Drone, Quadcopter, Multirotor Definitions and Glossary

Drone language may be confusing for noobs. This is a small glossary put together to help you understand the more commonly used terms in Drone, Quadcopter, Multirotor arena.

A

Accelerometer: This is a sensor that figures out the acceleration in a specific direction and is also responsible for maintaining the orientation of a drone. These devices play a significant role in stabilizing a drone.

Aerial photography: A hobby or method to pass your leisure time by capturing videos and images in the air with a camera attached to your drone

AGL: Altitude above Ground Level

Altitude Holder: Once a pilot throttles the drone to a certain elevation and lets go of the throttle, the drone maintains that elevation while hovering over the particular location. This allows the pilot to focus on capturing the aerial videos and images rather than worry about controlling the drone. An integrated barometer is required for this functionality to work.

Autopilot: This is the ability of a drone to fly in the air without being maneuvered in the real time by a human being. For instance, by following pre-programmed GPS coordinates.

Axis: It is one plane of potential flight. Most of the drones come with four axis control while most of the modern day drones are equipped with more than 6 axis control which is highly preferred

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B

Barometric Pressure Sensor: It utilizes barometric values to calculate the elevation attained by a drone. In tandem with a number of other features, it lets the drone determine the height achieved. It is mainly responsible for the altitude hold functionality.

Bind: A process that synchronizes the controller or the transmitter with the drone

BNF: An acronym for Bind and Fly which implies that the unit is ready to bind to your controller and fly

Brushless motor: These kind of motors come with permanent magnets that rotate around a stationery armature which exterminates any issues that may arise because of the moving components with regard to connecting current. The brushless motors are more efficient, durable and reliable in contrast to brushed motors.

Build: A device that is constructed from scratch at home in comparison with the one that is purchased from the market

BVLOS: An acronym for Beyond Visual Line of Sight

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C

Camera gimbal: It is the camera holder used in drones. It is powered by servo motors and has the ability to tilt and swerve in certain directions. Some of the gimbals are sturdy enough to be compatible with large DSLR cameras

Controller: It is the handheld device that a pilot uses to maneuver the drone. It is also known as a transmitter.

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D

Drone: An unmanned aerial vehicle equipped with intelligent flight features

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E

Electronic speed control (ESC): This machine is responsible for controlling the operation of an electric aircraft’s motor. It connects a RC receiver to the main battery. It incorporates a Battery Elimination Circuit (BEC), that furnishes power for all the integrated electronic components such as autopilot and RC system

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F

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA): An agency within the purview of the US department of transportation. It is authorized to frame rules to regulate and supervise all aspects of American civil aviation

First Person View (FPV): It is a system in which the integrated drone camera captures real time video feed and transmits it directly to a LCD monitor, smartphone or Virtual Reality headset for the pilot to view.

Firmware: This is the software that is impregnated into the microprocessor of a drone and is based on the machine’s non-volatile memory and remains in this state even after the device has been switched off. In case of the auto pilot feature, it comprises a set of instructions that tell the drone what and how to accomplish this functionality.

FPV: An acronym for First Person View and also known as Remote Person View. It is located on a camera attached to a drone and lets the pilot view what exactly is being captured by the drone’s eye.

Flight control system: An interconnected network of controls and provides the pilot with the requisite tools to fly any multirotor vehicle

Fly away: An undesired flight that takes place outside the intended operational limits of elevation, speed and control owing to a malfunctioning in the integrated flight control systems

Fly away protection system: A system that is responsible for ensuring that the drone comes back safe and sound to the surface or remains within the intended operational limits when the connectivity between the device and the pilot is broken

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G

Gimbal: It is the camera holder used in drones. It is powered by servo motors and has the ability to tilt and swerve in certain directions. Some of the gimbals are sturdy enough to be compatible with large DSLR cameras

GPS: The Global Positioning System is a navigation system guided by satellites. The radio receiver that comes with a drone receives signals from the orbiting satellites to figure out the position coordinates, speed and time of the machine

Ground Control Station (GCS): This is a software program that runs on the ground on a computer system. The drone transmits telemetry data to the ground station which primarily includes sensor and video data. It can also be utilized for transmitting in-flight instructions to the drone

Gyroscope: A gyroscope also known as the gyro is responsible for measuring the rate of rotation of the drone and ensures that the device remains stable vis-à-vis yaw, pitch and roll. It also helps in maintaining the orientation of the drone mid-flight. Generally, quadcopters employ a three axis gyroscope

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H

Hexacopter: This is a multirotor device with six rotors which allow it the luxury of motor redundancy. This means that even if one of the motors attached to each of the propellers stops working, the aircraft will still keep flying

Hobby-grade: These aircrafts are slightly better than toy-grade drones and offer decent performance and flight characteristics at a nominal price

Headless mode: The headless mode makes the orientation irrelevant. With the headless mode triggered on, and the drone facing you, if you push the stick in the forward direction, the drone will fly towards you. However, when in headless mode, you need to ensure that before launching your drone, the front of the drone is your front as well. It is mandatory to activate the headless mode before flight and never mid-flight

