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A-Z Glossary of Drone Terminology: A Complete Guide (2024)

By: Richard J. Gross
Updated On: April 11, 2023

Drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), have become increasingly popular in recent years, and their usage spans from military operations to recreational activities.

With the increasing popularity of drones, it is important to understand the terminology that is used in the industry. This A-Z glossary provides a comprehensive list of drone-related terms and their meanings to help you better understand the world of drones.

A-Z Glossary of Drone Terminology

Here is a list of commonly used drone terms to help you understand everything from what a UAV is to the different types of drones that exist.

Drone Terminology


2.4 GHz Drone Frequency: The drone frequency that transfers data at a long distance than 5.8 GHz but at a slower speed.

5.8 GHz Drone Frequency: The drone frequency that transfers data more quickly at a shorter distance.



Measures the acceleration of the drone in a specific direction. Allows the drone to maintain orientation. Used to stabilize quadcopters.

AGL (Above Ground Level)

AGL stands for Above Ground Level and refers to the altitude of a drone or aircraft measured from the ground level rather than sea level. It is commonly used in aviation and drone operations to ensure safety and compliance with regulations.

Acro Mode

Acro mode is a flight mode for experienced drone pilots who want full control over their drone’s movements. It disables self-leveling features, allowing for advanced aerial maneuvers such as flips and rolls. Not recommended for beginners.


An aircraft is a vehicle designed for air travel that can be manned or unmanned. It includes airplanes, helicopters, and drones, among others.

Air Traffic Control (ATC)

Air Traffic Control (ATC) is a service provided by trained personnel to monitor and direct the movement of aircraft to ensure safe and efficient operations. ATC personnel use communication, radar, and other technologies to guide aircraft in the air and on the ground while ensuring separation from other aircraft.

AMA (Academy of Model Aeronautics)

The Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) is a non-profit organization based in the United States that promotes model aviation as a hobby and provides education and resources for its members. It also works with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to develop guidelines and regulations for model aviation.

Aerial Photography

A type of photography where drones with mounted cameras are used to capture images and video footage from a height. 

Altitude Hold function

A function of most drones using an onboard barometer. Allows the drone to hover steadily in the air at a specific height.

Atti Mode

Atti mode, short for attitude mode, is a flight control mode for drones that allows the pilot to manually control the drone’s pitch and roll while the drone maintains its altitude and heading. This mode is often used for aerial photography and cinematography.


Almost Ready to Fly. These types of drone packages usually do not come without a transmitter. It may require assembly.


The functionality of most drones to maintain flight without human intervention usually uses a pre-defined GPS path or coordinates.

Autonomous Flight

Some UAVs are controlled by pre-set internal programming containing instructions or paths using the built-in GPS system.

Auto Leveling

Auto leveling is a feature found in drones that uses onboard sensors to automatically level the drone’s flight when it detects any roll, pitch, or yaw movement. This feature helps maintain the stability and orientation of the drone in flight, allowing for more precise and smoother flying.


A plan of flight. Most drones, typically quadcopters, have four-axis controls. High-end types have more than six-axis controls.


Barometric Pressure Sensor

Measures barometric readings to detect the altitude of the drone. Helps drones calculate their height from the ground.


Process of making the drone communicate with the controller or the transmitter.


Bind-N-Fly. The drone unit is ready to bind to the controller and fly.

Brushless Motor

A type of drone motor with permanent magnets that rotate around an armature. Eliminates potential issues associated with motors with moving parts. Considered more efficient and resilient than other types of motors. 


A drone unit that was built and assembled at home.


Beyond Visual Line of Sight. A term used by the FAA and new European guidelines.


A bootloader is a program that runs on a drone’s flight controller and is responsible for loading the main firmware onto the flight controller’s memory. It is the first program that runs when a drone is powered on and is essential for updating the firmware or recovering from a failed firmware update.


Center Of Gravity

The center of gravity (CG) of a drone is the point where the weight of the drone is evenly distributed. It is an important factor in drone design and affects the drone’s stability and flight characteristics. The CG must be carefully balanced to ensure a safe and stable flight.

