Unmanned Aerial Vehicles


Since around 2010 we can hear in media more and more about drones. In the 21st century, we can see various types of unmanned aircraft used for both military and civilian use, some for specific work and some for fun. A word Drone became widely recognized term for any type of flying aircraft: military reconnaissance and attack unmanned aircraft, consumer-grade multirotor equipped with a camera, remotely controlled unmanned helicopter or a hobby grade radio controlled aircraft.


A term “drone” was first used to name pilotless airplanes used in target practice for artillery training. Unmanned Drones have been around since World War I during which some unmanned attack aircraft were designed like The Kettering “Bug”. Twenty years later, during WWII, the military started to use modified pilotless full-scale B17 bombers packed with explosives which were remotely controlled into their targets. Since the 1950ties military started to more widely use the specially designed combat unmanned aerial systems, like QH-50 Drone Anti Submarine Helicopter. There were also some drones developed for civilian use from small remotely controlled airplanes to full-scale conversions of aircraft like Kaman Huskie UAV and Kaman K-Max UAV.

UAV = UAS/RPAS Aircraft = RC Flying Aircraft/Robot = Flying Drone*

*keep in mind not every drone has a flying capability.

 If you are interested in buying a remotely flying airplane then you can search shops for either:
“flying drone”, UAV, UAS, RPAS or RC flying aircraft. It’s all more or less the same for shopping purposes.
If you are interested in the difference between them for regulatory issues, it’s a longer story.


UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) is a term used to describe an aircraft which has no pilot onboard. 

UAS (Unmanned Aerial System) is a term used to describe an aircraft which has no pilot onboard plus all systems needed to make it fly such as control station.

RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aircraft System) means the same as UAS. 

Drone vs UAV

Drone is any kind of autonomously or remotely controlled air, land or water vehicle.

Not every drone is a UAV, because not every drone has a flying capability. Besides UAV’s there can be also UGV’s (unmanned ground vehicle / autonomous cars), AUV’s (autonomous underwater vehicle), and Unmanned Spacecrafts.  Hobbyist helicopters are drones, remote ships are drones, and even robotic rovers are drones. 

Manned or Unmanned Drones 

Some drones have a capability to lift a human and some of them are controlled via a remotely controllers in the hands of the operator sitting onboard them.

Some full-scale aircraft like Kaman K-max UAV are modified for unmanned use and they can flow autonomously but simultaneously they can have a human onboard.

Well, le’ts don’t make it more complicated and let’s just call them Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Drones since they indeed can fly without pilot onboard.

Degrees of autonomy

UAV can have various degrees of autonomy, from a need to constant control from operator to execution of the pre-planned mission.

Simple RC airplanes/cars/boats can’t operate themselves autonomously and they need a canon stand control from the operator to work. More advanced RC aircraft have a GPS/GLONASS navigation onboard thanks to which the aircraft can autohover autonomously and stay in the air without the need of a constant controlling from the operator.

Most advanced drones are equipped with sensors tracking objects for following them either by tracking a GPS signal from a remote which the object can wear or by image recognition. Some drones don’t even require an operator to control the machine directly – all we need to do is to plan a mission on a computer. During planning we can select waypoints on the map and then upload it to drone computer. Drone is then going to autonomously fly from takeoff to landing and perform it’s mission on it’s own. In case of failures or objects on it’s flightpath it’s going to automatically adjust itself and make corrections to it’s flightplan.

Both civilian and military

Military operate drones which can be divided into two categories:

  1. medium size drones for both military and civilian use
  2. military-specific large size drones (stealth combat drones included)
  • All of them varies in in size, range, price and capabilities.
  • Some of computer systems have a dual or even triple redundancy.
  • Some of those drones are equipped with emergency parachute systems or emergency water floats.

Main UAV types:

  1. Fixed wing
  2. Multirotor
  3. Helicopter
  4. Gyrocopter
  5. VTOL and Hybrids

What job people use drones for?

  • Hobby and recreational use
  • Drone racing
  • Drone boarding (being pulled by a UAV)
  • Drone surfing (being pulled by a UAV)
  • Light show
  • Pipeline security
  • Rroad patrol
  • Antipiracy.
  • Law enforcement
  • Search and rescue
  • Disaster relief
  • Anti-poaching
  • Reconnaissance
  • Attack
  • Targets for military training
  • Demining
  • Commercial aerial surveillance
  • Livestock monitoring
  • Wildfire mapping
  • Professional aerial surveying
  • Commercial and motion picture filmmaking
  • Journalism
  • Scientific research
  • Conservation
  • Surveying Oil, gas and mineral exploration
  • Archaeology
  • Cargo transport
  • Agriculture
  • Construction
  • Passenger transport


How many control surfaces do you need for controllable hovering and moving in the air?

The answer is: one.

The latest robots which can do this kind of flight have a simple frame with a fixed pitch propeller bolted directly to shaft without any other flight surfaces. They fly only by controlling the propeller rpm and they have no other control surfaces, flaps or hinges. They have however unique flying characteristics and a wise algorithm.


A little more than 100 years ago people started to lift off the ground in heavier than air machines. It took them more or less 50 years to construct a commercial airliner which flew 3 times the speed of sound. As for now, there were more than 530 people in space. Currently, there are 5 people living in Space onboard the International Space Station. Imagine that 30 years ago you would tell people that in the future they will have a small device called smartphone with a remote telephony, instant access to the so-called internet, high-quality camera system, music and video center, connectivity hub, a navigation system and a processing power bigger than fastest computers they have back dane. The world is changing and it’s changing fast. I am typing this text in 2017. Currently, for as low as few hundred US dollars you can just walk into any bigger electronics store with and buy ready to fly remotely piloted flying multirotors equipped with onboard autonomous flight system with GPS navigation and decent quality camera with live feed and streaming to the internet.