The aviation industry in general is awash with acronyms that can be baffling to uninitiated and drone pilots have certainly cornered their share.
You can quite often see these terms bandied about by pilots on their websites and if you don’t know what they mean, they can make understanding what they are saying a little tricky. So this handy tool will explain some of the most common ones, including the brand new ones that are coming into force under the new EASA legislation in July.
A2 Certificate of Competency. The new certification under EASA legislation. The A2 CofC is a remote pilot competency certificate primarily intended to assure safe operations of unmanned aircraft close to uninvolved persons. The certificate assures an appropriate knowledge of the technical and operational mitigations for ground risk (the risk of a person being struck by the unmanned aircraft
Autonomous Collision Avoidance System – this allows the drone to detect obstacles and reroute or hold position in order to avoid them.
Altitude Above Ground Level
Air Navigation Order – an Act of Parliament detailing the law as it relates to Civil Aviation in the UK
Aerial Photography – a blanket term for all photography taken from a UAV in flight.
Air Traffic Control. The ground-based personnel and equipment concerned with controlling and monitoring air traffic within a particular area.
All Up Weight. The total weight of the vehicle, including all necessary parts.
Battery Elimination Circuit. A circuit that is designed to deliver electrical power to other circuitry eliminating the need for multiple batteries.
British Model Flying Association. The BMFA is the National Governing Body for the sport of model flying. Its aims are to promote, protect, organise and encourage model flying within the UK
Beyond Visual Line of Sight. Generally a pilot is legally obligated to keep their aircraft in their line of sight, that is visible to the pilot with the naked eye. Legislation is in motion to allow pilots to fly beyond their line of sight which is seen as key to unlocking services such as drone delivery.
Civil Aviation Authority. The CAA came into being as an independent regulator and public corporation in 1972, before which a body known as the Air Registration Board was responsible for regulating aviation.
Civil Aviation Publication. Items published by the CAA all referenced with a unique number
Carbon Fibre – commonly used material in construction of drone because of it’s strength and quality of being lightweight.
Centre of Gravity
DJI – the world’s leading manufacturer of drones based in China and thought to have manufactured more than two thirds of civil drones currently in use.
European Aviation Safety Agency – responsible for safety legislation in civil aviation across Europe. It carries out certification, regulation and standardisation as well as being in charge of investigation and monitoring.
Electronic Conspicuity. An term for a range of technologies that transmit the position of the host aircraft to other airspace users operating compatible equipment
Electronic Magnetic Interference. When an electronic device enters the vicinity of an electromagnetic field in the radio frequency spectrum of another device, EMI can be caused. This is a type of disturbance that can affect the control of the UAV by the pilot.
Electronic Speed Control
Extended Visual Line of Sight. A distance of over 500 metres which is the standard range of Visual Line of Sight where the pilot can extend the range by using a second spotter to watch the aircraft and communicate with the pilot.
Federal Aviation Administration. The CAA equivalent in the USA overseeing civil aviation.
Flight Controller – the drone’s brain which is used to stabilise and control the aircraft.
Flight Level. A surface of constant atmosphere pressure which is related to a specific pressure datum, 1013.2hPa, and is separated from other such surfaces by specific pressure intervals. Altitude above sea-level in 100 feet units measured according to a standard atmosphere
Forward Looking Infra Red. Cameras that detect infrared radiation usually from a heat source and translate this into visual data.
Field of View. The amount of environment visible through the camera lens.
First Person View. A forward facing camera on the drone allows the pilot to fly as if they are actually on board the aircraft – a technique commonly used in drone racing.
Flight Restricted Zone. Areas where flights require special or additional permissions from the relevant authorities such as the areas surrounding airfields.
Geographical Information System. The system that captures and stores geographical data to allow it to be manipulated and presented in various ways.
Global Positioning System. A collection of satellites that work together to allow the position of the drone to be calculated
General VLOS Certificate (Visual Line of Sight). This is the most likely direct replacement for the PfCO. The GVC is a remote pilot competency certificate which provides a single qualification that is suitable for VLOS operations within the Specific category. The GVC is acceptable for all VLOS operations conducted under a published STS (standard scenario) or PDRA (pre-determined risk assessment) and, in most circumstances, it will be considered an acceptable level of remote pilot competency within an operational risk assessment for any other VLOS operation
High Intensity Radio Transmission Area. An area that can interfere with your drone electronics.
International Civil Aviation Organisation. A specialised group working as part of the United Nations that establishes the principles of civil aviation around the world and plans for its safe and ordered growth.
Instrument Flight Rules. IFR means that a pilot can fly using just the data supplied by the aircraft’s instruments, rather than using visual information. The other set of regulations are VFR (Visual Flight Rules)
Light Detection and Ranging. This is a method of survey that measures the distance to a target by illuminating it with pulses of light and measuring the pulses that are reflected back. Common uses for LIDAR would be sea floor or forest mapping and it has recently found a use in precision agriculture.
Lithium Ion Polymer Battery. The most commonly used type of battery used in a drone because of the high transfer rate meaning extremely fast energy release is possible.
Line of Sight. A requirement of current UK law and this means that the pilot can see their aircraft with the naked eye while flying
National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts. Nesta is an innovation foundation, based in the UK and supported by a financial endowment. They carry out a lot of research into how drones can be used to meet the challenges of today’s world.
No Fly Zone – an area where flights are restricted or forbidden according to the law.
Nautical Mile. Equivalent to one minute of latitude which is sometimes used as a measure of distance in aviation.
Notice to Air Men. A CAA issued time sensitive notice to all pilots to make them aware of unusual conditions or temporary hazards in the airspace.
National Qualified Entry. An organisation given authority by the CAA to train pilots and pass them as qualified as part of the PfCO application process.
Obstacle Avoidance System. Allowing an aircraft to detect obstacles or hazards and take automatic steps to avoid collision with them.
Operations Manual. A document detailing everything about a pilot’s business model and operation that must be up to date and submitted to the CAA on an annual basis to maintain a PfCO
Operating Safety Case. An additional set of CAA permissions allowing a pilot to operate their aircraft outside of standard permissions, at reduced distances for example.
Pre-Determined Risk Assessment. A set of circumstances that have been predefined and allow a simple declaration by the pilot in order to fly within.
Permission for Commercial Operations. The CAA granted permissions that allow a pilot to fly their drone commercially.
Pilot in Command.
Recognised Assessment Entity. This is the replacement term for NQE under the new EASA legislation given to organisations who train and issue CAA-recognised certificates to drone operators
Remote Piloted Aerial System. The official term for drone used by the CAA
Ready to Fly. A drone that is already assembled and ready to fly out of the box.
Return to Launch / Return to Home. A command that can be given to the drone to recall it to its starting position.
Speed Over Ground. This can be different to air speed.
Standard Scenario. Standard scenarios are meant to simplify the activities required to the UAS operators. They are defined types of UAS operation in the ‘specific’ category, for which mitigation measures have been determined after a risk assessment is carried out by EASA or by the competent authority
Small Unmanned Aerial System. One of the very many alternative terms for a drone.
Unmanned Aerial System / Vehicle. Another term for a drone.
Vertical Take Off and Landing. Multi rotor craft, as opposed to fixed wing, offer the advantage of being able to take off and land on the spot rather than requiring the space of a runway.