Drone terminology reference guide

Drone terminology reference guide

Heliguy has created this easy guide for drone-related terminology.

Last updated: Jun 23, 2021

8 minute read

Drone reference guide - General Names for drones

Name/Term Description


The most popular name for Small UAVs, which has 4 rotors positioned on a horizontal plane like a helicopter. Other names include Quadricopter, Quadrocopter.


A generic name for a drone with multiple propellers. This covers quadcopters, octocopters, etc.


This is a drone with six props and motors, this offer greater stability.


These drones have eight blades and offers greater stability.


Remotely Piloted Aerial System. This is an aircraft that is piloted by a remote not onboard the aircraft.


Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. This is an aircraft that is not manned.


Unmanned Aircraft System. This is an aircraft that is not manned.


Small Unmanned Aircraft System. This is a small aircraft that is not manned.

Types of drones:

Name/Term Description

Toy Drone

Small (nano/micro ) sized quadcopters, Inexpensive and a good size to start with for most beginners.

 Hobby Drone

 Hobby drones are used by flyers who may not have professional experience, many have camera's or have options to attach one.

Professional Drone

 These are high-end drones and have much bigger capabilities with longer flight times and better camera's used for cinema and TV work.

Selfie Drone

Selfie drones are smaller and more lightweight and used for taking photos used for social media or other online forums.

Racing Drone/FPV

 Racing drones or FPV drones are small agile that transmits real-time video back to the pilot. These can be used with goggles to get a first-person view for the pilot.

Flying terms

Name/Term Description


If you were looking down on a drone from above, yaw refers to the movement of the drone clockwise or counterclockwise.


This is the movement of the drone forward, backward, left and right.


 This is the movement up and down of the drone along a vertical axis.


Name/Term Description


A device that measures the acceleration forces in a certain direction. It also helps to stabilise your drone.


This is short for acrobatic mode, this is used for doing freestyle tricks and users can gain precise flight controls.

Aerial Photography

This is capturing images and video with a camera mounted to the drone.


Altitude above ground level.

Altitude Hold function

This is a function that allows the drone to hold its altitude using an onboard sensor usually on the bottom of the drone.


These are drones that are almost ready to fly but require some assembly and don't usually include a transmitter.


This is a feature on some drones that allow them to function without human control, this could be following pre-set GPS points or other follow functions.

Autonomous Flight

This is where the drone will go to a position that is preset and the drone will carry out the flight to that set point.


Name/Term Description

Balanced Battery Charger

This is a charger for an internal system for Lipo batteries which uses smart technologies to ensure cells are charged correctly and equally.

Barometric Pressure Sensor

The device used for barometric readings to determine the altitude of the drone, this is used for the altitude hold feature

Beta flight

This is a flight controller configuration software.


This is where you connect the drone and the controller together so you can control the drone.


This stands for "BIND n fLY" Which means the transmitter is connected to the drone then ready to fly.

Brushless Motor

These are motors that have magnets the rotate around the fixed armature. This means that the moving parts don't touch the other parts of the motor and are much more efficient.


This is a drone that users need to build before they can fly out of the box.


Beyond visual line of sight (This is illegal in the UK unless you have an exception from the CAA).


Name/Term Description

Camera gimbal

This is the holder of the camera on a drone it can tilt and move and they can stabilise footage for video content.


This is flight controller configuration software.

Commercial Flight

This is flying your drone for commercial purposes. If you are in the UK you need a PfCO to do this.


This is a handheld device that is used by the drone pilot to control the drone, other names include "Transmitter" and "Radio"


Name/Term Description


This is a UAV capable of flight by the controller or autonomous flight.


DJI is the leading manufacturer of drone/UAV systems around the world.


Name/Term Description

(ESC) Electronic speed control

This is the device that controls the aircraft's motor and how fast it spins, in turn, controlling the drone.


Name/Term Description

Fail Safe

This is a system that helps protect drones in case something fails. For example, if the drone lost connection with the controller then the drone will return to home (RTH).

