May 16

Drones, UAVs, UAS, and RPAS; What Are They and Their Differences?

In recent years, the word "drones" has been used to describe several different devices, with the common element being that they have no pilot inside. Now, anything (relatively) small that flies around is called a drone. But there are other terms you could encounter that some people would also associate with drones. So in this article, let's take a look at drones and other flying machines you also need to get to know.


Drones are used in many different fields. While most people associate them with aircraft, there is a wide variety of vehicles classified as drones. They may take the form of either land or seafaring undertakings that also carry this title. Of course, the biggest use - by far - refers to aerial vehicles that can be remotely or autonomously piloted.

In the USA, drones are now considered prevalent enough to need their own rules and a dedicated federal agency that monitors America's skies - the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA). To ensure the safe use of UAVs, this agency has implemented a process of drone registration.


Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) can fly remotely using a controller, tablet, or self-guided and fly autonomously. So, does that make every drone now UAV? In this case, the answer is yes, but at the same time, no.

Most say that a UAV does not simply mean just a drone because a true UAV has to be flown without any human feedback, which typically makes them incapable of hovering without crashing continuously, and most drones do not have this ability.


An unmanned aircraft system (UAS) has several parts: the unmanned aerial vehicle (drone), the person operating it via remote control, and the wireless network that connects both. In addition, since the UAV is an integral part of the UAS, you will often see that term used interchangeably with UAS itself.


In technical terms, RPA stands for "Remotely Piloted Aircraft". It is because flying certain UAVs requires more skill than any simple remote control could offer. In addition to skills such as hover time and line-of-sight communication, pilots operating RPAs must first have many hours under their belts to fly them safely and legally not to endanger anyone on the ground below.

onnected skies

Watch the recording of our webinar “Connected Skies” to hear about drone laws, connected drones, drone delivery, and how drones are leveraging the power of mobile and satellite connectivity, and more.

The Current Uses of UAVs

Drones have been used for years to deliver certain goods across the country and can now transport critical medical supplies and blood test samples to remote areas without fail. The team at Drone Delivery Canada talks with federal and government agencies about the use of their drones to distribute vaccines because the time attached to delivery is imperative.

Drone companies are incorporating artificial intelligence into drones to expedite things like delivering products on people's doorsteps!

Drones fly high and scout large areas. For example, drones were recently used to inspect 4,000 miles of power transmission lines in Ohio, USA, using photogrammetry. They also mapped hundreds of hectares in the Bathurst Mining District of New Brunswick, Canada, using ground-based cameras and magnetometers to create detailed maps. These mapping practices are not limited to land features only - aerial mapping can collect data on the oceans too!

What the Future Holds for Drones

By 2050, drones are expected to become so commonplace that they are integrated into the fabric of society. Not just as a way of delivering Amazon orders or fixing agricultural production problems, but as a transportation solution in general. You might even forget that they are passing overhead at all. Personal drone ownership is years away from being mainstream though it's likely that public use will be fully sanctioned and in full swing by 2040.

Bigger drones will send out little ones to perform rapid response missions. They will detect tiny atmospheric and geological changes. Rapid response drones alert us to prevent disasters such as mudslides, earthquakes, and tsunamis before they occur.

These drones prevent disease outbreaks by monitoring the quality of water and food, the environment, and insect populations. Keeping an eye on animal species means we learn about any impending danger or risk of extinction before too late.

Drones will combine aircraft and ground-based technology to freely roam the streets and recharge their batteries.

Regulation of UAVs is Urgently Needed

Drones are becoming increasingly popular. They have huge advantages over other methods of transport and even show great potential to replace some existing systems. Despite that, seeing drones in the air might cause people to feel uneasy.

At first sight, they look quite intimidating; however, it's crucial to remember that they are not a risk if used properly. Similar to using any other mode of public transportation, the risks related to drone use can be minimized by following the guidelines and sticking to applicable laws.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is responsible for approving drone use in the United States. There are many safe practices regarding their operation that come with applicable rules & regulations (like staying away from airports or no-fly zones), these are meant to protect both operators and people on the ground below them, thus preventing accidents from further damage as much as possible.

When you register a flying drone, that drone is added to an overall database of types and sizes of drones in the marketplace. Each flying application states what type of flight operation it will be used for, such as emergency search operations or one involving specialized photography with exact details on flying height and any nearby risks, such as busy airports.

Authorities should be able to commandeer all nearby drones during emergencies so that the situation can be assessed on the ground firsthand, and any help required supplied if it is needed without delay.

Furthermore, setting up safe locations where drone pilots can fly their machines beyond the line of sight will limit traffic accidents by keeping them away from congested areas and also giving an exciting new location for anyone interested in drone flying as an activity that would be fine as long as they registered previously with local authorities before taking off.

The drone industry may be new, but words were built to evolve. The FAA's Drone Advisory Committee recently recommended: "remotely piloted" as alternative wording to avoid any stigmas attached to the word "drone."


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