The Drone Glossary

Aerial Work

The term used by aviation authorities to describe commercial activity using UAS. Operators often refer to this, which will mean they have permission for aerial work (PFAW).


The airframe of an aircraft is its mechanical structure. It is typically considered to include fuselage, wings and undercarriage and exclude the propulsion system. The larger the airframe is, the larger the payload capacity generally speaking.

ANO - Air Navigation Order

The Air Navigation Order sets out the order and regulations of UK Airspace. It covers all of the aspects of general aviation.

ANSP – Air Navigation Service Provider

Is a body that manages flight traffic on behalf of a company, region or country.

AP – Aerial Photography

Is the abbreviation given to operators who specialise in aerial photography. You might notice it used in operator company names too.

ATC – Air Traffic Control

Is a service provided by ground-based controllers who direct aircraft on the ground and through controlled airspace, and can provide advisory services to aircraft in non-controlled airspace. These are the good guys who stop things from going wrong.

ATM – Air Traffic Management

Is an aviation term encompassing all systems that assist aircraft to depart from an aerodrome, transit airspace, and land at a destination aerodrome. The whole team.

ATS – Air Traffic Service

Is a service, which regulates and assists aircraft in real-time to ensure their safe operations.

AOA – Aircraft Operating Authorisation

Is the document that authorises an operator to perform safe aerial work operations. An important document.

ARTF – Almost Ready To Fly

Is a drone that requires additional assembly before it is ready to take flight. Most often it requires a battery and receiver too.

Autonomous Mode

Is when the drone is controlling the aircraft without pilot assistance. Usually on a pre-set flight trajectory.

BEC - Battery Eliminator Circuit

The battery eliminator circuit forms part of the electrical circuitry in a drone that is used to take the high voltage from a battery pack and convert it to a lower voltage to power the flight controller and other devices.

BLOS - Beyond Line Of Sight

Is used to describe the operation of a drone when it is out of sight from the pilot in command. Often the pilot has to use other navigational equipment to pilot the aircraft or the flight controller is in full control.

CAA - Civil Aviation Authority

Is the statutory corporation which oversees and regulates all aspects of civil aviation in the United Kingdom. Fun Fact – the CAA released the first version of the UAS regulations in January 2010.

CG - Centre of Gravity

Knowing where your centre of gravity on a drone is important to make sure it is balanced before take off. Unbalanced drones will not respond as they should and can lead to losing control while in flight.

Congested Areas

The term used by aviation authorities to describe built up areas such as a city, town, or settlement which is substantially used for residential, industrial, commercial or recreational purposes.

DA – Danger Area

Stay away.

DEM - Digital Elevation Model

Generic term covering digital topographic data in all its various forms as well as the method for interpreting implicitly of the elevations between observations.

DIA - Digital Imaging Analysis

Digital Image Analysis is when a computer or electrical device automatically studies an image to obtain useful information from it. Useful when processing large data set from drones.


The downlink is a live link between the drone and the operator. This can be used to stream data live from the drone as well as telemetry.

DOP - Director of Photography

Is the chief over the camera and lighting crews working on a film, television production or other live action piece and is responsible for achieving artistic and technical decisions related to the image.


A drone is a remotely operated vehicle.

DSM - Digital Surface Models

Model depicting elevations of the top of reflective surfaces, such as buildings and vegetation.

DTM - Digital Terrain Model

Digital representations of variables relating to a topographic surface, namely: digital elevation models (DEMs), digital models of gradient (G), aspect (A), horizontal (Kh) and vertical (Kv) land surface curvatures as well as other topographic attributes.

EASA – European Aviation Safety Agency

Is an agency of the European Union with regulatory and executive tasks in the field of civilian aviation safety.

ENDVI - Enhanced Normalised Difference Vegetation Index

Is an 'optimized' index designed to enhance the vegetation signal with improved sensitivity in high biomass regions and improved vegetation monitoring through a de-coupling of the canopy background signal and a reduction in atmosphere influences.

ESC - Electronic Speed Controller

Is responsible for the variation in an electric motors speed, it’s direction and possibly also act as a dynamic brake. Really cool gismos on your drone.

EVLOS – Extended Visual Line of Sight

There are ways to operate a drone by extending the VLOS by using spotters in radio contact to provide visual information back to the pilot through visual observation.

FAA – Federal Aviation Administration

Is the national aviation authority of the United States.


