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.
The frequency that is used by the digital radio communications (spread spectrum), including bluetooth, 2.4Gz RC, and some of the video transmission equipment.
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 device that measures the acceleration forces in a certain direction. These devices are used to stabilize quadcoptors, many times in windy conditions.
Altitude above ground level
Altitude Heading Reference System: An IMU along with the code for interpreting the sensors output to establish a plane’s heading and XYZ orientation.
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.
Acronym for Aerial Photography, as the quadcoptor has that capability of taking photographs of objects on the ground from various elevated positions.
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.
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.
Acronym for Almost Ready to Fly, commonly a RC Drone kit that comes partially built, usually just requiring final assembly to complete.
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.
Acronym for AutoPilot Mega: the flight controller that provides capabilities for automated mission (or waypoint) path following, position maintenance and stabilized flight.
Acronym for Autonomous Underwater Vehicle and is commonly known as unmanned underwater vehicle.
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.
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.
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.
The process of establishing communication between the controller (transmitter) and the receiver.
Acronym for Bind and Fly. Indicates that Drone or vehicle is basically assembled and requires the purchase and binding of a transmitter and receiver.
Software code stored in non-volatile memory inside a microprocessor. It interfaces with a PC for downing the user’s program.
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.
A vehicle that is custom-built as opposed to pre-built, RTF, or ARF.
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.
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.
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.
Carbon Fiber is a very strong yet lightweight material widely used in aircraft industry and wherever else such materials are required.
Certificate of Authorization: FAA approval for UAV flight. For more details, see the DIY Drones Regulatory FAQs and faa.gov website.
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.
Direction Cosine Matrix: An algorithm that is the equivalent of Kalman Filer but with less processing.
Any unmanned aerial vehicle.
PCB design files and schematic generated by the Cadsoft Eagle free program. The most common standard in use.
Electronic Speed Control: A device for controlling an electric aircraft’s motor connecting the RC receiver and main battery and usually includes a BEC.
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.
A network of controls that is interconnected and allows the pilot to fly the quadcopter or any other multi-rotor airborne vehicle.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Device used to measure the angular velocity and help maintain the orientation of the quadcopter while in flight.
Distortions that arise from magnetized metals or magnets on the airframe affecting the compass.
A multi-rotor aircraft having six rotors that allows the hexacopter loss of any single engine and still maintain control to land.
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.
Better than toy grade, these quads can offer a good reliability and operation at a reasonable price tag.
Inter-integrated Circuit: Several low speed peripherals are allowed by this serial bus, including sensors that get connected onto a microprocessor.
In Circuit Serial Programmer is a process for loading code onto a microprocessor.
Integrated Development Environment is a comprehensive software platform used for development by programmers.
Inertial Measurement Unit controller combines an accelerometer and a gyro, with the purpose of helping with the orientation and stabilization of a quad.
Inertial Navigation System is a means of calculating position that is based on the initial GPS reading.
A feature that enables a camera to take a photo at preset intervals of seconds. Also known as Interval Shooting.
One of the most popular types of connectors (plugs) used on quads.
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.
Lithium Polymer battery or The Lithium Ion battery (Li Ion) is a variant.
Line of Sight means you have the drone visible with your naked eye while in the air.
Milliampere-hour is measure of the current generated by a battery. Quadcopter batteries range from 50 mAh to 5000+ mAh.
Micro Air Vehicle – A small UAV.
Micro Air Vehicle communication protocol.
Aerial drone with multiple horizontal propellers, also known as rotors, i.e. tricopters, quadcopters, hexacopters, octocopters and so on.
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.
National Marine Electronics Association is the different ASCII strings that come from a GPS module and is the standard for GPS info.
A drone with 8 horizontal propellers or rotors.
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.
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.
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).
The maximum additional weight a drone is able to lift, besides its own weight and the weight of its batteries.
Printed Circuit Board is specifically designed and built for a single purpose.
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.
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.
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.)
Proportional/Integral/Derivative control method is a machine controlled algorithm that is going to allow for accurate sensor control over the motion loops.
A measure which describes the flight angle along one axis, usually measured from level in case of aerial vehicles.
Is the marked spot in any given area that is going to let the UAV know where it should be pointing its camera at.
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.
Pulse Width Modulation is the square wave signals that are used in RC control to drive the servos and speed controllers.
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.
A very common category of a Small Unmanned Aircraft System (SUAS) which has 4 rotors positioned on a horizontal plane like a helicopter.
An image file format that contains all original information from when the shot was taken.
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.
Return To Launch is the location from which a drone launched and to where it will return.
Acronym for receiver or receive.
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.
Microcontroller chips that interpret signals from GPS satellites and determine the position of the GPS receiver.
Program files that help the drivers and the different code that are generated by the Arduinio IDE for a single project.
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.
Subversion Version is a control repository that is used by the DIY drones and different teams for a source code.
A two way radio that allows for the flight data to go back and forth between the aircraft and the controller.
An infrared dectector that is used in pairs of UAVs to measure the different types of tilt and pitch they have.
Control devise that influences the RPM or the speed of electric motors.
The basic level of quadcopters, usually priced under $100, using relatively cheap components.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicle is an aircraft piloted by remote control or onboard computers).
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.
A set of coordinates which define a point in space.
System of satellites that provides GPS signal corrections to allow for accurate flight.
Wide Open Throttle – contol devise is on maximum!
(Commercial name of Zigbee) Compatible radio modems that are used by most amateur UAVs.
Describes the quadcopter rotation around it’s center axis on a level plane.
A wireless standard for communications that has a longer range than the bluetooth signals, but uses less power than WiFi.