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Aviation Terms and Drone (UAV & Quadcopter) Terminology

There seems to be a lot of terms out there in the drone industry that might confuse the beginner pilot so I have put together a list of terms with definitions (a brief dictionary). We hope this helps.

drone terms, definiton, meanings and more

Please let us know if you have any terms that you would like defined and added.

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2.4 Ghz

The frequency used by digital (spread spectrum) radio communications in our applications, including 2.4Ghz RC, Bluetooth and some video transmission equipment. This is a different band than the older 72 Mhz band that is used for analogue RC communications. To avoid radio frequency conflict is it often a good idea to use 72 Mhz radio equipment when you are using 2.4 GHz onboard video transmitters, or use 900 Mhz video when using 2.4 GHz RC equipment.

5.8 Ghz
Commonly band such as 2.4 GHz used most in microwaves, Bluetooth, drones, etc. So using your drone in this band may lead to disturbances from other wireless devices or drones. Hence 5.8HGz is the preferred frequency of professionals because it operates in a high range and bandwidth. It will also contain low disturbance compared to 2.4 GHz.

A

Accelerometer (ACC)

A device that measures acceleration forces in a specific direction. Used to help stabilize quadcopters, often under windy conditions.

Acro Mode
It is also known as the “Rate Mode” where it utilize RC controller to control the angular velocity of the drone. Most of this is used on performing flips and rolls.
Aircraft

A device that is used or intended to be used for flight in the air.

Air Traffic Control (ATC)

A service operated by appropriate authority (such as the FAA in the US) to promote the safe, orderly, and expeditious flow of air traffic. We often use this term to designate the Air Traffic Controllers (sometimes called ATCOs) that ensure this service locally.

Air Traffic Management (ATM)

The aggregation of the airborne functions and ground-based functions (air traffic services, airspace management and air traffic flow management) required to ensure the safe and efficient movement of aircraft during all phases of operations.

All Up Weight (AUW)
Total weight of the quadcopter including battery and other parts
Almost Ready To Fly (ARTF)
Sometimes also known as ARA – drone package includes everything but might require some assembly. Usually means that receiver is not included.
Altitude Hold (AH)
Height maintenance of the drone – uses Barometric Altimeter sensor.
Auto Leveling
Flight mode that allows the copter stay level and it uses Accelerometer for it.
Autonomous Aircraft
An unmanned aircraft that does not allow pilot intervention in the management of the flight. It is a subcategory of unmanned aircraft (UA).
Autonomous Flight
Flying guided by GPS Waypoints.
Autonomous operation
An operation during which a remotely-piloted aircraft is operating without pilot intervention in the management of the flight.
Aerial Photography (AP)

Aerial photography is the taking of photographs from an aircraft or other flying objects.

B

Barometric Altimeter (BARO)
Altitude measurement sensor – uses barometric pressure – same as the transmitter – controls the drone/quadcopter in flight from the ground.
Bind
Procedure for linking the controller to the drone.
Bind aNd Fly (BNF)
Bind-N-Fly products come with everything you need except for a transmitter to control the drone. With BNF products you can use the transmitter of your own pick and bind it to the receiver included 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.
Bootloader
The unique code stored in non-volatile memory in a microprocessor that can interface with a PC to download a user‘s program.
Brushless Motor
A brushless motor has permanent magnets which rotate around a fixed armature eliminating problems associated with connecting current to the moving part. The brushless motors are far more efficient and durable than brushed motors.

C

Centre of Gravity (CG or CoG)
The average centre balance point of your drone.
Controlled Airspace
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.

