Beginners’ Glossary to Drone Terms

One of the quickest ways to become familiar with anything new is to begin learning the terminology and jargon used within that particular field. Ask yourself what kinds of discussions take place among the participants and enthusiasts in that arena?

Learning the common drone terms and verbiage is a great starting point for new skills and disciplines.

To assist the beginning drone pilot, we provide a drone glossary for standard terms used among drone operators. It is recommended that you review these terms regularly until they become second nature. Listed below are the specific terms that we have addressed here:

  • Accelerometer
  • Altitude
  • ARTF
  • FPV
  • FOV
  • Gimbal
  • Ground control station
  • GPS
  • Gyroscope
  • Hexacopter
  • Original position
  • IMU
  • Lipo
  • THE
  • OSD
  • Not
  • PMU
  • Octocopter
  • Quadcopter
  • Receiver or RX
  • RTF
  • RTH
  • Roller
  • Observer
  • Transmitter or TX
  • UAV
  • Waypoint
  • YAW

Glossary of common drone terms

Accelerometer – This measures the acceleration force that drones are subjected to across the X, Y, and Z axis. It provides data used to determine the direction, velocity, and altitude change rate of the drone.

Altitude – A drone’s altitude is its height relative to its launch location. Do not confuse altitude with elevation. These heights can be different depending on your geographic location.

Drones launched along the coastline would have roughly the same altitude and elevation, but those two numbers would be vastly different in Colorado.

ARTF – This is an acronym that means Almost Ready to Fly. It refers to drones that come partially assembled. Getting an ARTF drone means you’ll have to perform the remaining assembly. Those people who love DIY projects tend to get these kinds of drones.

FPV – FPV means the first-person view. This feature provides the ability to see precisely what the drone sees in real-time. Drone enthusiasts can now get goggles that offer high definition displays from your drone’s point of view.

A computer or tablet can also be used for FPV, but using goggles is a much better experience. By the way, this is an excellent feature that you should consider getting.

FOV – FOV is an acronym for field of view and pertains to the actual view of a drone’s camera. Some drones come equipped with cameras that field a very wide FOV. This means the camera lens captures more of the landscape in an image.

When a field of view is extremely wide, you get the ‘fisheye’ effect. This is quite common with the GoPro cameras. A FOV reduces the amount of landscape in the image.

Gimbal – A gimbal lets an object be independent of rotations from an object to which it is attached. It’s a very sophisticated piece of technology. Just imagine if you were on a large ship and the seas were very rough. A gimbal would allow you to ride the ship in a steady state without moving with the waves.

On a drone, the gimbal allows your camera to remain steady so that quality images can be taken. The higher quality gimbal your drone has the better quality images and videos you can create.

Ground control station – A ground control station provides drone pilots the means to lay out a flight path on computer screens. Then the drone can be launched and maintained on that path using satellites and GPS sensors. And all of the vital flight data can be easily monitored on the same screen, such as current location, altitude, plotted flight path, battery status, speed, and more.

GPS – GPS is something that most of us are already familiar with as our smartphones use it to navigate while traveling in our cars. Drones also use GPS to help them fly on a smooth path and transmit their location back to their pilot.

Gyroscope – This is another fantastic piece of technology that doesn’t get enough recognition for its value. Gyroscopes are vital in establishing orientation during the flight of a drone. Without it, the drone would be lost and fly away.

Hexacopter – This term refers to a drone (or helicopter) that has six rotating blades.

Original position – Many drone pilots also call this the home point. Your GPS needs to know its home point as a reference. This initial position refers to the GPS coordinates from where the unit was launched. Many modern drones today will automatically set this position before launch.

IMU – The term IMU means inertial measurement unit. In drones, the IMU uses its accelerometer and gyroscope to measure inertia.

Lipo – Lipo is short for lithium-ion polymer. This is the material that drone batteries are made from. This material is hazardous and extremely volatile. You MUST read the manufacturer’s instructions before using your Lipo batteries. Failing to do so could be catastrophic.

LOS – LOS stands for line of sight. For drones, LOS means having the ability to see your drone at all times physically. If you can’t see your drone, then it’s no longer in LOS. To put it simply, it’s illegal to operate drones in the US beyond our line of sight.

OSD – Do not confuse this term with OCD. OSD means on-screen display. When you have a unit equipped with FPV, ground control station, or any other visual monitoring device, the OSD refers to the on-screen display of that system.

Not – This is the height that refers to the movement of the back or the nose of your drone. This height adjustment moves the nose or rear of your drone up or down.

PMU – PMU means power management unit. It manages the overall energy or power of your drone.

Octocopter – This term refers to a drone (or helicopter) that has eight rotating blades.

Quadcopter – This term refers to a drone (or helicopter) that has four rotating blades. This is the standard configuration for most drones.

Receiver or RX – All drones are controlled by a transmitter (which refers to the controller in your hand) and the receiver. If you buy a drone that is ready to fly, then you’ll never see its receiver. The receiver is what receives information from the controller and reacts accordingly.

RTF – This term stands for ready to fly. Drones that are designated as RTF means that you can fly them right out of the box instead of drones that must be assembled first.

RTH – The acronym RTH means return to home. This is an excellent feature for beginning drone operators. RTH is a fail-safe setting that automatically returns a drone to its launch point if it ever loses the signal from its transmitter.

In most cases, RTH can be instantly activated with the push of a button. Many consumer drones today will automatically do this during their pre-flight warm-up routine. A word of caution here – if you fly your drone in different locations, ensure that your RTH is kept up to date, or you’ll have a flyaway.

Roll – Among drones, a roll is a movement along the horizontal axis. Adjusting the roll tilts the side of your drone up or down.

Observer – An observer refers to using a second person to help you maintain LOS while the drone pilot focuses on their FPV. This is a great precaution should you ever lose the FPV signal. Observers can also assist in visually locating a drone during a flyaway.

Transmitter or TX – This is the controller that drone operators hold in their hands to control your drone.

UAV – A drone is a UAV, which is an acronym for an unmanned aerial vehicle.

Waypoint – This is a GPS pivot point as defined by plotted flight path. When you use a ground station, you can create multiple waypoints in your drone’s flight path.

Yaw – Yaw refers to the spinning movement of your drone along the vertical axis. If you were to adjust the yaw in your drone without forward motion, the drone would spin in a circle.

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