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Popular Drone Terminology

For the beginner, drone terminology can be a bit overwhelming. You may be wondering, “What does ‘BNF’ mean?” or “What exactly is an intervalometer?” Don’t get overwhelmed by the techie talk, we’ve got you covered so you can understand any LiPo related lingo.

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What is 2.4 Ghz?

The frequency that is used by the digital radio communications (spread spectrum), including bluetooth, 2.4Gz RC, and some of the video transmission equipment.

What does 9X mean?

The name of a popular, low cost R/C Transmitter that has been manufactured by different companies over the years. At the present time, the Turnigy brand from Hobbyking is the largest seller.

A

What is an Accelerometer?

A device that measures the acceleration forces in a certain direction. These devices are used to stabilize quadcoptors, many times in windy conditions.

What does the acronym AGL mean?

Altitude above ground level

What does the acronym AHRS mean?

Altitude Heading Reference System: An IMU along with the code for interpreting the sensors output to establish a plane’s heading and XYZ orientation.

What does the acronym AMA mean?

Academy of Model Aeronautics: This is the major model aircraft association in the United States. The AMA and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) work closely together to establish rules that are reasonable for using amateur UAVs.

What does the acronym AP mean?

Acronym for Aerial Photography, as the quadcoptor has that capability of taking photographs of objects on the ground from various elevated positions.

What does the acronym ARA mean?

Acronym for Almost Ready to Fly. This is used to describe a Quadcopter or a Drone that you are purchasing and what comes with it. ARA units will many times come without the transmitter, and they may require some assembly.

What is Arduino?

A free, open source software project that is centered around a low cost circuit board which allows for the control of objects. It is very easy to program which allows for a lot of experimentation. There are many quadcoptor control boards (FC: Flight Controllers) that are built using this board and its software.

What do the acronyms ARF or ARTF mean?

Acronym for Almost Ready to Fly, commonly a RC Drone kit that comes partially built, usually just requiring final assembly to complete.

What is Autonomous Flight?

Refers to some SUAVs’s that are managed by internal programming that have instructions on where to fly as guided by an onboard GPS system. This is in opposition to steering mechanisms that are operated by radio control from the ground.

What does the acronym APM mean?

Acronym for AutoPilot Mega: the flight controller that provides capabilities for automated mission (or waypoint) path following, position maintenance and stabilized flight.

What does the acronym AUV mean?

Acronym for Autonomous Underwater Vehicle and is commonly known as unmanned underwater vehicle.

B

What is a Balanced Battery Charger?

A charger or an internal system for Lipo batteries (or different chemistries) which uses smart technology to charge multiple cells properly that are located within the battery and balances them.

Barometric Pressure Sensor

A device that uses barometric readings to determine the altitude of the aircraft. It can help drones to be able to calculate their height above the ground, along with using combinations of other sensors.

What does the acronym BEC mean?

Acronym for Battery Eliminator Circuit. An electronic component that enables the use of a single battery on a vehicle to power multiple circuits. For example, a BEC may be used to power the motors as well as the receiver. Utilized primarily to minimize weight.

What does Bind mean?

The process of establishing communication between the controller (transmitter) and the receiver.

What does the acronym BNF mean?

Acronym for Bind and Fly. Indicates that Drone or vehicle is basically assembled and requires the purchase and binding of a transmitter and receiver.

What is a Bootloader?

Software code stored in non-volatile memory inside a microprocessor. It interfaces with a PC for downing the user’s program.

What is a Brushless Motor?

Electric motors with permanent magnets that rotate around a fixed armature, which eliminates any problems that could be associated with connecting current through moving parts. Brushless motors are much more efficient and hardy than brushed motors.

What is a Build?

A vehicle that is custom-built as opposed to pre-built, RTF, or ARF.

C

What does the acronym CA mean?

Cyanoacrylate adhesive – also called SuperGlue. This, as well as Gorilla Glue and Liquid Tape, are used often in the building and repair of aerial vehicles.

What is a Camera gimbal?

The camera mount used on drones. It can tilt and swerve, often powered by servos. The gimbal is strong enough to support even large DSLR cameras.

What is the Center of Gravity (CG)?

The point of balance of the unit. It needs to be maintained whenever you add various batteries, mounts, cameras or other accessories to the unit.

What does the acronym CF mean?

Carbon Fiber is a very strong yet lightweight material widely used in aircraft industry and wherever else such materials are required.

What does the acronym COA mean?

Certificate of Authorization: FAA approval for UAV flight. For more details, see the DIY Drones Regulatory FAQs and faa.gov website.

What is a Controller?