Certificate of Authorization (COA)

A Certificate of Authorization (COA) is a document issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that allows a government agency or specific organization to operate drones in the national airspace for specific purposes. It outlines the terms and conditions under which the drones can be operated and is required for certain types of drone operations.

Camera gimbal

A mechanism that holds third-party cameras on drones. Has the ability to tilt and swerve using servos. Strong enough to support large DSLR cameras.

Camera drone

A drone equipped with a camera for taking videos and photos with a unique perspective.


Carbon Fiber. A type of composite material typically used for racing drones. Popular for its durability and strength.


Software that will allow you to configure your drone using a graphical user interface. 

Commercial flight

The act of flying a drone for money-making purposes. Depending on the area or country, it is limited to certain licenses, such as a Remote Pilot Certificate by FAA regulations. 


A device that is used to control the drone, usually handheld. Also called a radio or transmitter. 

Controlled Airspace

Controlled airspace is the airspace that is subject to Air Traffic Control (ATC) services. It includes Class A, B, C, D, and E airspace, and drones operating in controlled airspace must obtain permission from ATC before flying. ATC provides separation between manned aircraft and drones in controlled airspace to ensure safety.



Acronym for Da-Jiang Innovations, which is the largest manufacturer of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and is based in Shenzhen, China.

Detect and Avoid (DAA or D & A)

Detect and Avoid (DAA or D & A) refers to the capability of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) to detect obstacles in their flight path and take actions to avoid them. DAA is an important safety feature for drones operating in complex environments and is achieved through a combination of sensors, algorithms, and flight planning software.

DJI Flights Modes

  • S Mode

Stands for Sports Mode; S Mode allows the DJI drone to fly ad maneuver twice as fast as normal.

  • P Mode

The Standard fight mode that most pilots use. P Mode allows for precise hovering of the drone. All sensors are active, including GPS, image, and infrared.

  • A Mode/ Atti Mode

A Mode (also known as Attitude Mode) is a drone flight mode that allows the drone to fly without GPS stabilization. This mode is used when the GPS signal is weak or not available.


A type of aircraft that does not require a human pilot onboard, typically controlled using a remote control or onboard computer.


The term employed to describe UAVs.

Drone Racing League, The (DRL)

A professional drone racing league that holds and operates international drone races.


DSMX, DSM2, and DSM are radio control protocols used in drones to transmit control signals from the transmitter to the receiver. These protocols are developed by Spektrum and are designed to offer reliable and stable signal transmission in crowded RF environments.

DSMX is the latest and most advanced protocol, while DSM2 is the previous-generation protocol that still offers good performance.

DSM is an older protocol that is no longer widely used. It’s important to ensure compatibility between your transmitter and receiver to ensure proper communication and control of your drone.


Electronic Speed Control (ESC)

A device that connects the RC receiver and the main battery. It controls the aircraft’s motor.

Electromagnetic Interference (EMI)

Known as electrical interference-now and again from external sources.

Elevator (ELEV)

Otherwise called “Pitch,” Please allude to its definition.


A collision-tolerant intuitive, and precise drone for indoor inspection,


Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)

Part of the US Department of Transportation Agency that regulates and oversees all civil aviation in the country.


A functionality that protects a drone in cases of errors, such as losing the signal from the remote control and the ability to come back to its take-off location.

First-Person View (FPV)

A functionality where the drone operator can view live footage from the drone in real-time, usually through VR goggles or a screen of a smartphone or tablet.


A type of program that is loaded into microprocessors’ non-volatile memory. For example, it determines what the autopilot does. 

Flight Control System

A network or system of interconnected controllers that allow the pilot to control the drone.

Fly Away

An unintentional flight outside the boundaries of control due to failure in the onboard system or control device, sometimes both.

Fly-Away Protection System

Functionality that will automatically return the drone to the surface or within the control boundaries. 

FPV camera

A specially-made camera for the first-person view capabilities of the drone. Typically found in racing drones or camera drones.

