Updated: January 11, 2023

Drone Wikipedia

Written by: Ryan Hartman
Edited by: Josiah Miller
Fact-Checked by: Charles Brown

Before You Continue


Elbit Systems Hermes-450 unmanned aircraft takeoff
Credit: Wikimedia

A drone, also known as an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), is a type of aircraft that is operated without a human pilot on board. Drones can be remotely controlled or fly autonomously using pre-programmed flight plans. They can be used for a variety of purposes, including military operations, reconnaissance, search and rescue, and commercial delivery.

Classification types

Classification types
Credit: Wikimedia

Drones come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, and can be classified in many different ways. Some common ways to classify drones include by:

Group:Group 1Group 2Group 3Group 4Group 5
Max take-off wt< 20 lb(9.1 kg)> 20 & < 55> 55 & < 1320>1,320 lb(600 kg)>1,320 lb(600 kg)
Operating altitude< 1,200 ft(370 m)< 3,500 ft(1,100 m)< 18,000 ft(5,500 m)< 18,000 ft(5,500 m)> 18,000 ft(5,500 m)
Speed< 100 kn(190 km/h)< 250 kn(460 km/h)< 250 kn(460 km/h)Any speedAny speed

Range and endurance: 

The distance a drone can fly and the amount of time it can stay in the air before needing to refuel or recharge.

Category:Very close range UAVsClose range UAVsShort range UAVsMedium range UAVsLong range UAVs
Range (km):< 5> 5 & < 50> 50 & < 150> 150 & < 650> 650
Endurance (hr):0.5 – 0.751–68–1212 – 36 or 48> 36 or 48


The physical dimensions of the drone, including its wingspan and fuselage length.

Category:Micro/Very small UAVsMini/Small UAVsMedium UAVsLarge UAVs
Length/Wingspan:< 50 cm> 50 cm & < 2 m5 –10 m> 10 m


The weight of the drone, which can affect its performance and how it is launched and recovered.

Category:NanoMicro air vehicles (MAV)Miniature UAV or Small (SUAV)Medium UAVsLarge UAVs
Weight:< 250 gm>= 250 gm & <02  Kg>= 02  Kg & <25  Kg>= 25 kg & <150  Kg>=150 kg

Degree of autonomy: 

The level of autonomy a drone has, which can range from being fully remote-controlled to being able to fly and make decisions independently.


The maximum altitude at which a drone can fly, which can affect the drone's range and the type of camera or sensor it can carry.

Composite criteria: 

The combination of the above factors that help to define how the drone performs.


Credit: Wikimedia

Drones have a rich history that spans several decades, beginning with early efforts to develop unmanned aerial vehicles for military and reconnaissance purposes.

Early drones: 

The earliest drones were developed in the early 20th century, primarily for use in reconnaissance and target practice. These early drones were often built using simple, off-the-shelf technology and were mainly used by military forces.

World War II: 

During World War II, drones began to be used in combat operations, primarily as targets for training anti-aircraft gunners.

Postwar period: 

After the war, the military continued to develop drones for reconnaissance and surveillance purposes. The development of jet engines in the 1950s and 1960s led to the development of more advanced, high-altitude drones.

Modern UAVs: 

In recent years, advances in computer technology and miniaturization have led to the development of a wide range of drones with varying levels of autonomy, capabilities and usage . Modern drones are now used in a wide range of applications, from military operations and reconnaissance to search and rescue and commercial delivery.


Credit: Wikimedia

Drones come in many different designs, but some common design elements include:

Aircraft configuration: 

The overall layout of the drone's body, including its wings, tail, and fuselage.


The means by which the drone is propelled, which can include electric motors, gasoline engines, or jet engines.

Ornithopters - wing propulsion: 

Some drones are designed to mimic the flapping motion of a bird's wings, and they use this motion to fly. These types of drones are called Ornithopters.

Computer control systems

Computer control systems
Credit: Wikipedia

Modern drones are controlled by complex computer systems that allow them to fly autonomously or be remotely controlled.


The architecture of a drone's computer control system includes the sensors, processors, and software that allow it to fly and make decisions.


The degree of autonomy of a drone, which can range from being fully remote-controlled to being able to fly and make decisions independently.

Drone Software:

FirmwareTime-criticalFrom machine code to processor execution, memory accessArduCopter-v1, PX4
MiddlewareTime-criticalFlight control, navigation, radio managementPX4, Cleanflight, ArduPilot
Operating systemComputer-intensiveOptical flow, obstacle avoidance, SLAM, decision-makingROS, Nuttx, Linux distributions, Microsoft IOT

Performance considerations

Credit: Wikimedia

When designing and operating drones, there are a number of performance considerations that must be taken into account to ensure safe and efficient operation.

Flight envelope: 

The flight envelope refers to the limits within which a drone can safely fly, including its maximum and minimum speed, altitude, and temperature range.


