What is a drone?
- Amazon Prime Air will soon be delivering packages using drones.
- Wars and military engagements are being fought with drones.
- Real estate professionals will use drones to highlight the features of their properties
- Hollywood directors will use drones to film blockbuster movies.
It begs the question: what is a drone? Simply put, a drone, is an unmanned aircraft or flying robot. Drones are also referred to as unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAV for short.
A drone can be piloted using remote control or software that maps out a flight plan connected with GPS. Drones have the ability to go from one point to another simply by clicking a mouse or touching a screen, without humans directly intervening. Basically a drone is a robot that uses GPS to follow a simple directive: go there.
What are drones used for today?
While most commonly thought of as a military tool, drones provide other value functions as well. Monitoring traffic, watching the weather, fighting fire, and aerial photography are common uses for UAVs. Drones range in size, scope and ability. Some, like military drones, are the size of small fighter jets and can launch strike missiles. Think a new kind of warfare. Others, commercial drones, are essentially small, sophisticated remote controlled toys that have been outfitted with a camera, such as the Parrot AR Drone.
What does the future hold for drones?
In the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is developing regulations for the operation of unmanned aircraft. The drone industry has grown largely as a result of supporting defense organizations. However, operations in civil airspace presents different challenges. Civil safety standards are often more stringent, especially in the areas of safety and reliability. The public expects a safe aviation environment and the FAA is determined to develop broad standards.
Other names for drones
- Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)
- Unmanned Aerial System (UAS)
- Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA)
- Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS)
- Unmanned Aircraft (UA)
- Remotely Piloted Vehicle (RPV)
- Remotely Operated Aircraft (ROA)
“Please don’t call them drones”
Some industry professionals want to differentiate between UAS (unmanned aerial system) and RPA (remotely piloted aircraft). They say there’s a big difference between military aircraft that launches missile strikes and a remote controlled quadcopter with a camera attached. Or how about an aircraft that flies by GPS delivering packages to GPS-specific addresses? Read this primer for how some in the industry are beginning to differentiate sub-categories of drones by name.