FPV goggles

A special type of goggles that is used to view a live feed from the drone’s camera in real-time.

FPV Racing

An emerging sport where special types of drones, usually small racing UAVs, race around a predetermined track.


A specific frequency is used by FPV equipment. Usually brand specific. There are multiple frequency channels available, especially during drone racing events, so pilots do not interfere with each other.



A virtual geographic boundary is created using GPS technology which allows specific control software to respond when a drone flies within the area.


A special camera mount that allows movement, such as tilts and swerves, using servos. It allows stable camera footage regardless of the drone’s movements resulting in sharp and smooth images or videos.

Geographic Information System (GIS)

A system created to collect, store, analyze, manage, and display geographic or spatial data. 


A popular brand of high-definition camera usually used in high-action photography and videography. These cameras are usually lightweight, compact, and waterproof. Additionally, they can be mounted on moving craft or wearable devices.

Global Positioning System (GPS)

A system that tracks and identifies the position of an object with respect to the global spatial plane. Usually used to track the movement or hold the position of a drone. 

Ground Control Station (GCS)

A program that runs on the ground control receives telemetry data from a UAV. The data usually includes video and sensor information. It can also be used to transmit commands to the drone in flight.


Also called a gyro. A device that measures the rotation of the drone and allows the craft to maintain a correct balanced with respect to roll, pitch, and yaw. It also allows the drone to maintain the right orientation of the drone during its flight. Most quadcopters have a triple-axis gyroscope. 


Head tracking

A function of some VR goggles that maneuvers the drone’s camera angles during its flight by moving the wearer’s head up and down or sideways.

Headless Mode

The drone will follow your control stick’s movement regardless of the position of the drone’s front end.


A drone with six propellers.

Hobby drone

A mid-sized drone for beginner hobbyists, typically with built-in cameras or can carry payloads.

Hobby Grade

A step above toy-grade drones. These types of quadcopters are reliable at a reasonable price. Examples are Syma X8G and MJX Bugs.

Hitra (High-Intensity Radio Transmission Area)

Hitra is a specialized type of radio transmission area that can be used for drone operations. It is designed to provide high-speed, reliable data communication between the drone and its operators, even in challenging environments.

I, J

Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU)

A type of controller that combines a gyro and an accelerometer which enhances the stability and orientation of the drone.

Inertial Navigation System (INS)

A method of calculating the position of the drone that is based on the initial GPS data. It is usually complemented by readings from the motion and speed sensors. The data is useful when the drone loses its GPS signal.

Intelligent Orientation Control (IOC)

A method of control where the drone follows the control stick’s directions regardless of the position of the drone’s front end.

IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit)

An Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) is a device used to measure and report the acceleration, orientation, and angular velocity of an object. It is commonly used in drones to collect data from the environment, such as pitch, yaw, and roll, which can then be used for accurate navigation control.


A distortion in video feeds that is caused by the vibration of the drone. Typically, drones without a quality gimbal suffer from the jello effect.



When there are products close to release and unofficial photos and videos of them appear online. Some examples are the DJI Mavic 3 or the DJI FPV Drone.

Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) System

An application that is developed by the drone industry that provides UAV operators with real-time processing of airspace notifications. It also automatically approves the flight requests of eligible drones in controlled airspace. 

Light Detection And Ranging (LiDAR)

Also called active laser scanning. A technology that uses a pulsing laser that plots an object’s three-dimensional topography in maps. It is usually mounted on GPS-enabled drones with the aim of collecting geographical data.

Lithium Polymer (LiPo)

A type of battery technology that is favored by many drone manufacturers because of its lightweight and high-capacity charging. While it is generally safe, LiPo’s can burst in flames when overcharged, or the polymer case is broken.

Short for Line of Sight (LOS)

The ability to see a drone that you are operating from your position with just your naked eye.

Lithium Ion Battery (Li-Ion)

A lithium-ion battery (Li-Ion) is a rechargeable battery commonly used in drone technology. It is known for its high energy density, low self-discharge rate, and long cycle life.


