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The Ultimate Drone Glossary: Part 2

An A-Z Guide for Drone Professionals and Enthusiasts

Fri Sep 25 2020 00:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

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.


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.


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.


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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