Industry News

The Ultimate Drone Glossary: Part 2

September 25, 2020

We're excited to present part 2 of our complete list of essential drone terms for pilots, professionals, and enthusiasts. Check back every week for new terms, or download our eBook to share across your organization.

A DJI Mavic 2 drone in the clouds.


GCS (Ground Control Station): A command center on-the-ground that controls airborne drones.

Geofencing: A predefined set of virtual geographic boundaries that prevents drones from crossing into restricted areas.

Gimbal: A device that allows the drone’s camera to remain stable while moving.

GIS (Geographic Information System): Technology that captures, analyzes, and manages spatial and geographic data.

GLONASS (Global Navigation Satellite System): An alternative to GPS technology that defines a drone’s location.

GPS (Global Positioning System): A satellite-based navigation system owned by the U.S. government.

Gyroscope: A circular device connected to the drone’s flight controller that allows the drone to remain level.


Headless Mode: Feature that allows the drone to remember the orientation in which it took off last.

Hexacopter or Hexicopter: A drone with 6 rotor arms.

Hobby Drone or Hobby-Grade: Typically ready-to-fly drones designed for the drone enthusiast.


IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit): Measuring device that relies on accelerometers, gyroscopes, and magnetometers to report the drone’s orientation.

INS (Inertial Navigation System): Internal method by which a drone determines its own position.

IOC (Intelligent Orientation Control): Another term for “Headless Mode,” this allows the drone to remember its prior orientation on its next flight.

IP Rating or Code: A rating system that codifies the level of protection a drone has against the physical elements.

A DJI Phantom 4 drone flying at the beach.


LAANC system (Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability system): A beta program offered by the FAA that facilitates controlled airspace access to drone pilots.

LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging): LiDAR is used for measuring distances by their light reflection with a laser.

LiPo (Lithium Polymer): The type of battery most commonly found in drones.

LOS (Line of Sight): An FAA requirement for drone operation, this states that the drone must be visible from the pilot’s operating position at all times.


Magnetometer: A device inside the flight controller that acts as a compass by measuring the Earth’s magnetic field to determine its orientation.

mAh (Milliampere Hours): This is used to measure the power in drone batteries.

MAVLink (Micro Air Vehicle Link): Most commonly found as protocols for communication between drones and ground control systems (GCS) to convey orientation, speed, etc.

METAR (Meteorological Terminal Aviation Routine Weather Report): Format used to report specific weather information.

Micro-air vehicle: A small drone. Many have size restrictions.

Mode 1 transmitters: This throttle is located on the right transmitter stick, and is most commonly found in the U.K.

Mode 2 transmitters: This throttle is located on the left transmitter stick, and is most commonly found in the U.S.

MSL (Mean Sea Level): A drone’s altitude/elevation in reference to the average height of the sea.

Multicopter: A drone with 2 or more rotor arms.

Multispectral Imagery: A type of imagery commonly used in agriculture, this is captured by a multispectral camera which detects light humans can not see.


No Fly Zone: An FAA restricted area where drones are not allowed to fly. Above airports and government buildings are prime examples.

NOTAM (Notice to Airmen): Information given to drone operators that warns them of immediate hazards or restrictions not yet published.

A close-up shot of a DJI Inspire drone.


OAS (Obstacle Avoidance System): System pre-programmed into a drone that alerts pilots to obstacles and collision dangers.

Octocopter: A drone with 8 motor arms.

Orthomosaic: A drone map comprised of a collection of photos from the selected area that have been stitched together.

OSD (On Screen Display): On a drone, this projects flight data like speed, battery life, and the like on-screen.


Part 107: FAA regulations that all drone operators must follow. Pilots can obtain a Part 107 license that demonstrates their knowledge in drone safety, FAA regulations, and operating procedures.

Payload: This is the capacity at which a drone can handle additional weight, such as cameras.

PDB (Power Distribution Board): The link between a drone’s battery and other aircraft components.

Photogrammetry: Drone photography that measures the distance between objects.

PIC (Pilot in Command): The drone operator.

Pitch: A term for moving the drone up or down.

P Mode (Positioning Mode): The most popular flight mode, this activates all sensors to ensure stability while hovering.

POI (Point of Interest): Available on most drone models, this flight mode keeps the drone’s camera trained on an area or object.

PPK (Post-Processing Kinematic): A satellite positioning technology similar to RTK.

Pre Flight Planning: A set of activities recommended by the FAA before takeoff, including checking the weather, equipment, and flight path.

Props (Propellers): An essential component of a drone, featuring angled blades that allow it to fly.

We'll see you next week for 43 more drone terms, from Q-Y. In the meantime, if you're interested in learning more about how drone technology can impact your business, check out some of our how-to articles, or watch our webinar on advancing your drone program.

Don't want to wait? Download our free drone glossary as an eBook here.

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