The handheld device that is used by the drone pilot that is used to control a drone, quadcopter or other vehicle. Controllers are also called transmitters.

D

What does the acronym DCM mean?

Direction Cosine Matrix: An algorithm that is the equivalent of Kalman Filer but with less processing.

What is a Drone?

Any unmanned aerial vehicle.

E

What is an Eagle File?

PCB design files and schematic generated by the Cadsoft Eagle free program. The most common standard in use.

What does the acronym ESC mean?

Electronic Speed Control: A device for controlling an electric aircraft’s motor connecting the RC receiver and main battery and usually includes a BEC.

F

Firmware

Software or sketch loaded into the microprocessor-based product’s non-volatile memory (ROM). It remains in non-volatile memory state even when power is removed.

What is a Flight Control System?

A network of controls that is interconnected and allows the pilot to fly the quadcopter or any other multi-rotor airborne vehicle.

What does the acronym FPV mean?

Acronym for “First Person View.” Or “Remote Person View” (RPV). It is the view seen by the operator (in real time) using a camera (such as GoPro) that is mounted on the Quadcoptor.

What does the acronym FTDI mean?

Future Technology Devices International is a standard used for converting USB into serial communications. Available in chip form for board with a USB connector and cable that connects with breakout pin.

G

What does the acronym GCS mean?

Ground Control Station software runs on the ground on a computer. It receives telemetry information via an airborne UAV. It displays its status and progress. This frequently include sensor and video data. It also can be used for transmitting in-flight commands up to the UAV in the air.

What is a Gimbal?

Specialized mount for a camera, giving it the ability to swerve and tilt (by utilizing servos) and staying in one position, regardless of the movement of the drone.

What does the acronym GPS mean?

Global Positioning System used to track the position of an object in relation to the global spatial plane, track movement, or cause an airborne vehicle such as a quadcoptor to hold position.

What is a Gyroscope?

Device used to measure the angular velocity and help maintain the orientation of the quadcopter while in flight.

H

What are Hard Iron magnetic distortions?

Distortions that arise from magnetized metals or magnets on the airframe affecting the compass.

What is a Hexacopter?

A multi-rotor aircraft having six rotors that allows the hexacopter loss of any single engine and still maintain control to land.

What does the acronym HIL mean?

Hardware In the Loop – a simulation that is done where software that is running on a different computer generates data stimulating data that would come from the autopilot sensors.

What does Hobby Grade mean?

Better than toy grade, these quads can offer a good reliability and operation at a reasonable price tag.

I

What does I2C mean?

Inter-integrated Circuit: Several low speed peripherals are allowed by this serial bus, including sensors that get connected onto a microprocessor.

What does ICSP mean?

In Circuit Serial Programmer is a process for loading code onto a microprocessor.

What does IDE mean?

Integrated Development Environment is a comprehensive software platform used for development by programmers.

What does IMU mean?

Inertial Measurement Unit controller combines an accelerometer and a gyro, with the purpose of helping with the orientation and stabilization of a quad.

What does INS mean?

Inertial Navigation System is a means of calculating position that is based on the initial GPS reading.

What is an Intervalometer?

A feature that enables a camera to take a photo at preset intervals of seconds. Also known as Interval Shooting.

J

What does JST mean?

One of the most popular types of connectors (plugs) used on quads.

K

What is a Kalman Filter?

A relatively complicated algorithm used in applications for combining gryo and accelerometer data in order to provide accurate descriptions in real time of aircraft movement and attitude.

L

What is a LiPo or LiPoly?

Lithium Polymer battery or The Lithium Ion battery (Li Ion) is a variant.

What does LOS mean?

Line of Sight means you have the drone visible with your naked eye while in the air.

M

What does MAH mean?

Milliampere-hour is measure of the current generated by a battery. Quadcopter batteries range from 50 mAh to 5000+ mAh.

What does MAV mean?

Micro Air Vehicle – A small UAV.

What is MAVlink?

Micro Air Vehicle communication protocol.

What is a Multicopter?

Aerial drone with multiple horizontal propellers, also known as rotors, i.e. tricopters, quadcopters, hexacopters, octocopters and so on.

What is multiwii?

General purpose software which was developed especially for supporting gyros and accelerometers in Nintendo Wii consoles but are now used by many companies for controlling multirotor aircraft.

N

What does NMEA mean?

National Marine Electronics Association is the different ASCII strings that come from a GPS module and is the standard for GPS info.

O

What is an Octocopter?

A drone with 8 horizontal propellers or rotors.

What is an Oilpan?

