Drone Terminology

Term

Description

UAS (Unmanned Aircraft System)

Unmanned aircraft, such as drones, controlled by an operator on the ground. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) uses the term UAS to reflect the fact that these systems also include other elements aside from the actual air vehicles.

AGL (Above Ground Level)

Refers to the altitude above the ground immediately under the UAV. For example, a UAV that ascends to 100 feet above the ground, and then flies over a 40-foot hill would have an AGL of 60 feet while above the hill.

ATC (Air Traffic Control)

A service provided by personnel trained and certified by the FAA responsible for monitoring and controlling all air traffic within a specific area.

BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Sight)

The ability to operate an unmanned aircraft beyond the pilot’s line of sight. Flying UAS beyond visual line of sight requires a special permit from the FAA.

COA (Certificate of Authorization)

A permit/waiver issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) allowing a public operator to perform specific UAS operations.

DJI

Drone manufacturer and technology company.

DJI Flight Apps

Preferred Flight Apps while piloting DJI aircraft: DJI Ground Station Pro (GS Pro), DJI Pilot, DJI Go 4, DJI Go.

Autonomous Flight

Data captured for Raptor Maps is done mainly through pre-programmed flight apps. Flight is autonomous from takeoff to landing unless there is a malfunction or emergency.

SD Card

Solid state memory device for storing files. SD cards fit internally in either the drone or the camera. The images are stored to the card, the card is pulled after flight, and data is transferred onto an external hard drive.

Quadcopter

A multirotor aircraft that uses four rotors (propellers), 2 clockwise and 2 counterclockwise to generate lift.

Electromagnetic interference

A disruption in the operation of an electronic device caused by proximity to metal, magnets, power lines, or cell towers. Can cause spurious behavior to drones.

Metadata

Typically refers to information that is stored inside images about the state of the aircraft (like location, time of image capture, etc.)

FAA (Federal Aviation Administration)

They're responsible for the safety of civil aviation in the USA.

Firmware

The software embedded in the drones flight controller, batteries, or remote controller. Updates to the firmware are often made available by manufacturers to fix bugs, introduce new features, improve existing features, and protect from security vulnerabilities.

Fixed Wing Drones

Airplane style or Pusher Configuration style drones (prop in the back). For example, the Sensefly Ebee is a pusher configuration, fixed wing.

Flight Controller

The electronic device onboard the drone that controls the drones guidance, navigation, and control.

Payload

The attachment that goes onto the bottom of the drone that typically collects data. Thermal cameras, RGB camera, LIDAR, gas detectors, etc.

Gimbal

Two or three axis stabilized with fine tuned motors that allow the camera or other equipment to remain pointed at an object even when the drones moves.

FLIR

Large technology company that manufacturers infrared cameras. For example, the XT2 is a FLIR camera with a DJI gimbal.

RGB Images

Typical color photos aka visible spectrum images aka EO imagery. RGB means Red, Green, Blue like the pixels in your computer screen.

Thermal Images

Infrared thermal images. In simplistic terms, these typically visualize temperature with a variety of color palettes to more easily differentiate what is cold or hot. The actual meaning requires an understanding of thermography.

Radiometric Images

The image or metadata of the image contains radiometric values for each pixel that can be converted to temperature along with various other parameters like emissivity.

GLONASS

A Russian Global Navigation Satellite System similar to GPS

GPS

Global Positioning System is a space-based navigation system owned by the US government and operated by the US Air Force that consists of satellites, receivers and other technologies that provide accurate location and time information for civil and military use.

Ground Sample Distance (GSD)

The distance between two consecutive pixel centers measured on the ground. A GSD of 5 cm means that one pixel in the image represents linearly 5 cm on the ground (5*5 = 25 square centimeters). Even when flying at a constant height, the images of a project may not have the same GSD. This is due to terrain elevation differences and changes in the angle of the camera while shooting.

Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU)

An electronic device that uses accelerometers, gyroscopes, and sometimes magnetometers to measure and report specific force, angular rate, and magnetic field of the drone in flight.

IFOV (Instantaneous Field of View)

The angle of view of a single detector element, like a pixel. It could be a single pixel or multiple pixels. FLIR typically says in order accurately measure temperature with a drone thermal camera you need somewhere between 3x3 pixels to 5x5 pixels on average.

LAANC (Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability system)

A collaboration between the FAA and private companies in support of UAS integration into national airspace. LAANC allows drones access to controlled airspace in near real-time.

LAANC Block

You will hear 0’ block, 50’ block, 100’ block all the way up to 400. These are areas with restricted flight ceilings in the LAANC system. Some LAANC Airspaces allow instant approval up to the height recommended in the block. If it is a 0 block, special permission is required.

METAR (Aviation Routine Weather Report)

Meteorological Terminal Aviation Routine Weather Report or Meteorological Aerodrome Report. METAR is a specific format for reporting weather information.

NOTAM (Notice to Airmen)

A Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) is a notice given to warn aircraft or UAS pilots of any possible hazards or flight restrictions along a flight route or specific location.

Part 107

These are commercial drone operator regulations created by the Federal Aviation Administration to define restrictions and safety standards for commercial drone flights.

Photogrammetry

A method of surveying and mapping by using photographs to measure lengths or heights.

PIC (Pilot in Command)

The person directly responsible for the complete drone flight operation and safety of UAS flight.

Pitch

When the front of the drone or camera moves up and down.

Roll

When the the drone or camera rotates around its front axis (like a barrel roll).

Yaw

When the drone or camera rotates around its center axis.

Return to Home (RTH)

Drone flight mode where the drone flys back to the home position. A drone operator triggers the function on the remote control or it could be triggered automatically if battery power is low or signal from the transmitter is lost.

Telemetry

A two-way digital data stream between the UAV and a ground station that is used to communicate flight data and instructions to control the UAV.

TFR (Temporary Flight Restriction)

A temporary notice of restriction on a specific area of airspace because of the presence of government VIPs, special events, natural disasters, and other unusual occurrences.

VLOS (Visual Line of Sight)

FAA requires you to maintain line of sight with your aircraft unless you have a special waiver.

VO (Visual Observer)

An optional crew member whose only purpose is to watch and maintain visual contact with the drone.

Waypoints

A set of coordinates that define a point in space. Waypoints are used to create flight path for drones.