Drone or UAV? Which is it and does it matter?

It is time for Drone Solutions to decide.

Are we going to use Drone or UAV when we talk about our services? Most people  use the terms “drone” and “UAV” interchangeably, yet they appear to carry subtle distinctions. While both refer to unmanned aerial vehicles, “drone” has gained wider popularity and usage. It’s the go-to term in everyday conversation and media coverage due to its simplicity. On the other hand, “UAV” (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) is more technical and common in official contexts, such as regulations and aerospace discussions. However, these terms can hold different meanings across sectors. In the real world, “drone” typically denotes recreational or commercial aerial devices. Yet, in military and defence contexts, “UAV” carries a more specialised connotation, often referring to advanced surveillance or combat aircraft. Interestingly, the meaning of these terms doesn’t drastically differ among countries. Both “drone” and “UAV” are universally understood to describe unmanned flying machines. In various languages, translations of these terms reflect the same concepts.


Synonyms and Their Significance

Beyond “drone” and “UAV,” synonyms like “quadcopter,” “uncrewed aircraft,” and “remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS)” exist. These terms essentially convey the same concept – an aircraft operated without a human pilot on board. However, their popularity varies. “Quadcopter” is widely recognised, while “RPAS” is predominantly used in the aviation industry and regulatory frameworks.

News Language and Trends

News articles frequently use “drone” due to its broader appeal, even though “UAV” might be more accurate in certain contexts. A quick search of the great barometer of British culture – dailymail.co.uk – shows there are a lot of references to drones, however UAVs barely get a look in and seem to be solely used to describe battlefield looses.

“Aerial” vs. “Drone” in Photography

“Aerial photography” and “drone photography” are terms that diverge subtly. “Aerial photography” implies capturing images from an elevated viewpoint, potentially using any method, including helicopters or fixed-wing aircraft. In contrast, “drone photography” specifically signifies images taken using unmanned aircraft. The latter term has surged in popularity alongside the growth of consumer drones, distinguishing this modern approach from traditional methods.


“UAS” (Unmanned Aircraft System) and “RPAS” (Remotely Piloted Aircraft System) are terms focusing on the entire system, including the aircraft, ground control station, and communication links. These terms are mostly found in aviation regulations and discussions, highlighting the comprehensive nature of unmanned flight operations. All in all, it seems that if you are using these terms, you are a particularly dull person. I am only joking. We love our friends at the CAA.

In conclusion, while “drone” and “UAV” are often used interchangeably, their connotations can shift subtly across sectors. Synonyms like “quadcopter” and “RPAS” play niche roles. Media language trends lean toward “drone,” reflecting its everyday usage. Meanwhile, “aerial” and “drone” in photography highlight distinctions in capturing elevated imagery. The terms “UAS” and “RPAS” address the holistic aspect of unmanned flight systems, essential in aviation contexts.

So it is pretty obvious, if you are a normal, interesting and functioning person, you use drone. So from this moment forward, Drone Solutions will use drone as opposed to UAV. God, that feels better now it is sorted…