D

Detect and Avoid (D&A or DAA)
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.
Drone
The common term utilized to define unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs. These cover many different types of an unmanned aeroplane or various sizes, that are made use of for multiple factors, from armed forces planes to hobbyists taking amateur digital photography. UAVs are additionally called remotely piloted aircraft, or RPA.
DSM / DSM2 / DSMX
Spektrum, an RC equipment maker, refers to their proprietary technology as “Digital Spectrum Modulation.” Each transmitter has a globally unique identifier (GUID), to which receivers can be bound, ensuring that no transmitter will interfere with other nearby Spektrum DSM systems. DSM uses Direct-Sequence Spread Spectrum (DSSS) technology.
DSSS
Direct-Sequence Spread Spectrum is a modulation technique. As with other spread spectrum technologies, the transmitted signal takes up more bandwidth than the information signal that modulates the carrier or broadcast frequency. The name ‘spread spectrum’ comes from the fact that the carrier signals occur over the full bandwidth (spectrum) of a device’s transmitting frequency.

E

Electromagnetic Interference (EMI)
Electrical interference – sometimes from outside sources.
Electronic Speed Control (ESC)
Device to control the motor in an electric aircraft. Serves as the connection between the main battery and the RC receiver. Usually includes a BEC, or Battery Elimination Circuit (BEC), which provides power for the RC system and other onboard electronics, such as an autopilot.
Electronically Erasable Programmable Read Only Memory (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, e.g., static calibration/reference tables. Unlike bytes in most other kinds of non-volatile memory, individual bytes in a traditional EEPROM can be independently read, erased, and re-written.
Elevator (ELEV)
Also known as “Pitch”, Please refer its definition.

F

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)

A United States Department of Transportation Agency, it has authority to regulate and oversee all aspects of American civil aviation. Visit their official site here.

Field of View (FOV)

A measurement how much environment you can see through a camera lens. Usually measured in degrees.

First Person View (FPV)
Wireless connection with the drone’s camera to a screen either on the controller or an attached screen (smartphone or tablet) – you see what the drone sees. There is some debate that this also implies that an experienced pilot can let the UAV leave their line of sight, although this is debatable and caution ought to always be utilized.
Flight controller (FC)
“Brain” of the drone.
Flight Envelope
Ranges of manoeuvrability where limits of roll, pitch and yaw attitude are set to protect the stability of an aircraft.
Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum (FHSS)
Frequency-Hopping Spread Spectrum is 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.advantages over a fixed-frequency transmission: Advantages: 1. Spread-spectrum signals are highly resistant to narrowband interference. The process of recollecting a spread signal spreads out the interfering signal, causing it to recede into the background. 2. Spread-spectrum signals are difficult to intercept. A spread-spectrum signal may merely appear as an increase in the background noise to a narrowband receiver. An eavesdropper may have difficulty intercepting a transmission in real time if the pseudorandom sequence is not known. 3. Spread-spectrum transmissions can share a frequency band with many types of conventional transmissions with minimal interference. The spread-spectrum signals add minimal noise to the narrow-frequency communications, and vice versa. As a result, bandwidth can be used more efficiently.

G

Gimbal
A specialized mount for a camera, which can swerve and tilt using servos. It allows the camera to stay in the same position, regardless of the drone’s movement, making for a very still and smooth looking image.
Global Positioning System (GPS)
Tracks position of the drone via satellite.
Ground Control Station (GCS)
Software running on a computer on the ground that receives telemetry information from an airborne UAV and displays its progress and status, often including video and other sensor data. Can also be used to transmit in-flight commands to the UAV.
Gyroscope
Provides an angular velocity around 3 axes of space in degrees to maintain the orientation of the quadcopter.

H

Hexacopter (Hexa)
A multirotor aircraft that uses six rotors for air travel.

I

Inercial Measurement Unit (IMU)
Accelerometer plus a Gyro attached to the controller for orientation and stabilization Usually has at least three accelerometers (measuring the gravity vector in the x, y and z dimensions) and two gyros (measuring rotation around the tilt and pitch axis). Neither are sufficient by themselves since accelerometers are thrown off by movement (i.e., they are “noisy” over short periods of time), while gyros drift over time. The data from both types of sensors must be combined in software to determine right aircraft attitude and movement.
Inner Loop / Outer Loop
Usually used to refer to the stabilization and navigation functions of an autopilot. The stabilization function must run in real-time and 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”).

