What is a UAS/UAV (Unmanned Aircraft System/Vehicle)?

Glossary Definition

A UAS is an Unmanned Aircraft System. Different organizations, agencies and manufacturers often use different terms interchangeably, but for consistency we will use the FAA definitions found in the FAA’s Pilot / Controllers Glossary.

  • Unmanned aircraft – an “aircraft operated without the possibility of direct human intervention from within or on the aircraft.”
  • Small unmanned aircraft – an “aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds on takeoff, including everything that is on board or otherwise attached to the aircraft.”
  • Small unmanned aircraft system – a “small unmanned aircraft and its associated elements (including communication links and the components that control the small unmanned aircraft) that are required for the safe and efficient operation of the small unmanned aircraft in the national airspace system.”

It is useful to think of a UAS in terms of its two major components: 1) the aircraft, also called an unmanned aircraft vehicle (UAV), and 2) a ground-based control station (GCS), which controls the UAV’s flight.