The Ultimate Guide To Drone Terminology & Acronyms

The Ultimate Guide To Drone Terminology & Acronyms

If you’re new to the drone industry, it can be hard to get your head around all the acronyms, abbreviations and industry terms. 

That’s why we’ve put together a list of all the drone terminology you’ll ever need to know.

a

ACAS

Autonomous Collision Avoidance System (ACAS). This allows the drone to detect obstacles and reroute or hold a position to avoid them.

AGL

Above Ground Level

Accelerometer

Measures the acceleration of a drone in a specific direction.

Altitude Hold Function

A function that allows a drone to hover in the air at a specific height.

Autonomous Flight

A drone flight that is pre-programmed by the pilot to follow a path dictated by various waypoints. Once the flight commences, the pilot does not intervene/control the drone, the drone follows the path and comes to land at a predefined point.

Autopilot

A feature that allows the flight to continue without manual control by the pilot.

b

Bind

A process to link a drone with the controller.

Brushless Motor

A type of drone motor with permanent magnets that rotate around an armature, generally considered to be more robust and efficient than other motor types.

BVLOS

Beyond visual line of sight.

c

CAA

Civil Aviation Authority, the statutory corporation which oversees and regulates all aspects of civil aviation in the United Kingdom.

Collision/Obstacle Avoidance

A vision system that allows drones to avoid obstacles and prevent collisions.

Controller

The handheld device used by pilots to control a drone.

d

Digital Twin

A virtual replication of a physical object/process using real-world data. They are used to map out an asset and its performance.

DJI

The largest UAV manufacturer worldwide, based in China.

DRONE

Dynamic Remotely Operated Navigation Equipment

DSM

Digital Surface Model. Captures both natural and artificial/man-made features of the environment. 

DTM

Digital Terrain Model. A bare-earth model.

f

FAA

Federal Aviation Administration. Part of the US Department of Transportation Agency that regulates and oversees all civil aviation in the United States.

Fail-Safe

A preventative system to protect a drone in the event of a failure. For example, a drone may be programmed to return home if it loses connection with the controller.

Fixed Wing Drone

A drone with long tilted wings that create a lift effect while cruising – similar to a passenger aircraft.

FOV

Field of View

FPV

First Person View

g

Geofencing

A virtual geographic boundary created through the use of GPS and software to limit where a drone can and cannot fly.

Gimbal

A camera stabilisation device that allows for steady video and clear pictures while moving at high speeds.

GNSS

Global Navigation Satellite System

GPS

Global Positioning System

Gyroscope

A device that measures the rate of rotation and keeps the drone balanced.

l

LCD Monitor

Liquid Crystal Display Monitor. A screen, usually attached to the controller, used to view what a drone’s camera is seeing.

LiDAR

Light Detection and Ranging. A LiDAR sensor emits pulsed light waves into the surrounding environment. These pulses bounce off surrounding objects and return to the sensor. The sensor uses the time it took for each pulse to return to the sensor to calculate the distance it travelled.

LiPo

Lithium polymer, the type of battery favoured by most drone manufacturers.

m

3D Mapping

Software that allows you to create 3D maps and models from inputting a number of images from varying altitudes and angles.

MTOM/MOTW

Maximum Takeoff Mass/Weight. The maximum mass at which an aircraft is certified to take off due to governmental/regulatory or structural limits.

n

Nano Drone

An extremely small drone, with measurements of around 10 x 2.5 cm. 

No Fly Zone

An area in which flying drones is restricted, usually by government regulations.

o

Octocopter

A drone with 8 rotors.

OSD

On Screen Display

p

Payload

The weight which a drone can carry. Payloads include any additional attachments to the outside of the drone, e.g. cameras or sensors.

PDB

Power Distribution Board. A component of a drone that distributes the power from the battery to the other parts of the device.

Photogrammetry

The process of transforming a collection of images into a 3D model by stitching photographs together, correcting any geometric distortion, to create one large image called an Orthomosaic. 

Pitch

A description of the upwards and downwards tilt movement on each side of the drone.

Propeller

An angled blade that transforms rotary motion into thrust, allowing for a drone to lift off the ground. Sometimes referred to as ‘prop’ for short.

q

Quadcopter

A four-rotor drone.

r

Roll

Used to describe the upwards and downwards tilt movement on each side of the drone.

RTF

Ready to Fly

RTH

Return to Home. A GPS destination can be programmed as a ‘home’ point for the drone to return to. 

s

Skydio

The largest U.S drone manufacturer and leader in autonomous flight technology.

Spotter

A person who keeps the drone in their visual line of sight.

t

Telemetry

A two-way digital data stream between the UAV and a ground station that is used to communicate flight data and instructions to control the UAV.

TFR

Temporary Flight Restriction. An area where flights are restricted, usually due to out of the ordinary events e.g. natural disasters or government presence.

Thermal Imaging

The technique of using the heat given off by an object to produce an image of it or to locate it.

u

UAV

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle 

Ultrasonic Sensors

Sensors that calculate height and balance.

Upright Launch

The ability of the drone to take off upright, as opposed to a fixed-wing aircraft.

v

Video Latency

The lag time between the video stream a drone is capturing and the actual time it is relayed to the pilot/controller.

VLOS

Visual Line of Sight.

w

Waypoints

Coordinates defining a point in space used to create a flight path for UAVs.

y

Yaw

Rotating the drone along its vertical axis. 

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