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What is the Difference Between a Drone, a UAV and a UAS?

Updated: Oct 15, 2019


What is the difference between a Drone, a UAV and a UAS?

The number of terms being used interchangeably to describe unmanned aircraft can often lead to confusion. In this post we attempt to provide a little more clarity about just what is behind a name in the world of Drones, UAVs and UAS.

Perhaps the most common term being used in the media today to describe an unmanned aircraft is a Drone. Unfortunately the term Drone often carry’s with it a level of stigma inherited from their controversial military applications on the battlefield.


So here is how the word drone moved from bee;s to aviation: In 1935, U.S. Adm. William H. Standley saw a British demonstration of the Royal Navy's new remote-control aircraft for target practice, the DH 82B Queen Bee. Back stateside, Standley charged Commander Delmer Fahrney with developing something similar for the Navy. "Fahrney adopted the name 'drone' to refer to these aircraft in homage to the Queen Bee," Mr. Zaloga wrote. The term fit, as a drone could only function when controlled by an operator on the ground or in a "mother" plane.

A more preferable and descriptive term used by proponents of the industry is Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV).


Drones and UAVs are considered to be fairly synonymous references although some would contend that a Drone can be differentiated by a level of automation that renders its flight dependent upon pre-programmed behaviours, as opposed to a UAV which is a remotely piloted aircraft flown by “stick and rudder” with a pilot in control. This point of differentiation, however, remains debatable.

Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) on the other hand is a reference term that by definition is clearly distinguished from a Drone or UAV.


A UAS is an all encompassing description that encapsulates the aircraft or UAV, the ground-based controller, and the system of communications connecting the two. So just how do the various components of a UAS work together and what are the important aspects that need to be considered for those operating a UAS? These will be explained in our upcoming article “UAVs, Ground-Based Controllers, and Communications Systems”.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog on; What is the difference between a Drone, a UAV and a UAS?

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