FPV (First Person View)

This is a system where the user can view a live video of the drone when it is flying, this can be streamed to FPV Goggles. FPV can be used on racing drones.


The frequency is what the drone communicates with the controller many drones can switch between frequencies to choose the best ones.


Name/Term Description


This is the use of GPS to create a virtual fence that the drone cannot move out of.


This is a specialised camera mount that stabilises the camera on it to make the footage smooth. There are different types of gimbal depending how many axes the gimbal has.the more they have the more stable the footage will be.

GIS (Geographic Information System)

This is designed to capture and also store the geographic data of the drone.

GPS (Global Positioning System)

This is used to track the position of the drone and track the movement. It also helps the drone keep its position when in the air.

GCS (Ground Control Station)

This is a software that runs on the ground controller that displays aircraft information this frequently includes video and flight commands to the drone/UAV.


This measure the rate of rotation on the drone/UAV and helps keep the drone/UAV balanced when in the air.


Name/Term Description

Head Tracking

A feature that allows you to move the camera on the drone with your head using goggles that allow you to move your head up and down to control the camera.


Name/Term Description

IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit)

This is a controller that combines the accelerometer and a gyro which helps the orientation and stabilisation of the drone/UAV.

INS (Inertial Navigation System)

This is a way of calculating position that is based on the initial GPS signal, this is also followed by speed, motion sensor readings.


Name/Term Description


Unit of measurement part of the metric units of measurement.


One Kilobyte is 1000 bytes and is a way of measuring the amount storage space.


Name/Term Description

LCD monitor

A screen usually attached to a controller used to view the drone's camera and flight data.

LiPo Battery

This is the most favoured by most of the drone manufacturers because of its low weight and maximised charge capacity and power. LiPos are safe however overcharging or mistreating them can result in damage or even fire.


Name/Term Description

mAh (milli Amp Hours)

A unit of measurement that describes how much ‘power’ a battery can provide before it needs to be charged again.

Mode 1 transmitters

This is where the controller has the throttle on the right stick.

Mode 2 transmitters

This is where the controller has the throttle on the left stick. This is the most common mode.


Name/Term Description

Nano Drone

An extremely small drone that can fit in the palm of your hand and you can fly indoors.

No Fly Zone

This is an area where you can not fly at all.


Name/Term Description

OSD (On Screen Display)

This is a display that shows flight data and battery life warnings.


Name/Term Description


The amount of additional weight a drone can take.

PDB (Power Distribution Board)

This is a board that distributes power to different parts of the drone/UAV.

Pre Flight Planning

Planning before your flight including routes of flights, terrain flying over and communication information.


Name/Term Description


The most popular name for Small UAVs, which has 4 rotors positioned on a horizontal plane like a helicopter. Other names include Quadricopter, Quadrocopter.


Name/Term Description

Radio Controller

This is a wireless handheld device used to control the drone in flight.

(RTH) Return to Home

This is a feature that the drone will return to the GPS home point.


Name/Term Description

Sense And Avoid

This is a feature on some drones that would sense obstacles and avoid them.


, This is a person that keeps track of the drone if you don't have VLOS or you are using FPV.


Drones and UAV's use this to move cameras or parts on the drone.


Name/Term Description


This is a control that influences the RPM or the speed of the electronic motors.


A combined amount of force from the propeller and motor which will generate lift for the drone/UAV.


Also known as a controller this is something that sends commands to the drone/UAV.


Name/Term Description

Ultrasonic sensor

This is a sensor that uses the ultrasound wavelength to communicate with a transmitter


Name/Term Description

Video Latency

Lag from your camera to an external display.

(VLOS) Visual line of sight

This is where you fly the drone in line of sight meaning the drone is visible to the pilot.


Name/Term Description


This is a set of coordinates that the drone will follow.


Name/Term Description


If you were looking down on a drone from above, yaw refers to the movement of the drone clockwise or counterclockwise.

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