Milliamp Hour (mAh)

A unit of measurement that describes power over time. It is usually used to indicate how much power a battery can provide.


A magnetometer is a device that measures magnetic fields. It is commonly used in various applications, such as geophysics, archaeology, and aerospace engineering.

Mini drone

A type of drone that is inexpensive without camera attachments or payloads; for beginners or children.

Mean Sea Level (MSL)

Mean Sea Level (MSL) is a vertical datum used to measure the elevation of points on or above the Earth’s surface relative to the average sea level.

Micro Air Vehicle (MAV)

Micro Air Vehicles (MAVs) are small unmanned aerial vehicles typically weighing less than 1 kg and designed for military and civilian applications.

Mobius Camera

A popular type of camera that is lightweight and can take video footage in high-definition. It can also take intervalometer photos. The camera is mostly used in RC drones. 


Short for modifications. Custom changes are made by drone owners to their crafts to add features and functionalities that are not usually commercially available.

Mode 1 transmitters

Controllers with throttle sticks are positioned on the right. Usually more popular in the United Kingdom (UK).

Mode 2 transmitters

Controllers with throttle sticks are positioned on the left. Usually more popular in the United States (US).


A drone with multiple propellers; is an umbrella term.


An international drone racing league that manages and governs various radio-controlled racing. 

N, O


A type of controller that is used in DJI Phantom drones. It includes the main control chip, a gyroscope, an accelerometer, and a barometric altimeter.

NOTAM (Notice to Airmen)

NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) is a notice filed with an aviation authority to alert aircraft pilots of potential hazards along a flight route or at a location that could affect the safety of the flight.

No-Fly Zone

Areas where it is prohibited to fly drones as per the mandate of the government or any local governing body. Typically, No-Fly Zones include airports and other private areas. 

Obstacle Avoidance System (OAS)

A system that was developed to provide immediate alerts and notifications to the pilot when an aircraft is about to run into an obstacle.


A drone with 8 propellers or rotors.

On-Screen Display (OSD)

A graphical user interface that shows drone flight data such as speed, heading, battery life, and more.

Obstacle Avoidance

Obstacle avoidance is a crucial aspect of drone technology that helps prevent accidents during roof inspections. It allows drones to navigate around obstacles such as trees, buildings, and power lines.

P, Q

Part 107

Refers to the CFR Part 107 of the FAA Regulations that covers non-hobbyist UAVs weighing less than 55 pounds (24.9 kg) used for commercial purposes. Applies to drones flying in the United States.


The additional weight that a drone can lift on top of its own weight. For example, a third-party camera and gimbal attached to the drone are considered payloads.

Power Distribution Board (PDB)

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


Photogrammetry is a technique used in drone roof inspections to create 3D models of the roof using aerial images captured by the drone’s camera.


Refers to the forward and backward motion of the drone. A flight angle along an axis measures against level.

Pre-Flight Planning

Any activities or preparations conducted by the pilot or the drone operator before the takeoff. This may include but is not limited to safety measures, checking the weather, the path of the flight, equipment, support staff, and more.

Professional drone

A high-end drone with four or more propellers; often has a built-in high-definition camera for photographs and videos.


Refers to the Propeller.


A drone with four propellers (known as a quadrocopter or quadrocopter).



A frequency (5.8 GHz) is typically used in drone racing, especially when multiple pilots are flying.

Racing drone

a drone relatively smaller and more agile; developed for drone racing; includes a built-in camera for a cockpit view.

Radio Controller (RC or R/C)

A device that broadcasts in a specific channel or frequency to the drone during a flight to send instructions or control signals.

Receiver (Rx)

A device that accepts the signal of the camera’s feed and displays it on a Google screen. 


Roll is a term used to describe the movement of a drone along its longitudinal axis, which is the axis that runs from the front to the back of the drone.

Remotely Piloted Aerial Vehicle (RPAV)

An official name of drones.

Return to Home

A drone’s feature is that the device uses GPS technology to return to the position where it took off.

