Aerial terminology explained


A high definition video mode with 1080 horizontal lines of vertical resolution and progressive, rather than interlaced scan.

2.4 Ghz

The frequency most often used for UAV radio communications.


Visual content with a horizontal resolution of around 4,000 pixels. Typically this is 3840 x 2160 when shooting 16:9 (UHD) and 4096 x 2160 at approximately 1.9:1 (DCI).


A device which measures acceleration.

Aerial cinematography

Aerial filming for films and movies.

Aerial filming

The act of filming from an elevated position.

Aerial photography

Taking photographs from an elevated position.

Aerial survey

A survey conducted from an elevated position.

Aerial videography

Recording video from an elevated position.

Aerial view

The view from an elevated position.

AHRS (attitude and heading reference system)

A system with sensors on three axes that provide information for aircraft on heading, pitch, and yaw.

Air-to-air photography

The act of photographing an aircraft from another aircraft.


A section of the atmosphere where aircraft can fly which has defined boundaries and dimensions.

ARPAS-UK (Association of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems)

The trade association for remotely piloted aircraft and systems in the UK.


A feature whereby the aircraft automatically lands itself.

Autonomous aircraft

An aircraft which can fly without a pilot controlling it.

AUVSI (Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International)

The world’s largest non-profit organisation which is committed to advancing the unmanned systems and robotics community.


The line around which something rotates. UAVs have a longitudinal axis which runs from the nose to the tail of the aircraft, and a lateral axis running from one side to the other.

Balanced battery charger

A charger that keeps battery cells balanced, maximising capacity by transferring energy between its individual cells.

Barometric pressure sensor

A sensor which measures changes in pressure in the atmosphere.


The act of training a transmitter and receiver to communicate with each other.

Bird’s eye view

An aerial viewpoint like that seen by a flying bird.


Wireless technology used for exchanging data over a short distance using UHF radio waves.

CAA (Civil Aviation Authority)

The statutory corporation which regulates civil aviation in the UK.

Camera drone

A UAV that has a camera attached to it.

Camera gimbal

A pivoted support which provides a balanced movement for cameras.


A high quality, 5-axis gyro-stabilised aerial camera system.

Dead reckoning

A method of calculating a UAV’s position by using a previously known position, and advancing it based upon estimates of speed over time and course.


The common name for a UAV.

Drone photography

Aerial photography taken with the use of a UAV.

Elevated mast photography

Elevated photography performed with the use of a mast or pole that is often telescopic, so that is can be extended.

Elevated photography

Photography that is conducted from an elevated position.

ESC (electronic speed controller)

A device which controls the speed of the motor of a UAV, which acts as the connection between the battery and RC receiver.

Fail safe

A feature of certain UAVs which allows the platform to return to the take off point and land autonomously. This can prevent a crash in the event of an unsafe situation, such as e.g. loss of GPS signal, RC signal, low battery, or incapacitated pilot.

Fixed-wing aircraft

An aircraft which has rigid wings and a predetermined airfoil.

Flight control system

An interconnected network of controls which enables a pilot to fly and control a UAV.


Unintentional flight outside of designated boundaries, resulting from unit or operational failure.

Fly-away protection system

A system which returns the UAV to the ground, or maintains it within a designated operational area if the link between the pilot and UAV is compromised.

FPV (first person view)

A way to control a radio controlled vehicle from the pilot’s point of view, often using specially designed goggles, or a smartphone or tablet.

GCS (ground control station)

A device containing software which receives telemetry information from a UAV in flight and displays its status, and can also transmit in-flight commands to the UAV.

GPS (global positioning system)

A satellite navigation system maintained by the US government, providing time and location information for users worldwide.


A device which measures the rotation rate of a UAV and ensures its yaw, pitch, and roll are balanced.


A high-definition video digital recording videocassette with a sampled resolution of 1440×1080.


A version of HDCAM with a higher bit rate and a resolution of 1920×1080.

HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface)

Audio and video interface which transfers uncompressed video, and compressed or uncompressed audio data.

Headless mode

Whichever way the UAV is pointed, pressing forward on your controller stick will make the UAV fly forward.


A UAV with six rotary propellers.

ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation)

A United Nations organisation which oversees international air transport.

