The Strange History Of The Word ‘Drone’
The one thing that almost everyone in the world of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) can agree on is that they hate the word “drone,” which in their view has become clickbait-speak for a sinister agent of robotic death and destruction. But alternatives range from cumbersome to misleading.
“Drone” spent 60 happy and productive years defining in five letters any crewless air vehicle that was not a missile. Both Aviation News (Aviation Week & Space Technology’s predecessor) and Flight started using the term frequently in late 1945 or early 1946, as if it had been around forever. It seems most likely that the first use of the word in aviation was by U.S. Navy Cmdr. Delmer Fahrney in 1936, when he was directed to develop pilotless target airplanes. The inspiration and pattern for the project was the , whose target aircraft—designed by de Havilland, which had a pattern of double-barreled insect names—was named the Queen Bee.
The first alternative to “drone” that gained official approval was “remotely piloted vehicle” (RPV). It emerged in 1970 in the title of a classified conference organized by the Rand Corp. and U.S. Air Force. An official Rand history says the term was chosen “to sweeten the bitterness of the idea” that pilots would be edged out of critical missions—and the same is true of the “remotely piloted aircraft” term used by the Air Force today. “RPV” burst into public view in the pages of both Aviation Week & Space Technology and Flight International in the summer of 1971 and enjoyed a brief vogue.
But it is neither necessary nor usually desirable for a UAS to be literally “remotely piloted,” and it may often be impossible. Aeromodellers pilot their aircraft by direct control inputs, sending radio commands to control-surface servos, and most early UAS were recovered in the same way. Both crash frequently. With the rising capability and falling cost of inertial reference sensors and automated systems for flight, navigation and vehicle management, UAS are increasingly autonomous with intermittent telecommanded modes.
“Unmanned air vehicle” appeared in Aviation Week & Space Technology in 1986 and ruled the roost into the 2000s, together with “UAS”—the latter is more comprehensive and embodies the fact that the system is much more than a vehicle. The term was complicated in the mid-1990s by the curious variant “Uninhabited Combat Air Vehicle,” which, once again, was intended to imply that the vehicle was not autonomous but did not have a human operator on board.
7. Flight area boundaries:
A. Flying will be north of the north edge of the runway except for soaring flight in the south east and south west soaring areas and helicopter hovering in the designated area.
B. The West Limit is the tree line east of the sidewalk.
C. The North Limit is the palm trees
and sidewalk, unless above 150ft in altitude. Do not fly over the area of the blue patio cover near the sidewalk.
D. The eastern limit is 100 feet west of Sea World Drive E. The southern limit 100 feet north of Sea World Drive with the following additions:
1. Models south east of the pit area must be above 150 feet
2. There will be no flying over the pit and parking areas.
F. All low flying shall be done north of the runway except for take off, landing, and touch and go operations.
12. All airborne model aircraft must immediately descend to
100 ft 50 ft or less if any manned aircraft enter or approach the flying area.
The map below was added.