Ready to Fly (RTF)

Refers to drone packages available in the market where everything needed for flying is included. The device is ready to fly without any assembly required.


Rotorcraft refers to aircraft that use lift generated by one or more rotors. They include helicopters, autogyros, and other rotary-wing aircraft.


Similar to YAW – capable of controlling which direction the UAV is flying.

Received Signal Strength Indicator (RSSI)

Received Signal Strength Indicator (RSSI) is a metric used in wireless communication systems to measure the power of the received signal. It is often used to determine the quality of a wireless connection.


Sense and Avoid

The functionality of some UAS to avoid collisions with obstacles and other aircraft.

Servomotor (Servo)

Also known as a servomechanism. A mechanism used in an aircraft to perform various functions, such as flap wings or pan cameras.

Small Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS)

A small unmanned aircraft system (sUAS) is a drone that weighs less than 55 pounds, including any attachments or cargo.

Sensor Assisted Flight Envelope (SAFE)

The Sensor Assisted Flight Envelope (SAFE) is a technology used in drones to improve their safety and stability during flight.

Spatial Awareness

Spatial awareness is the ability to understand and perceive one’s position in a given space. In the context of drone roof inspections, spatial awareness is crucial for the safe and effective operation of the drone.


Another person that keeps your drone within line-of-sight when the pilot is in FPV. They usually identify obstacles and hazards that you might not see in FPV.



A mechanism that influences the speed of the motors. As such, the higher the throttle, the more thrust.


The force of the motor and the propeller generates lift that takes the drone airborne. 


A type of drone that is meant for beginners with basic functionalities


A way to adjust the drone while it hovers allows the craft to stay in place.


Similar to the controller – intended for controlling the UAV in flight from the ground.


Telemetry refers to the process of collecting and transmitting data from a remote source, often used in drone operations to track and monitor flight performance.

Temporary Flight Restriction

Temporary flight restriction is a type of airspace restriction that is issued by the FAA to prohibit aircraft, including drones, from flying in a certain area for a specific period of time due to a public safety or security concern.


Ultrasonic sensor

A type of device that uses ultrasound wavelength to communicate with a transmitter. Some drones it is used to measure the distance between the craft and the ground. Usually works only for a few meters from the ground.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)

the official term for drones.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Systems (UAVs)

a system that includes UAVs, land-based control systems, communication systems, launch mechanisms, and more.

Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM)

Coined by NASA to integrate unmanned and manned crafts into low-altitude space. A cloud-based system that manages air traffic to avoid a collision, especially with a limited line of sight. 

Uncontrolled Airspace

Airspace without ATC services.

Upright Launch

The upright launch is a method of launching drones and other unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) vertically, using the thrust generated by their rotors. It is especially suited for small drones because of its simplicity and efficiency.

V, W, Y

Video Latency

Refers to the lag or delay in what you see in your monitor or goggle display and what your camera captures.

Visual line of sight (VLOS)

Refers to the pilot’s view from the ground to the drone without the use of any artificial vision such as goggles or displays. 

Visual Observer

Another crew or person is tasked to assist the drone pilot in avoiding obstacles, clouds, other aircraft, and more. Usually needed when flying on FPV.

Video transmitter (VTX)

A device that is connected to the camera. It transmits a signal to the device on the ground that displays the video feed.

Virtual Reality Goggles

A VR headset for drones is made so it can come with advanced features like head tracking or simply be used for more immersion.


A point in space represented by coordinates which are typically used in designing paths for drones in autonomous flights. 


A technology on low-end drones that connects a mobile device to the drone using an application that captures the video feed.


Wingspan refers to the distance from the tip of one wing to the tip of the opposite wing when they are fully extended. In drones, the wingspan is an important factor in determining flight stability and maneuverability.


A drone’s movement or rotation around its center axis on a specific plane.


What is the basic terminology of drones?

The basic terminology related to drones includes UAS (Unmanned Aircraft System), UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle), RPAs (Remotely Piloted Aircraft), and MAVs (Micro Air Vehicles).

What is UAV in drone terminology?