The ability of a drone to stay in the air for an extended period of time, which is determined by factors such as the size of its fuel or battery supply.


The reliability of a drone refers to its ability to function correctly and consistently over time. Factors that can affect reliability include the quality of the materials and components used in the drone and the robustness of its control systems.


Drone Delivery

Drones are used for a wide range of applications, including:


Drones are widely used by military forces for reconnaissance, surveillance, and targeted killings.


Drones are also increasingly being used in civilian applications such as surveying and rescue, wildlife conservation, hunting, Fishing, video recording, and aerial photography.

Safety and security

Drone Delivery

As the use of drones becomes more widespread, there are growing concerns about the safety and security of these aircraft.


Drones can pose a number of threats to safety and security, including collisions with other aircraft and the potential for terrorist attacks using weaponized drones.


To mitigate these threats, a number of countermeasures have been developed, including radar-based detection and tracking systems, as well as electronic jamming and spoofing systems to disrupt a drone's control signals.

Drone Buying Guide

Drone Technology: What Is a Drone?

Drones have become increasingly popular in recent years, with a wide range of models available for consumer and professional use. With so many options available, it can be difficult to know where to start when looking to buy a drone. This guide will provide an overview of some of the key features to consider when shopping for a drone.

Flying Time:

The flying time of a drone is an important consideration, as it determines how long you will be able to use the drone before needing to recharge or replace the batteries. Most consumer drones have a flying time of around 15-25 minutes, while some high-end models can fly for up to 40 minutes.


The type of battery a drone uses can also be an important factor to consider. Many drones use lithium-polymer (Li-Po) batteries, which are lightweight and provide a long flying time, but can be prone to overheating or catching fire if damaged. Other types of batteries, such as nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) and lithium-ion (Li-ion), are also used in some drones, but these are typically heavier and have a shorter flying time.

Flight Range:

The flight range of a drone refers to the maximum distance it can travel from the remote control before losing control. Most consumer drones have a flight range of around 50-500 meters, although some high-end models can fly up to 2km. For professional use cases you may need drones that can fly much farther, for example for the search and rescue operation.


Many drones are equipped with cameras, which can be used to capture aerial photos and night mode videos. The quality of the camera is an important consideration, as well as the resolution of the video output, max image size and the lens degree of field.

First Person View:

Some drones also come with a first person view (FPV) feature, which allows you to see what the drone sees in real-time using a smartphone or tablet. This can be a fun and immersive way to fly a drone, but it also requires a good Wi-Fi connection and a device with a large screen, as well as the separate purchase of a specific controller.


GPS is another feature that is present in many drones, which allows the drone to fly autonomously, and come back to the home point. This is especially useful when the drone goes out of range or when the battery is getting low. It also helps to prevent the drone from flying into restricted areas or other obstacles.


Drones can be fragile, especially the cheaper consumer ones and can break easily. It's important to take into consideration that repairs could be costly, or could make it so the drone cannot be repaired at all, thus a warranty or after-sale service offered by the manufacturer is crucial, always check for them before buying a drone.


The speed of a drone can vary depending on the model and the conditions under which it is being flown. Most consumer drones have a top speed of around 20-30mph, although some high-end racing drones can reach speeds of up to 60mph.


There are many different brands of drones available on the market, including well-known companies such as DJI, Yuneec, Autel Generic, Robotics, ATTOP, Rise, Power Vision, NEHEME, and Parrot. Each brand has its own unique features and designs, and it's important to research and compare the different options before making a purchase. 

Some popular brands like DJI for example have a wide range of drones for different use cases and price points, from beginners consumer drones to professional-grade equipment. 

Other brands like Yuneec and Autel Robotics are also well known for their high-quality drones and are popular among aerial photographers and videographers. Power Vision and Parrot are also known for their innovative designs and features, making them great options for those looking for a unique drone experience.

Video Output Resolution:

The video output resolution is the resolution in which the camera of the drone records the video. The resolution range can vary from 1080p to 4k. Higher resolution means more detailed and clearer videos, but also larger files.

Max Image Size:

The max image size is the maximum resolution in which the camera of the drone takes photos. The max image size can vary from 640x480 to 8064×6048. Higher resolution means more detailed and clearer images, but also larger files.

Charging Time:

The charging time of a drone battery can vary depending on the type of battery and the capacity of the charger. Most consumer drones have a charging time of around 60 minutes - 120 minutes, although some high-end models may take longer to charge.

Wings Type:

The wing type of a drone can vary depending on the model. Some drones have fixed wings, while others have four rotors, like a quadcopter, or eight rotors, like an octocopter. The wing type will affect the speed, stability, and maneuverability of the drone.


The weight of a drone can vary depending on the model and the materials used. Lighter drones are generally easier to fly and transport, but they may not be able to carry as much weight or fly as long as heavier drones.


