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Glossary of Drone Terms - do you know your FPV from your LiPo

Glossary of Drone Terms

Some drone terms are quite straight forward, others are a bit more confusing – here’s our guide to what the jargon means;

A – F

4K, 1080P, HD

These are measures of video recording resolution. High Definition (HD) is also known as 1080P and has a frame size of 1920 x 1080 pixels. 4K (also known as Ultra High Definition of UHD) has a frame size of 3840 x 2160 pixels. So UHD has 4x the number of pixels.

Does that mean shooting in 4K is better? Yes, if you can also view the footage in 4K, or if you might want to crop an image taken at the higher resolution. Not really if you are viewing on HD devices.

Altitude Hold

A feature of some drones that allow them to maintain a fixed position above the ground.

Formerly reserved only for more expensive drones this feature is becoming more common on cheaper drones too. A fixed elevation above the ground is achieved by barometric pressure sensing or by ultrasonic measurement.

While a useful tool, especially for a beginner, the constant sensing and adjusting of power to maintain height can be a drain on battery power.

For more details, check RCDroneArena.com

Ascend / Descend

The movement of the drone up and down as at take-off and landing.

See also Drone Movement.

Bank

Banking is the movement of a drone to the left or to the right while still facing forward.

Think of it like the movement of a goal-keeper standing on his line facing a penalty – he’s able to move left and right but remains facing forward while not moving forward or back.

See also drone movement.

Battery Safety

Few quick battery safety tips;

  • never leave batteries that are charging un-attended
  • never charge a battery that is (or looks) damaged or swollen
  • check charging batteries from time to time to see that they are not getting hot
  • do not use ‘fast charge’ options on LiPo batteries charge at 1C or less
  • ideally you should charge and store LiPo batteries in a LiPo safe bag.

CAA / FAA

Civil Aviation Authority (US equivalent is the Federal Aviation Authority FAA) is the government body in the UK that makes the rules and laws relating to air-borne craft.

They have developed some guidance on drone safety (see our page on Safety).

Crash Kit

A crash kit is a set of accessories you might want to buy in addition to your drone in case you crash badly.

The kit normally includes spare propeller blades and may also include spare motors, protectors and even a spare body as is the case with the Hubsan crash kit that we recommend for the H107C.

Drone Controls

Your drone moves in specific ways with specific terms, movement also depends on how your controller is configured – which adds to the confusion. Under the conventional (often called Mode 2) configuration;

Left stick forward = ascend (move up)
Left stick back = descend (move down)
Left stick left = rotate (yaw) left
Left stick right = rotate (yaw) right
Right stick forward = pitch (move) forward
Right stick back = pitch (move) back
Right stick left = bank (move) left
Right stick right = bank (move) right

Fly More Combo

This is the name that DJI gives to their standard collection of accessories they recommend – typically it includes additional batteries, multi-charger hub, car charger, carry bag and possibly spare propeller blades.

FPV

First per view (also known as Remote Person View (RPV) is a way of controlling your drone by seeing what the drone sees.

The drone camera footage is fed back in real time to a device (typically a smartphone) which is placed in a headset that the pilot wears so that their view is what the drone sees.

This method of control is common in drone racing where all the obstacles are in front of you but not recommended for normal drone flying where it’s important to keep an eye on your surroundings as well as the drone.

G – M

GPS

Global Positioning System (or Satellite).

This is the means by which a drone identifies its position (just as car satellite navigation does).

With this information a drone can be programmed to fly to certain coordinates or at a certain altitude.

It is also able to return to home or fly in other autopilot modes such as; spotlight, profile, trace, terrain follow and tap fly.

Headless Mode

This mode has become popular among newbie flyers as drone control can be confusing when the drone is not facing the same way you are.

For example, if your drone is facing you and you want it to fly away from you, you would have to reverse. More confusingly if you want it to fly left you would move the stick right.

