Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as drones, are aircrafts without a human pilot, crew, or passengers on board. UAVs are a component of an unmanned aircraft system (UAS), which includes a ground controller and a communications system. UAVs can be remotely piloted by a human operator, such as remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), or with varying degrees of autonomy, such as autopilot assistance, to fully autonomous aircraft. Recent technologies have enabled the development of many different types of advanced UAVs used for various purposes.
UAS consist of the aircraft component, sensor payloads, and a ground control station. UAVs are motorized aerial vehicles that do not carry a human operator, use aerodynamic forces to provide vehicle lift, can fly autonomously or be remotely piloted, can be disposable or recoverable, and can carry a lethal or non-lethal payload. UAVs are used in numerous real-life applications, such as payload delivery, traffic monitoring, moving objects in a seemingly hazardous environment, and surveillance. UAVs are also classified according to the weight, maximum altitude and speed of the UAV component.
Beyond the military applications of UAVs, numerous uses of civil aviation have been developed, including aerial crop surveying, aerobatic aerial imagery in filmmaking, search and rescue operations, inspection of power lines and pipelines, counting wildlife, and delivering medical supplies to remote or otherwise inaccessible regions. In the field of remote sensing, UAVs are helping to quickly replace conventional aerial photography (photogrammetry) by providing high spatial resolution aerial images (orthophotos) of the Earth's surface. Other low-profile uses for unmanned aerial vehicles include firefighting and police use, as well as other types of domestic surveillance. Approaching its development as a complete unmanned aerial system (the flight hardware, controls, and data connectivity that make the hardware work), the United States Department of Defense (U.
S. Department of Commerce) has substantially developed capabilities, reliability, and access to UAS around the world. UAVs are increasingly used in many applications due to their rapid and cost-effective deployment. As technology advances and more applications become available for UAVs, they will continue to be an important tool for many industries.