Drones can be fitted with a system in the event of a signal loss to safely return to the point of takeoff.


Is an airframe, which generates lift from the wings and by the vehicles forward momentum. Fixedwing airframes are used to cover larger distances and areas and are more commonly used for data acquisition missions.

Flight Controller

Is the hardware and software of a drone that computes and senses the position of the drone in order to control the drone via signal outputs.

Flying wing

A flying wing is a type of fixed wing aircraft without a tail and has no definite fuselage. Used over a conventional fixed wing design for a lower drag airframe.

FPV - First Person View

By using a camera attached to the drone and transmitting the image in real time to a screen or goggles the pilot can fly a first person perspective. Also a growing hobby and sport in the consumer drone community.


Is a virtual perimeter for a real-world geographic area.


A gimbal is a stabilization device fitted to a drone, which holds the camera. They can be remotely operated to control the cameras direction.

GIS - Geographic Information System

Is a system designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, manage, and present all types of spatial or geographical data.

GPS Mode

Is a type of flight mode, which a pilot can select to assist with flying. Once selected the drone will hold its position according to its GPS location.

Ground Station

Is the software running on the ground to control and receive data being transmitted from the drone. It can also be used to send commands up to the drone.

HALE – High Altitude Long Endurance

Is an aircraft classification. These drones can compete against satellites given the specific use case.


Is a multirotor helicopter that is lifted and propelled by six motors. The hexacopter offers greater stabilization in flight over a quadcopter and a level of redundancy in the event of a motor failure.

ICAO – International Civil Aviation Organisation

A United Nations agency that 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. Also worth following on twitter.


Is a feature, which counts intervals of time. This feature allows a camera to take still pictures at regular intervals for example.

LIDAR - Light Detection and Ranging

LIDAR or 3D laser scanning is a remote sensing technology that measures distance illuminating a target with a laser and analyzing the reflected light. By using this technology you can create high-resolution maps.

LIPO - Lithium-Ion Polymer Battery

Is rechargeable battery of lithium-ion technology commonly used in drones. Look after them and they will look after you.

LOS - Line of sight

Is a straight line along which an pilot has a clear view. Most commercial regulation requires LOS flight. As technology advances and regulation allows we will move to BLOS.

Loss Adjuster

Investigate insurance claims by interviewing the claimant and witnesses, consulting police and hospital records, and inspecting property damage to determine the extent of the company's liability.


Milliampere-hour is the measurement of storage capacity a specific battery can store.

MALE – Medium Altitude Long Endurance

Is an aircraft that flies at an altitude window of 10,000 to 30,000 feet for extended durations of time, typically 24 to 48 hours.

MAV - Micro Aerial Vehicle

Are really small drones. Interesting use cases are being developed all the time. Interesting space.

MTOM – Maximum Take-off Mass

Of an aircraft is the maximum weight at which the pilot is allowed to attempt to take off, due to structural or other limits.


Is a type of drone, which uses more than two rotors to generate lift and propulsion. Multirotors area a popular platform for media production because of their maneuverability and hover capabilities.


A multispectral image is one that captures image data at specific frequencies across the electromagnetic spectrum. The wavelengths may be separated by filters or by the use of instruments that are sensitive to particular wavelengths, including light from frequencies beyond the visible light range, such as infrared.

NAA – National Aviation Authority

A national aviation authority (NAA) or civil aviation authority is a government statutory authority in each country that oversees the approval and regulation of civil aviation.


Is the direction pointing directly below a particular location.

NDVI Normalised Difference Vegetation Index

Normalised Difference Vegetation Index Imaging is a simple graphical indicator that can be used to analyze remote sensing measurements and assess whether the target being observed contains live green vegetation or not.

No Fly Zone

No Fly Zones are sensitive areas which aircraft are not permitted to fly. Please check before you fly.


Is a multirotor helicopter that is lifted and propelled by eight motors. These are known in the industry as heavy lift rigs. They also offer a level of redundancy in the event of a motor failing.


Is an aerial photograph geometrically corrected (‘orthorectified’) such that the scale is uniform; the photo has the same lack of distortion as a map. An orthophotgrapth can be used to measure true distances, because it is an accurate representation of the Earth’s surface.

OSD - On Screen Display

Used to display auxiliary information like telemetry, battery usage and orientation to aid in piloting an aircraft. Very useful when flying FPV.


The amount of weight that the drone can sufficiently lift.

