Drone Vs. UAV - What Is The Difference?

By
Wed, 24 Jan 2018

If you've got a friend with a quadcopter drone, you know it, because they brag about them incessantly and tell you all the cool things they can do. That's why it's confusing when you also hear the term on the news applied to US military aircraft in the Middle East, frequently with the acronym "UAV." We'll go over the differences between these two terms and why there's so much confusion when discussing remotely-operated aircraft. You can learn more by studying the differences between drones and helicopters.

Is A UAV The Same As A Drone?

This is a difficult question because the term "Drone" is not clearly defined and far too broad. In a general sense, these two things are the same, but the terms are used in different ways. Generally speaking, a drone is any aircraft that doesn't have a pilot in it, whether it is operated by software or by a remote pilot. The term UAV generally refers to any military aircraft operated without a pilot that can be reused. This also makes them drones, as they don't have onboard pilots. People will use the word "Drone" to refer to both hobby quadcopters and military aircraft, but if someone says "UAV," they're probably referring to a military aircraft and not personal drones like the ones from DJI. However, many enthusiasts who are serious about their personal remote aircraft may use the term UAV, so if you don't know which a person is talking about, you'll just have to ask.

What Type Of Drone Should I Buy?

There are many different types of personal drones available, with more offered every year. Here are a few categories so you can read up on them.

See What Can Be Filmed With A Drone

How Do I Put My Drone Footage Online?

If you own a personal quadcopter that is designed for recording video, and you've taken some cool shots on your vacation, it's understandable that you want to share it. However, this footage likely has no sound and isn't edited. If you aren't a professional filmmaker and don't want to spend days cutting together footage, a great option is Ezvid Wikimaker, a free online video editor that lets you choose the best moments from your footage and put them together with free narration, music, and fair use images and video clips to make the story you're telling entertaining and fun. Read up on how to use Ezvid Wikimaker for more information.

In Depth

You've likely heard the term "Drone" thrown around quite a bit lately. Recreational drones are incredibly popular, and they're also used by filmmakers, by our military, and even to deliver products. If you watch the news, you've probably heard the term "UAV" before. Is that the same thing as a drone? Let's investigate the difference so you'll know what you're looking for.

If you watch the news, you've probably heard the term "UAV" before.

Trying to distinguish between a drone and a UAV is a little tricky. This is because the term "Drone" is more of a media buzzword. Due to their increasing popularity, the government has decided to put some effort into defining exactly what makes up a drone so that regulations can be put in place.

Due to their increasing popularity, the government has decided to put some effort into defining exactly what makes up a drone so that regulations can be put in place.

A drone is any kind of autonomously or remotely guided vehicle. For something to be a drone, there has to be no pilot inside a cockpit. Hobbyist quadcopters qualify by this definition, as do remote submarines, and even remote-control cars. All of these can be considered drones in the most basic sense of the word because they are vehicles that are piloted through pre-programmed computer software or by a remote pilot.

All of these can be considered drones in the most basic sense of the word because they are vehicles that are piloted through pre-programmed computer software or by a remote pilot.

Currently the government is trying to create a more detailed definition for the word "Drone" so that when regulations are put in place, they will apply to the types of vehicles we generally associate with the word like quadcopters, and not to RC cars. Some proponents want to add language which states that in order for something to be a drone, it needs to have software that allows it to function or return to its launch spot without human intervention. Not everyone agrees on this, but it helps differentiate between quadcopter drones and remote-control helicopters.

Not everyone agrees on this, but it helps differentiate between quadcopter drones and remote-control helicopters.

UAV stands for "Unmmanned Aerial Vehicle," and is a flying aircraft piloted by remote control or software, and which is capable of reuse. This counts missiles out as they aren't capable of being reused. UAS, or "Unmanned Aircraft Systems," includes both the aircraft itself and any systems like the computers or remote used to control it. People often use the term "Drone" as a slang for these military vehicles. But if someone says "UAV," they are likely referring to a government craft and not a hobby drone.

UAS, or "Unmanned Aircraft Systems," includes both the aircraft itself and any systems like the computers or remote used to control it.

Since there is no standard definition for the word, "Drone" can mean different things to different people. Usually, it either refers to a military UAV or a quadcopter. As we've discussed, there are other varieties, but when someone says they want to buy a drone, a quadcopter is usually what they are after.

Usually, it either refers to a military UAV or a quadcopter.

If you are just interested in buying a drone for fun to fly around and you want to search on Amazon for one, you're better off using the term "Drone" to find what you're looking for. If you are interested in the difference between the two for regulatory issues, then many more factors must be taken into account. As mentioned previously, the problem is a lack of a universally accepted definition. This means that you can't predict whether your aircraft will fall under the definition in the future.

This means that you can't predict whether your aircraft will fall under the definition in the future.

However, it is likely that when regulations are put in place, they will not apply to RC helicopters or cars. The easiest distinction would be that in order to legally be a drone, some sort of software that allows it to hover in place or return to its starting point must be involved. But until those decisions are made, we won't know.

However, it is likely that when regulations are put in place, they will not apply to RC helicopters or cars.

If you're looking for something to fly for fun that is easy to maneuver and is capable of recording video, there are a lot of drones to choose from. If you're looking for a quadcopter, you'll definitely need onboard software in order to keep it level and have it return to you when you're done. If you want to sound fancy and call it a UAV, you can, although that term is usually associated with the military.

If you want to sound fancy and call it a UAV, you can, although that term is usually associated with the military.

You'll continue to hear people talk more and more about drones. Sometimes they'll be talking about the US government engaging in tactical maneuvers, and sometimes they're talking about taking their kids to the park and doing flying tricks with an RC plane. You'll just have to ask them, because until everyone can agree on the definition, there's no way to know what they mean.

You'll just have to ask them, because until everyone can agree on the definition, there's no way to know what they mean.