IMU (inertial measurement unit)

A device which measures and reports on the orientation, velocity, and gravitational forces of a UAV through the use of gyroscopes and accelerometers. It enables a GPS receiver to work when a signal is not available, using dead reckoning.

Infrared photography

A type of photography whereby the film or image sensor is sensitive to infrared light.

INS (inertial navigation system)

A method of calculating position when GPS is unavailable, based on assessing an initial GPS reading and then taking readings from the UAV’s speed and motion sensors.


A device that measures time intervals and can be used to trigger exposures. It delays the taking of the picture until after takeoff and takes multiple exposures over a distance to achieve 3D stereoscopy. Each image needs to have approximately 60% in common with either the previous or subsequent image.


Standing for light radar, this is a remote sensing technology which measures distances through the use of reflected laser light.

LiPo (lithium polymer)

A type of battery often used in UAVs, as they are lightweight and have high power and capacity.

LOS (line of sight)

This refers to keeping your drone at a visual distance from your position on the ground.

Low level aerial photography

Aerial photography conducted at relatively low altitudes, often using masts, poles, kites, balloons etc.

Mbps (megabits per second)

A data transfer speed of one megabit for each second. One megabit equals one million bits.


A megapixel is equal to one million pixels.

MTOW (maximum takeoff weight)

The heaviest weight at which a UAV can safely take off, while meeting its airworthiness requirements.


A UAV with more than two rotary propellers.


A UAV with multiple rotary propellers.

No-fly zone

A restricted area where UAVs are not allowed to fly.

Oblique aerial photography

Aerial photography that is taken at an angle.


A UAV with eight rotary propellers.

PAPA (Professional Aerial Photographers Association)

A professional trade organisation for aerial photographers.


The amount of additional weight a UAV can carry; often the camera and gimbal.

PDB (power distribution board)

A board which evenly distributes power between each of the UAV’s motors to ensure correct stabilisation.

PFAW (permission for aerial work)

CAA-granted permission to fly UAVs for commercial work. This must be granted before any organisation or individual can perform commercial work with a UAV. The licence is valid for one year and must be renewed.


A method of using photography to determine distances between objects, when mapping or surveying locations.

PIC (pilot in command)

A UAV that is being controlled by a pilot and is not in autonomous flight.


Refers to any changes in the vertical direction that a UAV’s nose is pointing.

POI (point of interest)

A target location that a UAV’s sensors are set to capture.


A UAV with four rotary propellers. Also known as a quadricopter or quadrocopter.

Radio controlled aircraft

A UAV which is remotely controlled by an operator with a handheld radio transmitter.

Radio controller (remote control / RC)

A handheld wireless controller which controls the UAV.

Rx (receiver)

A device which receives information from the transmitter and provides instructions to the pilot.

Remotely piloted aircraft

Another name for a UAV.

RTH (return to home / RTL / return to launch)

The act of returning the UAV to its takeoff position.

RF (radio frequency)

Frequencies used for communications between the UAV and the pilot.


Rotation of the UAV around the front to back axis.

Rotary-wing aircraft (rotorcraft)

An aircraft that uses lift generated by rotary wings or blades.

RTF (ready to fly)

A UAV that is ready to use straight out of the box.


Also known as a servomechanism or servomotor, these are motors used in UAVs for various movement tasks.

sUAS (small unmanned aircraft system)

A small UAV that weighs less than 55 pounds.

Thermal imaging (infrared thermography)

The production of images using infrared radiation. Often used with UAVs for aerial surveys.


A device which controls the amount of power to the UAV.

Tx (Transmitter)

A handheld controller that controls the UAV’s flight and sometimes other functions of the aircraft.

Ultrasonic sensor

Also known as transducers, or transceivers if they both send and receive, these are sensors which assess a target using a principle similar to sonar.

UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle / UA / unmanned aircraft)

An aircraft which has no onboard pilot.

Unmanned aerial system (UAS)

The UAV and its controller and communications system.

Visual observer

A member of the crew who monitors other airborne and land based obstructions or hazards.

VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing)

A method used by certain aircraft to take off and land vertically.

WAAS (wide area augmentation system)

A network of ground stations and satellites that provide GPS signal corrections, offering far superior accuracy when compared to uncorrected GPS.


A navigational reference point.


A UAV’s rotation around its vertical axis.


If there is a term that you cannot find a definition for here, please feel free to contact us for some expert assistance by emailing or calling us on 01273 921991.