J

K

L

Lithium Polymer Batter (LIPO)
Variants include Lithium Ion (Li-Ion) battery. This battery chemistry offers more power and lighter weight than NiMh and NiCad batteries.
Line of Sight (LOS)
Shorthand for the view, which is a crucial regulation in flying a UAV; if the aircraft is not in your sight, then it is prone to loss of control resulting in individual or property damage.

M

Magnometer
Electronic compass that flight controller uses to know which direction it is pointed in.
Micro Air Vehicle (MAV)
Mobius
Type of camera for small quads – capable of 1080p high definition.
Modding
Modifying your quadcopter. Example: adding a better camera.
Model Aircraft
An unmanned aircraft that is capable of sustained flight in the atmosphere; flown within VLOS of the person operating the aircraft and flown fo hobby or recreational purposes.

N

NAZA
Type of controller which has an accelerometer, gyro and barometric accelerometer.

O

Octocopter
Utilizes eight blades to attain liftoff and then propulsion.
On Screen Display (OSD)
A way to integrate data (often telemetry information) into the real-time video stream the aircraft is sending to the ground.

P

Payload
What the drone can carry/lift.
Pitch
The angle of drone in flight – controls which arm is higher than the others.

Q

QUAD / Quadcopter
A UAV rotorcraft that is likewise called a quadrotor helicopter. These aeroplanes are made of a more straightforward layout than a similar sized remote helicopter and are pushed by 4 blades instead of two.

R

Radio Controlled (RC)
Which is how drones receive flight instructions. The ground-based pilot may use a hand-held unit like a game controller or, if the UAV has Wi-Fi capabilities, a computer or tablet can be used.
Ready To Fly (RTF)
Refers to drones or quadcopters that have everything you need, “in the box”, to start flying. It includes: The Rechargeable batteries Instruction manual Controllers require batteries, and usually are not included in the box.
Received Signal Strength Indicator (RSSI)
The strength of radio signal from the controller to drone.
Return to Home (RTH)
Return the drone to the “home” position where it took off.
Revolutions Per Minute (RPM)
The number of times the drones motor shaft rotates a full cycle in 60 seconds.
Roll
Flight term for rotation along an axis. Provides side to side motion of the drone.
Rotorcraft
An airborne car that gets its lift as well as propulsion from rotor blades, as opposed to the deal with wings that can be discovered on a plane. When a rotorcraft has 2 or more blades supplying propulsion, it is known as a multirotor aeroplane.
Rudder (RUD)
Same a YAW – controls which direction the drone is flying.

S

SAFE Technology
Sensor Assisted Flight Envelope technology is a revolutionary electronic flight envelope protection system. It also offers smoother flight capability that battles windy conditions for you and multiple modes so you can fly with the level of protection and assistance that suits any given moment of the flight.
Spatial Awareness
The ability to be aware of oneself in space. Aircraft with SAFE technology use this awareness to help the RC pilot maintain control within a specific flight envelope.

T

Transmitter
Same as a controller – controls the drone in flight from the ground.
Throttle
Controls the speed – revolutions of the propellers/motors.

U

Upright Launch
Also landing is known as VTOL, and then refers to the capacity of an aircraft making upright takeoffs and landings, instead of a straight climb or descent that could be seen in set wing aeroplanes.
Unmanned Airborne System (UAS)
The unmanned airborne system shows not only the aeroplane itself yet the whole system that is needed for the smooth running of the craft.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. In the military, these are increasingly called Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), to reflect that the aircraft is just part of a complex system in the air and on the ground. Ground-based autonomous robots are called Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs), and robot submersibles are called Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs). Robot boats are called Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USVs).

V

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.

W

Waypoint
Set of 3 or more coordinates used to locate the drone during autonomous missions. Satellites are pinged for this.
Wing Span
The maximum distance from wingtip to wingtip.

Y

Yaw
Flight term used to describe the rotation of a drone around its centre axis. Controls which direction the quadcopter is facing.

Z

2 Comments

  1. Jessica Simson

    Hello,nice share.

    Reply
    • Oliver McClintock

      Jessica, thanks for that. Share this terminology page with your friends as it could be a handy resource for those who are drone challenged or new to the industry.

      Reply

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