Stabilization refers to the ability of the drone to maintain its position and orientation in the air. Some drones come with built-in 3- axis stabilization systems, such as GPS and/or optical flow sensors, which help to keep the drone steady and make flying easier. Other drones may require the use of a separate gimbal, which can be used to stabilize the camera and improve the quality of the video footage.

Frequently Ask Question

Frequently Ask Question

Q: Are drones hard to fly?

A: It depends on the type of drone you are flying. Basic drones like drones for kids and racing drones can be relatively easy to fly, while professional-grade camera drones can be a bit more challenging. With practice and patience, anyone can learn how to fly a drone.

Q: Do I need a license to fly a drone?

A: Most countries require pilots to obtain permission or a license in order to fly a drone commercially. However, many countries also allow recreational drone pilots to fly without a license.

Q: What is a normal flight time of a camera drone?

A: Most consumer-level camera drones can stay in the air for between 10-25 minutes depending on the type of drone and its battery capacity. Professional drones can fly for up to 45 minutes.

Q: What does FPV mean?

A: FPV stands for First Person View. This is when you use a pair of goggles or a monitor connected to your drone, allowing you to see what the drone camera sees in real time.

Q: What is the best camera drone?

A: The best camera drone will depend on your specific needs and budget. Some popular options include the DJI Mavic 2 Pro and the Autel Evo II Pro.

Q: How do I choose the best camera drone for me?

A: When choosing a camera drone, consider factors such as your budget, flight time, camera features, and portability. Determine how you plan to use the drone and what features are most important to you before making a purchase. 

Q: What does “aerial photography” mean?

A: Aerial photography is the practice of taking photos from the air, either with a manned aircraft or an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) such as a drone. The resulting photos are often used for a variety of purposes including scientific research, commercial advertising, mapping, and more. 

Q: What are the differences between quad-, hex- and octo copters?

A: Quadcopters have four rotors, hexacopters have six rotors, and octocopters have eight rotors. Quadcopters are the most popular due to their balance between cost and stability while hexacopters offer more stability and octocopters offer more lift power but are more expensive. 

Q: So what's the advantage of having more Rotors? 

A: More rotors provide more stability in flight by distributing weight and thrust more evenly across all of the motors. This allows for smoother and longer flights as well as greater control over the aircraft. Additionally, having more rotors allows for heavier payloads to be transported and lifts heavier objects with greater ease. 

Q: Who are the largest drone manufacturers? 

A: Some of the largest drone manufacturers include DJI, Parrot, Generic, Autel Robotics, Yuneec, and GoPro. 

Q: How high can drones fly? 

A: Drones can generally fly up to 400 feet above ground level in most countries. However, some countries have regulations that limit how high drones can fly so it is important to check local laws before flying. 

Q: Can I fly a drone above the sea? 

A: Yes, you can fly a drone above the sea as long as you follow all local laws and regulations regarding airspace restrictions. Additionally, make sure that your drone is waterproof or at least water resistant if you plan on flying it over water. 

Q: Can I fly a drone in the mountains? 

A: Yes, you can generally fly drones in mountainous areas as long as you abide by all local regulations regarding airspace restrictions and visibility requirements (e.g., maintaining line-of-sight at all times). However, flying in higher altitudes may require additional training or certification depending on where you live. 

Q: What does heavy lift drone mean? 

A: A heavy lift drone is an aircraft capable of carrying large payloads such as cameras or other specialized equipment for extended periods of time. These drones are typically larger than other types of drones and have multiple rotors for added stability and lift power.  

Q: What does take off weight mean? 

A: Take off weight (TOW) is defined as the total weight of an aircraft including fuel, passengers, cargo, etc., at takeoff from any point on its route of flight. Knowing TOW can be important when determining whether or not your aircraft has enough lift power to safely take off with its payload aboard. 

Q: Can drone fly in rain? 

A: Many drones are not designed to be flown in rain or other inclement weather conditions so it is best to check with your manufacturer before flying in these conditions. Additionally, make sure that your aircraft is waterproof or at least water resistant if you plan on flying it in wet conditions. 

Q: Can drone fly in night? 

A: Some drones are designed specifically for night flying while others may not be suitable due to their lack of lighting or visibility features such as infrared cameras or GPS tracking systems. It is important to make sure that your aircraft is equipped with all necessary safety features if you plan on flying it at night.  

Q: Can drone camera zoom? 

A: Yes, some cameras on modern drones are capable of zooming in and out using digital zoom technology which allows you to adjust focal length without changing lenses manually. This feature can be useful when shooting video footage from afar or capturing detailed close up shots.


In conclusion, Drones have come a long way since their earliest days, and they have already proven to be invaluable tools in various industries. With ever-growing technological advancements, we can expect further innovation in fields such as transportation, environment, agriculture, and many more.

Drones are increasingly being used in a wide variety of industries and applications. From agriculture and search and rescue to delivery and industrial inspection, drones are proving to be valuable tools that can save time, money, and lives. As technology continues to improve and regulations continue to evolve, we can expect to see even more innovative uses for drones in the future.

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