UAV stands for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle and is one of the most common terms related to drones. A UAV is an aircraft that does not have a human pilot onboard and is instead operated remotely by either a human operator or an autonomous onboard computer system. UAVs are used for tasks including surveillance, search and rescue, reconnaissance, monitoring, and mapping purposes.

What are the 4 major types of drones?

The 4 major types of drones include fixed-wing drones, multirotor drones, hybrid drones, and single-rotor helicopters.

What are the five parts of a drone?

The five parts of a drone are the propulsion system, flight controller, sensors, battery, and communications systems.

What is the formula of the drone?

The formula for drones is essentially the same as for other aircraft, with thrust, drag, lift, and weight as the main forces that affect a drone’s flight. Additionally, yaw (rotating about an axis) and pitch (tilting about an axis) can be used to steer the drone, while roll changes its bank angle. All of these components work together to fly a drone in a specific direction or perform various aerial maneuvers.

What is PID UAV?

PID (Proportional, Integral, Derivative) UAV is an acronym for a type of control system used to maintain the altitudinal and lateral position of drones. It works by taking input from the drone’s sensors and comparing it with preset values to adjust thrust, yaw, pitch, and roll accordingly in order to keep the aircraft stable during flight. PID UAVs are the most commonly used type of drone due to their ability to be easily programmed and managed without needing manual intervention

What is UAS vs UAV vs drone?

UAS stands for Unmanned Aircraft System and is a term used to describe the whole system, including the aircraft (UAV) as well as control systems, flight crew, ground control station, payloads, and other necessary parts.

UAV stands for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle and refers specifically to the drone itself. A drone is a generic term that can refer to both UAS and UAVs. They are all essentially flying robots with various sizes, shapes, and designs depending on their purpose or mission requirements.

What is FF (Free Fire) UAV?

FF (Free Fire) UAV is a type of drone that uses infrared technology to autonomously detect and track targets, then fire at them with pre-programmed projectiles. It relies on advanced sensors, computer vision algorithms, and machine learning models to identify targets in its vicinity.

This autonomous firing capability allows the system to attack multiple targets without needing manual intervention from an operator. Military forces around the world increasingly use FF UAVs for surveillance, reconnaissance, target acquisition, and offensive operations

What are the 4 channels in a drone?

The four channels in a drone are throttle, yaw, pitch, and roll. The throttle is used to control the speed of the motor(s), while the other three control how the aircraft moves about its axes.

Yaw changes the orientation side-to-side, pitch changes forward and backward tilt, and roll changes banking angle (like turning left or right). Together they allow a drone to move freely in any direction through 3D space.

What are C-class drones?

C-class drones are small, lightweight drone models that are typically used for recreational or consumer purposes. They have no onboard camera and usually have a limited range and battery life compared to larger professional-grade drones.

C-class drones often feature basic sensors such as gyros, accelerometers, and barometric pressure sensors to help them stay in control during flight. They’re great for beginners looking to learn how to fly a drone without making a large investment.


In conclusion, the A-Z Glossary of Drone Terminology provides a comprehensive list of terms and definitions related to drones and their technology. Understanding these terms is essential for pilots, operators, and enthusiasts to operate drones safely and effectively.

From basic components like batteries and propellers to more complex terms like geofencing and obstacle avoidance, this glossary covers all the essential aspects of drone technology.

As drones continue to evolve and become more integrated into our lives, this glossary will remain a valuable resource for anyone interested in this exciting field.

Thank you for reading! We hope this glossary of drone terminology was helpful in understanding the various technical terms associated with drones.

Richard J. Gross

Hi, my name is Richard J. Gross and I’m a full-time Airbus pilot and commercial drone business owner. I got into drones in 2015 when I started doing aerial photography for real estate companies. I had no idea what I was getting into at the time, but it turns out that police were called on me shortly after I started flying. They didn’t like me flying my drone near people, so they asked me to come train their officers on the rules and regulations for drones. After that, I decided to start my own drone business and teach others about the safe and responsible use of drones.

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