Drone Dictionary — Essential Terms Every Pilot Should Know


Whether you’re a seasoned UAV pilot or an aspiring operator looking to take to the skies, there is always something new to learn about piloting and operating drones. To help all you seasoned professionals and newcomers alike, Waypoint has collected a glossary of terms designed to help you brush up on your existing knowledge and maybe even learn something new.

The following are terms often used in relation to UAVs, UAV operation and the industries they operate in, specifically mining, construction and agriculture.

Above Elevation Data (AED): unique to senseFly’s eMotion flight planning software, AED altitudes are relative to the currently active elevation data model and is defined as the altitude approximately above the ground.

Above Ground Level (AGL): this term is typically used when describing a drone’s flight height.

Above Mean Sea Level (AMSL): AMSL altitudes are relative to a standard mean sea level geoid.

Above the Takeoff Altitude (ATO): ATO altitudes are relative to the place your drone started its motor just before takeoff.

Background Map: a visual 2D map of a region featuring landforms, roads, etc., onto which additional data is layered. Often used in the field of GIS. Sometimes called a base map.

Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS): an operating method whereby an unmanned aircraft is flown beyond the visual line of sight of the operator.

Check Point: a surveyed point on the ground, used to verify the accuracy of photogrammetric outputs such as DSMs, Point Cloud, Mesh, Orthomosaic and DTM.

Contour Map: a topographic map that delineates surface elevation using contour lines.

Drone: an unmanned aircraft that can navigate autonomously, without human control or beyond line of sight.

Digital Surface Model (DSM): a 3D model of an area that includes the tops of buildings, trees and other ground-based objects.

Expanded Polypropylene (EPP): a highly versatile and shock-absorbent type of foam.

Flight Log: a record of a single flight. Traditionally, this would be written by a pilot. In the case of senseFly drones, this is a digital record that is generated automatically.

Ground Control Point (GCP): a location or object on the ground that has precisely known coordinates. Used to improve the precision of DSMs created by photogrammetric analysis of a series of images.

Geotag: an electronic tag (grouping) of geographic information (coordinates) that is assigned to media such as photographs and videos via the process of geotagging (in the case of senseFly drones, this process is handled automatically via the eMotion flight-planning software).

GeoTIFF: a public domain metadata standard that allows georeferencing information to be embedded within a TIFF image file.

Geographic Information System (GIS): a system that lets users visualise, question, analyse and interpret data to understand spatial relationships, patters and trends.

Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS): a satellite navigation system with global coverage, such as GPS, GLONASS and the European Union’s Galileo system.

Global Positioning System (GPS): refers to the United States NAVSTAR Global Positioning System, a space-based navigation system that provides location and time information anywhere on or near the Earth.

Ground Sampling Distance (GSD): the distance between two consecutive pixel centres measured on the ground. A GSD of 5 cm means one pixel in the image represents 5 linear centimetres on the ground. Sometimes referred to as ground resolution.

Inertial Measurement Unit: (IMU): an electronic device used to manoeuver aircraft, which detects changes in acceleration and rotation. Comprised of sensors such as accelerometers, gyroscopes and sometimes magnetometers.

Keypoint: an identifiable point in an image. The process of photogrammetry involves the matching of common keypoints on two or more images.

Kinetic Energy: the energy an object possesses due to its motion.

Keyhole Markup Language (KML): an XML notation for expressing geographic annotation and visualisation within internet-based, two-dimensional maps and three-dimensional Earth browsers.

Light-emitting Diode (LED): a semiconductor device that emits light when an electric current is passed through it.

LiDAR: a remote-sensing technology that measures distances by illuminating a target laser and analysing the reflected light.

Magnetometer: a geophysical instrument that measures the strength of the Earth’s magnetic field. Used to alongside sensors such as gyrometers and accelerometers to determine an aircraft’s altitude (it’s orientation relative to the Earth’s horizon).

Meta Data/Metadata: a set of data that describes other data. In the case of a photo, metadata might include: where an image was captured (i.e. its geographic coordinate), who captured it, the camera used and more.

Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI): one of the most commonly used vegetation indices in precision agriculture. NDVI provides information regarding the chlorophyll content in plants.

Orthomosaic: a large image comprised of adjoining orthorectified images that have been digitally reconstructed. A common mapping drone output (often in GeoTIFF format).

Orthophoto: an aerial image where the effect of the central projection has been removed (orthorectified) according to the DTM and the orientation of the image. Refers to a single image from a satellite, aircraft or drone.

Payload: a component or product carried by a drone to fulfil a specific mission. In the case of aerial imaging drones, the payload is the camera.

Pitch: describes an aircraft’s rotation when the nose moves up or down about a transverse axis (e.g. for fixed-wing aircraft such as the senseFly eBee, this axis runs from wing to wing).

Pitot Probe: the instrument on an aircraft that measures air pressure in order to calculate airspeed.

Point Cloud: a set of data points in a 3D coordinate system. These points are typically defined by X, Y and Z coordinates and additional information such as intensity, RGB value or class.

Raster Data: in its simplest form, a raster consists of a matrix of cells (or pixels) organised into rows and columns (or a grid) where each cell contains a value representing information, such as RGB value, altitude or temperature. Drone-captured digital photographs are rasters.

Red Green Blue (RGB): the visible region of the electromagnetic spectrum, from approximately 400 nm to 700 nm.

Roll: an aircraft’s rotation about a longitudinal axis, running from nose to tail.

Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS): describes a configurable set of remotely-piloted aircraft elements.

Revolutions Per Minute (RPM): describes the rotation speed of a motor or other machine.

Real-Time Kinematic (RTK): a technique used to enhance the precision of position data derived from satellite-based positioning systems, which relies on a single reference station or interpolated virtual station to provide real-time corrections.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV): an aircraft operated with no pilot on board, plus its associated elements.

Vector Data: a representation of the world using points (e.g. featuring x, y, z coordinates), lines and polygons. Useful for storing data that has discrete boundaries such as country borders and parcels of land.

Are there any terms you use frequently that we missed? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Comments (1)

Muy buena iniciativa.
Incorporar el concepto de:
nube de puntos.
Superposición longitudinal y transversal.
Radio link.

Muy bueno sigan así

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