PCB - Printed Circuit Board

Mechanically supports and electrically connects electronic components using conductive tracks, pads and other features etched from copper sheets laminated onto a non-conductive substrate. Very important kit when building drones.

PFAW – Permission For Aerial Work

Commercial operators must obtain a license to legally operate commercially from the local Aviation Authority. The UK CAA issues the PFAW to operators once they have completed the Commercial Pilot License - Unmanned.


Is the science of making measurements from photographs, especially for recovering the exact positions of surface points.

PIC - Pilot In Command

Is the person who is ultimately responsible for its operation and safety during flight.


Is the person who is actively and directly operating the flight controls of an aircraft while in flight. Are you a pilot?


Is the angle of the nose to tail with respect to the ground, or in other words, the rotation of an aircraft about the axis from wing to wing.

POI - Point Of Interest

Is a specific point of location that is the focus of operation. Can be used as a command to automatically control camera orientation.


Also know as a quadrotor. Is a multirotor helicopter that is lifted and propelled by four motors.

RC - Remote Control

Is the use of radio signals to remotely control a device or in this case a drone.

Remote Sensing

Remote sensing is the process of making measurements of the earth using sensors on UAVs or other platforms.

ROI - Region Of Interest

Is an area of which there is particular focus. Can also contain multiple Points Of Interest (POI’s).


Is the rotation of the aircraft along the axis from its nose to its tail.

RPAS - Remotely Piloted Aerial Systems

The official term used to describe a drone, UAV, UAS.

RTH – Return To Home

Is a feature for a GPS enabled drones that will command the drone to return to its take off point autonomously. Also the same as RTL.

RTL - Return To Launch

Is a feature for a GPS enabled drones that will command the drone to return to its take off point autonomously. Also the same as RTH.

SAR - Synthetic Apeture Radar

Similarly to LIDAR, SAR measures the time taken for a pulse of radar to return to the sensor after reflecting off the earth’s surface.

Segregated Airspace

As the name suggests, is a block of airspace specifically allocated for an unmanned aircraft's flight. Collision risks are eliminated by either preventing or strictly controlling entry to this airspace by other aircraft.


Servos have integrated gears and a shaft that can be precisely controlled. Standard servos allow the shaft to be positioned at various angles, usually between 0 and 180 degrees. Continuous rotation servos allow the rotation of the shaft to be set to various speeds.

Sense and Avoid

Is a generic term used to describe a system involving one or more sensors, which has the capability to see, sense or detect conflicting traffic or other hazards and take the appropriate action to comply with the applicable rules. In this way, the system acts as a substitute for See-and-Avoid in manned aircraft.


Could refer to the camera, infrared camera, or FLIR camera.

Spatial Analysis

Spatial analysis is a set of techniques for analysing spatial data. It is the process of examining the locations, attributes, and relationships of features in spatial data through overlay and other analytical techniques. Spatial analysis extracts or creates new information from spatial data.


Involves estimating the three-dimensional coordinates of points on an object. These are determined by measurements made in two or more photographic images taken from different positions.

SUAS - Small Unmanned Aerial System

The term used to describe a small UAV typically under 7KG.

TCAS – Traffic Collision Avoidance System

Is an aircraft collision avoidance system designed to reduce the incidence of mid-air collisions between aircraft.


A thermopile is an electronic device that converts thermal energy into electrical energy. An infrared detector. Often used in pairs in UAVs to measure tilt and pitch by looking at differences in the infrared signature of the horizon fore and aft and on both sides. This is based on the fact that there is always an infrared gradient between earth and sky, and that you can keep a plane flying level by ensuring that the readings are the same from both sensors in each pair, each looking in opposite directions.


Is a field of geoscience and planetary science comprising the study of surface shape and features of the Earth.

UAV - Unmanned Aerial Vehicle

Another term for drone, RPAS, UAS.

UAS - Unmanned Aerial Systems

Another term for drone, RPAS, UAV.

VFR – Visual Flight Rules

Are a set of regulations under which a pilot operates an aircraft in weather conditions generally clear enough to allow the pilot to see where the aircraft is going.

VTOL - Vertical Take off and Landing

An aircraft that can hover, take off, and land vertically. An important feature if you’re developing delivery drones, unless you want to parachute payloads?


These are points marked on a map as part of the mission planning process when building commands for the drone.


Is the rotation of an aircraft about an axis perpendicular (90 degrees to) to the plane formed between the nose / tail and wing tips.