With the increasing presence of drones, quadcopters, and other small, unmanned aircraft in the world, both for professional and personal use, it is important to know the jargon around these aircraft. Unmanned aircraft are used in many different situations, from military reconnaissance, police surveillance, firefighting investigation, inspecting pipelines and power lines, search and rescue missions, and increasingly as a recreational past time for civilians and for commercial purposes.
Here are some of the most common terms necessary for understanding terminology that you may not be familiar with.
“Drone” is the common term used to describe unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs. These cover many different kinds of unmanned aircraft or various sizes, that are used for various reasons, from military aircrafts to hobbyists taking amateur photography for their personal blog. UAVs are also known as remotely piloted aircraft, or RPA. These aircraft use a system of electronic control and electronic sensory processes to help stabilize the craft while it is in flight.
Unmanned aerial system, or UAS, indicates not only the aircraft itself but the whole system that is required for the smooth running of the craft.
FPV, or first person view, is used to describe the viewpoint that comes with a camera on your UAV. The name comes because the image from the camera is streamed in real time to a display that the pilot can watch. The display can be on a computer screen, but there are some technologies that stream the image straight to a pair of goggles to optimize the view of the pilot. This allows the pilot to see the same thing that the UAV is “seeing” and make adjustments to its flight as necessary. There is some argument that this even means that a seasoned pilot can let the UAV leave their line of sight, although this is debateable and caution should always be used. It also allows for more personalised control of what perspective and angle is being filmed.
A rotorcraft is an aerial vehicle that gets its lift and propulsion from rotor blades, rather than the fixed wings that can be found on a airplane. When a rotorcraft has two or more rotors providing propulsion it is known as a multirotor aircraft.
A quadcopter is a UAV rotorcraft that is also known as a quadrotor helicopter. These aircraft are made of a more simple design than similar sized remote helicopter, and are propelled by four rotors rather than two.
A hexacopter is a multirotor aircraft that uses six rotors for flight.
An octocopter uses eight rotors to achieve liftoff and propulsion.
LOS is shorthand for line of sight, which is an important rule in flying an UAV; if the aircraft is not in your sight, then it is susceptible to loss of control resulting in personal or property damage.
Vertical takeoff and landing is known as VTOL, and refers to the ability of an aircraft to make vertical takeoffs and landings, rather than a horizontal ascent or descent that can be seen in fixed wing planes.