goggles.
- RtH: Return to Home. A GPS feature that returns the drone to the “home” position where it took off.
- Roll: Flight term for rotation along an axis. Provides side to side motion of the drone.
- RPAS: Remotely Piloted Aircraft System.
- RPM: Revolutions Per Minute. The number of times the drones motor shaft rotates a full cycle in 60 seconds.
- RSSI: Received Signal Strength Indicator. The strength of radio signal from the controller to drone.
- RTF: Ready to Fly – This means the drone is sold with everything needed in the pack. All you need to do is charge the batteries and you are ready to use it.
- RUD: Rudder. Same a YAW – controls which direction the drone is flying.
- RX: An abbreviated term for receiver.
- Sense And Avoid: The capability of a UAS to remain well clear from and avoid collisions with other airborne traffic.
- SERA: Standard European Rules of the Air.
- Servo: A shorter name for servomotor or servomechanism. Aerial vehicles use servomotors for various functions such as pan cameras and wing flaps adjustments which can be controlled from the ground.
- SUA: Small Unmanned Aircraft
- SUSA: Small Unmanned Surveillance Aircraft
- Throttle: Control that influences the RPM or the speed of electric motors. Higher throttle generates more thrust.
- Thrust: The combined amount of force from a propeller and a motor which generates lift. Lift is what takes you up and into the sky.
- TMA: Terminal Control Area/terminal manoeuvring area.
- Transmitter: A device that sends commands to the drone from the pilot or a component that relays the camera’s feed to the receiver located on the goggles.
- Trim: Setting to adjust the hover of a drone. Adjusting trim settings can help it to stay in place while hovering.
- TX: Abbreviation for transmitter or transmit.
- UAQ: Unmanned Aircraft Qualification. The Unmanned Aircraft Qualification will also allow you to seek employment with an existing drone company that holds a PfCO.
- UAV: Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. A device that can propel itself through the air without a pilot onboard. Drones and quadcopters are UAVs.
- UAS: Unmanned Airborne System. The unmanned airborne system shows not only the aeroplane itself yet the whole system that is needed for the smooth running of the craft.
- Ultrasonic Sensor: A sensor that uses the ultra sound wavelength to communicate with a transmitter. In aerial vehicles, ultrasonic sensors are used for calculating the distance to the ground by bouncing sound waves back and forth. They don’t work further than a few meters from the ground.
- UTM: Abbreviation for Unmanned Traffic Management, a concept created by NASA to safely integrate manned and unmanned aircraft into low altitude airspace. This cloud-based system will help manage traffic at low altitudes and avoid collisions of UASs being operated beyond visual line of sight.
- Video Latency: Lag in what your camera sees and when it transmits it to your monitor
- VLOS: Visual Line of Sight.
- Visual Observer: A crew member who assists the UAS pilot in the duties associated with collision avoidance.
- VRX: Video Receiver.
- VTOL: Vertical takeoff and landing is a valuable feature of quadcopters and other UAVs with multiple rotors. These aircraft can launch and vertically, which requires very little space. Fixed wing aircraft need a runway to take off and land.
- VTX: Abbreviation for video transmitter, connected to your camera and transmits the video signal from your drone back to you down on the ground in real time.
- Waypoint: Coordinates which define a point in space. Set of 3 or more coordinates used to locate the drone during autonomous missions. Satellites are pinged for this.
- WGS: World Geodetic System.
- WiFi FPV: Connect through an app which you connect to in order to fetch the live feed. The signal is compatible with most Android/iOS smartphones and tablets.
- YAW: Describes the quadcopter rotation around its center axis on a level plane.
Thanks for using this guide. We hope you found this reference guide helpful. If you would like to suggest a term, please leave your suggestions in the comments below.