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I

IMU: It is an acronym for Inertial Measurement Unit which is a combination of an accelerometer and a gyroscope and is responsible for ensuring the stability and orientation of a drone

Inertial Navigation System (INS): It is method to obtain the position of a drone with the help of the initial GPS readings. Dead reckoning is utilized to calculate speed and motion sensor readings later on. This is a handy technique when the drone has lost connection with the GPS signal temporarily

IOC: An acronym for Intelligent Orientation Control is used to control the orientation of the drone. Generally, the forward direction of a drone is the same as its direction of nose. By using the IOC, the forward direction becomes independent of the nose direction

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JKL

Line of Sight: Line of sight is also known as LOS which means that a pilot is able to keep an eye at the drone and it is within his or her eye sight. According to FAA rules, a drone should always remain within the LOS of a pilot

LiPo: This is an acronym for Lithium Polymer batteries and is a kind of battery that is preferred by most of the manufacturers owing to its lightweight and optimum charge capacity and power. They should be handled with caution since overcharging them or breaking the polymer casing could result in fire

Lithium Polymer Battery: The Lithium Ion battery (Li Ion) is a variant. The LiPo is more powerful and reliable as compared to NiCad and NiMh batteries

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M

Mobius Camera: This is popular lightweight camera that is able to capture video in High Definition and take intervalometer images. It has been developed primarily to be used with drones

Mod: An abbreviation for Modification. Drone enthusiasts modify their drones to integrate more functionalities and enhance their machine’s performance. These modifications are generally referred to as mods

Multicopter: This is a generic name for a drone with multiple propellers. The horizontal propellers are also called as rotors. A drone may be referred to as a tricopter, quadcopter, hexacopter or an octacopter depending on the number of rotors it has

Multirotor copters: These may be called as drones, quadcopters, quadricopters or quadrocopters

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N

No Fly Zone: These are areas where flying a drone is restricted or prohibited by law enforcement agencies. These areas mainly consist of installations where a drone is likely to interfere with an airplane or record critical information

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O

Octocopter: This is a drone that consists of eight horizontal propellers or rotors

OSD: An acronym for On Screen Display

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P

Payload: This is the amount of extra weight that a drone is able to carry in addition to its own weight and the batteries. An attached camera mounted on a gimbal comprise a payload

Pitch: This is a quantity that gives a measure of the flight angle along one axis and is generally measured from level in case of drones

Pre Flight Planning: These are the set of activities perpetrated by the pilot and his crew prior to launching the aircraft in the air to ensure that the flight is as safe as possible and in accordance with the desired safety standards and protocols. These activities may include inspection of weather conditions, determination of flight trajectory, airspace inspection, equipment adjustment, support personnel, terrain and communication requirements

Power Distribution Board: This is an electronic circuitry that is responsible for delivering power to the motors for appropriate stabilization of the aircraft

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Q

Quadcopter: This is a drone with four propellers, positioned in a square formation for smooth and stable flight

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R

Radio Controller: It is a wireless handheld device that a pilot uses to maneuver the drone. It is also known as a transmitter

R/C: An acronym for radio controlled

RC: Another way of writing down Radio Controlled

RTF: An acronym for Ready to Fly unity. This means that a drone comes with all the requisite gear in the original packaging. All one has to do is to get the batteries recharged and of you go!

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S

Sense and avoid: This is the capability of a drone to detect and avoid collisions and obstacle on its path. It provides the functions of self-separation and collision avoidance

Servo: It is an abbreviation for servomotor or servomechanism. Servomotors may be used for pan cameras and wing flaps modifications which can be controlled from the ground

sUAS: An acronym for Small Unmanned Aircraft System

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T

Throttle: It is the control that is related to the RPM or speed of electric motors

Toy-grade: These drones are priced below $100 and boast basic functionalities. Despite being less reliable, modern toy grade drones offer tons of functionalities. They are generally designed for rookies who are still in the middle of learning how to fly drones and also want to use them for recreational purposes. Once you get a hang of flying a toy grade drone, you can jump onto the next level and purchase a hobby grade drone

TX: An acronym for transmitter or transmit

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U

UAV: An acronym for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. It is equipped with intelligent flight features

Ultrasonic Sensor: It is a sensor that employs ultra sound wavelength to communication with the transmitter. These sensors are used to determine the distance of a drone to the ground by bouncing sound waves back and forth. They come with limited range

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V

Visual line of sight: It means that a pilot is able to keep an eye at the drone and it is within his or her eye sight without using artificial means

Visual Observe: A support personnel whose duty is to ensure that the drone does not collide with nearby obstacles or objects on its path. This may include traffic avoidance, clouds, trees, foliage, human beings, sky scrapers etc.

VLOS: An acronym for Visual Line of Sight

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W

Waypoint: This is a set of coordinates that define a point in space. Waypoints assist in designing various autonomous missions for quadcopters. It is impossible to map areas without defining physical locations

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YZ

Yaw: It is the drone’s rotation around its central axis on a level plane

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