This is a style shield in the arduino fashion that is meant to be paired up with the ArduPilotMega. The majority of the sensors (accelerometers, gryos, barometer, etc.) are contained here.

What does OSD mean?

On Screen Display allowing people to integrate the telemetry and other information into a real time video stream for the aircraft to send back to the ground.

What is an Outer loop/Inner loop?

Normally used to refer to an autopilot’s navigation and stabilization functions. The stabilization function needs to run in real time and as frequently as 100 times per second (the inner loop). The navigation function may run infrequently, as little as once a second. It can also tolerate interruptions and delays (outer loop).

P

What is a Payload?

The maximum additional weight a drone is able to lift, besides its own weight and the weight of its batteries.

What does PCB mean?

Printed Circuit Board is specifically designed and built for a single purpose.

What does PCM mean?

Pulse Code Modulation is the technique of some of the modern radio control transmitters or receivers to get the information on the various RC channels.

What does PDB mean?

Power Distribution Board is a board that is used on the multicopters to help distribute the power to each of the motors to provide proper stabilization of the unit.

What does PIC mean?

Pilot In Command is the FAA requirement that an unmanned aerial vehicle is going to stay under the control of a pilot if the UAV is flying under a recreational COA approval. (This is not to be confused with the PIC processor series that is made by Microchip.)

What does PID mean?

Proportional/Integral/Derivative control method is a machine controlled algorithm that is going to allow for accurate sensor control over the motion loops.

What is Pitch?

A measure which describes the flight angle along one axis, usually measured from level in case of aerial vehicles.

What is Point of interest?

Is the marked spot in any given area that is going to let the UAV know where it should be pointing its camera at.

What does PPM mean?

Pulse Position Modulation is the square wave that the pulse train uses to transmit the multiple channels of information between some of the radio control receivers and transmitters.

What does PWM mean?

Pulse Width Modulation is the square wave signals that are used in RC control to drive the servos and speed controllers.

What does PX4 mean?

A flight controller system that provides capabilities to help stabilize the flight, the maintenance of the position, and even the waypoints for the controller to follow.

Q

What is a Quadcopter?

A very common category of a Small Unmanned Aircraft System (SUAS) which has 4 rotors positioned on a horizontal plane like a helicopter.

R

What does RAW mean?

An image file format that contains all original information from when the shot was taken.

What does RC mean?

Radio Controlled

What does RTF mean?

Ready to Fly, which means the drone is sold with everything needed in the pack. All you need to do is put it together, add batteries (made need to purchase separately) and you are ready to fly it.

What does RTL mean?

Return To Launch is the location from which a drone launched and to where it will return.

What does RX mean?

Acronym for receiver or receive.

S

What is Servo?

Servomotor or Servomechanism is a motor that performs various functions such as pan cameras and wing flaps adjustments which can be controlled from the ground.

What is SiRF III?

Microcontroller chips that interpret signals from GPS satellites and determine the position of the GPS receiver.

What is Sketch?

Program files that help the drivers and the different code that are generated by the Arduinio IDE for a single project.

What does SUAS mean?

Small Unmanned Aircraft System is a battery powered aircraft (quadcopter) which operates at a very low height and can be picked up by one person.

What does SVD mean?

Subversion Version is a control repository that is used by the DIY drones and different teams for a source code.

T

What is a Telemetry System?

A two way radio that allows for the flight data to go back and forth between the aircraft and the controller.

What is a Thermopile?

An infrared dectector that is used in pairs of UAVs to measure the different types of tilt and pitch they have.

What is a Throttle?

Control devise that influences the RPM or the speed of electric motors.

What is Toy Grade?

The basic level of quadcopters, usually priced under $100, using relatively cheap components.

What does TX mean?

Transmitter or Transmit

U

What does UAV mean?

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle is an aircraft piloted by remote control or onboard computers).

What is an Ultrasonic Sensor?

Uses the ultra sound wavelength to communicate with a transmitter. In aerial vehicles, ultrasonic sensors are used for calculating the distance to the ground by bouncing sound waves back and forth.

W

What is a Waypoint?

A set of coordinates which define a point in space.

What is a Wide Area Augmentation System?

System of satellites that provides GPS signal corrections to allow for accurate flight.

What does WOT mean?

Wide Open Throttle – contol devise is on maximum!

X

What is Xbee?

(Commercial name of Zigbee) Compatible radio modems that are used by most amateur UAVs.

Y

What does YAW mean?

Describes the quadcopter rotation around it’s center axis on a level plane.

Z

What is Zigbee?

A wireless standard for communications that has a longer range than the bluetooth signals, but uses less power than WiFi.