For successful communication it is necessary for there to be a common understanding of terms and the situation and context in which they are used.

To ensure a common understanding of specific terms relating to unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), it is necessary to have a document which lists the terms and explains their meanings.

The .pdf file is not a new set of formal definitions. It intends to provide the necessary explanation of meaning of words and terms relevant to the UAS Knowledge Resource website. Additional comments are provided to assist understanding. The paper is subject to constant revision to cater for the evolution of language, concepts and technology.

Please click on this link to access the Terminology document.

Addendum - Recent addition

Cyber - The word ‘cyber' denotes a relationship with information technology (IT), i.e., computers. (It can relate to all aspects of computing, including storing data, protecting data, accessing data, processing data, transmitting data*, and linking data.)  In older usage, the term ‘electronic security’ is now replaced with ‘cyber security’.  ( * In some communities, 'cyber security' may include local transmission of data, while the term 'communications security' is used for transmission of data between separate or distant locations.)

Higher Level Terminology

For now, this site refers to Unmanned Aircraft Systems, for which domain it seeks to act as a Knowledge Resource.

However, there are many examing the use of language in the constantly evolving contemporary context.

Decades ago, there were 'model aircraft’ flown for recreational purposes and bespoke aircraft for research.  There were also ’target drones’ which were used for mainly military purposes.  During the Viet Nam War, ’target drones’ were fitted with cameras to deliver military reconnaissance over enemy areas where the risk to manned aircraft was high from air defence weapons.  This latter application caused many to explore the utility of such aircraft for other purposes.

The term ‘remotely piloted vehicle’ (RPV) became commonly used in the 1970s and 1980s.  This was a bit confusing, because there was no direct connection with aviation and could, and did, apply to remotely controlled vehicles on the ground and on and under water.  Another term grew in use, the 'Unmanned Aerial Vehicle’ (UAV).  Some still use this term.  But this language set the domain aside from regular aviation, which was not desirable.  There were many proposals, one of the better ones was ‘automatic aircraft’.  The deliberate use of the word ‘aircraft’ clearly indicated a new entrant into the use of airspace traditionally dominated by ‘manned’ or ‘crewed’ aviation.

As momentum built in the sector, regulators became aware of the need to deal with it in the light of air traffic integration and safety certification.  An over-riding consideration was the need, in the context of the Chicago Convention, to have a human pilot responsible for the safe flight of an aircraft in international airspace.  Individual states could decide on certain aspects of regulation within their national portfolios.  The concept of a fully automatic aircraft, without the capability for human intervention, sharing international airspace was not chosen for regulatory action by most authorities.  They were willing to deal with the concept of a remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) with its associated sytems (RPAS), for which a human pilot was at all times able to execute the required responsibilities for safe flight.  They recognised that there were already examples of ‘aircraft’ using international airspace which were incapable of human intervention (eg weather balloons) but, then, chose not to move forward with concerted regulatory development.

Currently many regard the term ‘UAS’ to cover all aircraft (and its associated systems) without a human pilot on board the aircraft, while RPAS is understood to deal only with a remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) with its associated sytems (RPAS), for which a human pilot is at all times able to execute the required responsibilities for safe flight.

Some have been questioning the term ‘unmanned’ in the context of inclusion and modern usage.  RPAS is independent of such issues.  As technology moves towards the possibilities of fully automatic flight, without the need for a human remote pilot to be responsible at all times, it appears there is a desire to replace UAS with a more inclusive or, perhaps, less discriminatory term.

A complication arises as technology and regulation develop.  At the moment, regulations are not advanced in accommodating the carriage of passengers by an aircraft without a human pilot but such concepts are well advanced and appear to be attractive to many.  Clearly the use of UA would not be appropriate for a pilotless air taxi carrying people.

Over the years, there have been a multitude of proposals for new terminology but none have gained a sufficient level of support.  While some would suggest this is an issue of little significance now, it might be an important factor in gaining the public acceptance the sector will need as it progresses.  More work and solutions appear to be desirable.

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