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  • Writer's pictureTyesha Ferron

Drone Vocabulary: A Mini Guide to Drone Terminology

First and foremost, according to’s definition 2.b., the noun Drone means “any unmanned aircraft or ship that is guided remotely” which is a definition that applies to quite a few devices.

Drones, like any other technology, come with their own jargon that might as well be a foreign language to a complete newcomer. If that sounds like you (which sounds like me), then you've fortunately made your way here. After researching the ins and outs of drone enthusiasm, I have come across my fair share of unfamiliar terms and acronyms. Rather than spend hours googling, you can bookmark this page (or others) and use this guide like a mini drone dictionary whenever you need it, or cram likes it's finals week and you have a cumulative exam on drones, which you might.

Types of Drones

Fixed Wing Drones: similar designs to airplanes which means they glide with angled plane-like wings and lack the ability to hover in one place.

Single Rotor Drone/Helicopter: similar designs to helicopters; they have one major rotor that allows them to hover and a smaller rotor on the tail.

Multi Rotor Drones: any drone with more than one rotor; more rotors facilitate flight control, but drones with fewer rotors are faster.

Octocopter: drones with 8 rotors

Quadcopter: drones with 4 rotors

Tricopter: drones with 3 rotors

Endurance Drones: capable of staying in the air for long periods of time


That’s a good start, but it's not enough to just know the drones, you've got to know what they’re made of. Of course there's electricity, plastic, and a sprinkle of magic that results in flight, but there’s also these gizmos involved:

Rotor: the rotating part (or parts) of a drone which contribute to flight

Propeller: blades or fans attached to rotors; together they propel drones in the air, allowing them to fly and hover

Flight Controllers: mechanism that communicates the pilot’s input to the drone’s motors

Accelerometer: measures the drone’s acceleration and tilt; works with the gyroscope to maintain orientation

Gyroscope: stabilizes drone while it's in the air


Not all drones are built equal. If you would rather buy a drone than build one, you should make sure that the drone you choose comes with the features you want:

Dynamic Home Point: feature that automatically updates a drone’s home point.

GPS Tracker: monitors your drones location so that you can find it if it ever falls.


And finally, these optional things that could come in handy. These might not come with your drone, but you could buy them to make you’re flying experience easier:

Battery Charging Dock/Hub: device that is capable of charging multiple batteries at a time.

ND Filters: Neutral Density Filters reduce the intensity of the light and color of the images and videos captured by the drone’s camera.

FPV Goggles: headset that gives you a first-person view of the drone’s camera; typically used in drone racing.

Gimbal/Stabilizer: prevents the drone’s camera from shaking while in the air.

Helipad: a portable mat that marks an area for a drone to takeoff or launch from.

Other Acronyms

FAA: Federal Aviation Administration; agency responsible for regulating civil aviation

RTF: Ready-to-Fly; store-bought drone capable of flight right out of the box

UAV: Unmanned Aerial Vehicle; AKA an aerial drone piloted by remote control

UAS: Unmanned Aircraft Systems; each component of drone flying activity such as the drone itself and its operator

UUV: Unmanned Underwater Vehicles

FPV: First Person View

RPM: Revolutions Per Minute

For more vocab lists and in depth explanations for these terms, check out these links:


I am a writer and an artist based in Georgia. Specializing in illustration, graphic design, and video art, I love to explore the new ways technology intersects with art. I think drones have done amazing things for photography and video art, making what would previously be costly and difficult more accessible. As a complete novice, it was only recently that I saw what independent artists could do with their drones, and I continue to be impressed by the sights that drones are able to explore and the images they can capture. Instagram: @tyesha.ferron

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