Drones Education Technology


asiWhat’s in a name? Well, in the case of UAV and UAS it seems that people like to interchange these, myself included, but some recent work on a position statement by the TRB AFB80 committee that we intend to send to the FAA revealed a better approach. By the way, this position statement points out that the professional surveying and mapping community has been safely operating in National Air Space for decades and that we deserve to be treated differently from other groups.

Qassim Abdullah at Woolpert has proposed that UAV is for the platform, i.e. aircraft and whether fixed wings or rotary and that UAS is UAV + payload (cameras, sensors, etc.). This makes a lot of sense to me and I can’t see any down side, but perhaps we are missing something.

Any comments?


  • That’s pretty consistent with DOD usage too. Since they rarely, if ever, fly a UAV without some type of payload, they use UAS almost exclusively

  • Nuance is still important. Implied is that there is no commercial purpose for a UAV by itself (without payload). Even a delivery vehicle has to have some sort of payload that impacts/drives performance. Yet FAA authorization is for the UAV, not the UAS, am I correct? At some point the “S” contributes to safety whether by design or in practical application. Not unlike continued confusion between the terms DEM, DTM and DSM, these two terms will be interchanged correctly or incorrectly forever. The importance lies less in the “correct” distinction between the terms and more in the common understanding of the stakeholders.

    • And I’m sure you all remember that we settled on 3D Imaging System as the general term for all of these systems (as per ASTM E2544-11a Standard Terminology for Three-Dimensional (3D) Imaging Systems) 🙂

  • DoD/FAA use one acronym for the vehicle, which is one component of the operational system (control link, autonomous programming, transmitter / receiver(s), safety assets, etc…)

  • Transport Canada is going with UAS, occassionally RPAS, when communicating with pilots and organizations. I read somewhere that the rationale is to emphasize the entirety of the system for safety and maintenance considerations, (especially to all the new service providers entering the field). Additionally, these are also the terms accepted by ICAO. Seems an acceptable rationale to me.

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