This confusion is solved by headless mode, where the drone always understands its position relative to you so that it does not matter which way the drone forward direction is pointing.

When you push forward, the drone moves forward relative to your direction, not the heading of the drone. Useful for beginners but not really applicable for more advanced flyers who should learn to fly and control their drone relative to the drone direction.

Line Of Sight

Simply means that you can see the drone with your naked eye during flight.

A lot of accidents and crashes that occur usually happen when the pilot has lost sight of the drone and it is against CAA rules to fly a drone out of your sight.

LiPo

Drone batteries are often referred to as LiPo as they are made from a Lithium Polymer.

This material has a very high energy density compared to other types of batteries which means they are able to hold more energy compared to another battery of the same weight.

Hence LiPo batteries are commonly used with radio controlled planes, copters and drones.

Pitch

This is the movement of a drone forward or backward.

Pushing the right stick forward (normally) will drop the nose of the done slightly down and cause the rear to rise causing the drone to move forwards. See also Drone Movement.

Profile Mode

This is an autopilot mode that DJI drones can operate under where the drone will fly alongside a subject no matter where they move to.

Useful for tracking a moving object like a person running.

Return To Home

Utilising GPS, a drone can be programmed to store the location that it takes off from.

It can then return to home at the touch of a button or if it gets into trouble such as a low battery.

This option can normally be selected to activate automatically, and as long as you take off slowly and allow the drone to save the home point you will be in good shape.

Some drones, such as the DJI Mavic take a photo of the ground below them as an additional check that they have returned to the right place – if you want to use this feature then taking off from a recognisable place is useful, or you could buy a launch mat from us!

Roll

Tilting the drone so the left side drops and the right side rises (or vice versa) is known as rolling or banking.

See also Drone Control.

N – Z

SD Card

This is a form of memory storage known as ‘Secure Digital’.

SD cards are small, lightweight cards that can be slotted into electronic devices including cameras and phones to store data.

SD cards come in three sizes; the standard SD size (32mm x 24mm), Mini SD size (21.5mm x 20mm) and Micro SD size (11mm x 15mm).

They also come in different capacity designations Standard Capacity (SDSC) which can store typically up to 2GB of data, High Capacity (SDHC) that can store up to 32GB and Extended Capacity (SDXC) that can store up to 2TB.

For most of your drone needs 16GB or 32GB should be sufficient – check out the latest Amazon deals on memory cards by clicking the links.

Spotlight Mode

This is an autopilot mode that DJI drones can operate under.

It involves circling or following behind or in front of an subject while stationary or moving.

You select the object to spotlight via software and the drone identifies and locks-on to that subject. Then, no matter what the subject does, the drone will follow it or continually circle around it.

Tap And Fly Mode

This is an autopilot mode that DJI drones can operate under.

It involves selecting a point on the display screen and the drone will automatically fly to that point.

Terrain Follow Mode

This is an autopilot mode that DJI drones can operate under where it is programmed to fly as the same level above ground no matter what the terrain – useful if you are following someone walking up a hill or up some steps for example.

Trace Mode

This is an autopilot mode that DJI drones can operate under which keeps the drone camera fixed on a subject no matter where the drone flies to.

This enables you to fly around an object or fly out away from an object while always keeping the object in the centre of the screen and in focus.

Trim

Trim adjustment is a means of making fine adjustments to the relative speeds of the propellers.

This is useful if you drone is slightly unbalanced and tends to drift left/ right/ forwards/ back or rotates.

Most new drones with new propellers should be balanced and not drift but if one of your blades is slightly bent or damaged, or if you insert a larger battery making the drone heavier (usually towards the rear) drifting can occur.

Of course you can manually correct this as you fly but using the trim adjustments you can set the drone to neutralize the imbalance.

Yaw

The yaw movement is the rotational motion of a drone about its centre.

With the drone hovering, move the left stick to the left (or right) and watch it rotate.