Decoding Aviation Acronyms: A Guide to Understanding Drone Terminology

If you’ve found yourself lost in the sea of aviation acronyms, don’t worry, you’re not alone. While the medical field may be notorious for its lengthy terminology, aviation takes the opposite approach with short and snappy abbreviations. So, if you’ve ever been perplexed by the likes of RPA, RPAS, UAS, UAV, or UA, we’ve got you covered. Here’s a comprehensive explanation of various acronyms commonly used in aviation (in particular the drone sector).


AAM – Advanced Air Mobility (refers to larger drones capable of carrying passengers or cargo) 

RPA – Remotely Piloted Aircraft (commonly known as a drone) 

RPAS – Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (encompasses both the drone and its accompanying ground control stations) 

UAS – Uncrewed Aircraft Systems (also known as drones, and the inspiration behind our company name, UASys) 

UAV – Uncrewed Aircraft Vehicle (synonymous with a drone, again) 

UA – Uncrewed Aircraft (another term for a drone)


You can see there’s a lot of different ways to say drone. Know these and you’ll be able to interchange them at a moment’s notice making you look like a pro.

There’s plenty of other acronyms you’ll probably come across as well. Take a look at some of them:

AAUS – Australian Association for Uncrewed Systems

AGL – Above Ground Level

AIC – Aeronautical Information Circular

AIP – Aeronautical Information Package

AIS – Aeronautical Information Service

AMSL – Above Mean Sea Level

ATC – Air Traffic Control

AUVSI – Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International

BVLOS – Beyond Visual Line Of Sight

CASA – Civil Aviation Safety Authority

CASR – Civil Aviation Safety Regulation

ERSA – En Route Supplement Australia

EVLOS – Extended Visual Line Of Sight

FPV – First Person View

GCS – Ground Control Station

GNSS – Global Navigation Satellite System (the international version of the USA GPS)

GPS – Global Positioning System

LiDAR – Light Detection And Ranging

nm – Nautical mile

NOTAM – Notice to Airmen

PRD – Prohibited, Restricted, and Danger areas

ReOC – Remotely piloted aircraft Operator’s Certificate

RePL – Remote Pilot License

RTH – Return To Home

RTK – Real Time Kinematic

SUP – AIP Supplements

UTC – Universal Time Coordinated

VLOS – Visual Line Of Sight

VTOL – Vertical Take-Off and Landing

UTM – Uncrewed Traffic Management (like Air Traffic Control but for drones)


The acronyms above should keep you grounded (pun intended) for most of the time. But if you really want to fly high, check out these acronyms.

ADS-B – Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast

ANSP – Air Navigation Service Provider (In Australia that’s Airservices Australia)

C2 – Command and Control

DoD – Department of Defence

EMI – Electromagnetic Interference

ESC – Electronic Speed Controller (which regulates how fast your drone motors spin)

GCP – Ground Control Point

HALE – High Altitude Long Endurance

ICAO – International Civil Aviation Organisation

IFR – Instrument Flight Rules

IMC – Instrument Meteorological Conditions

IMU – Inertial Measurement Unit

LiPo – Lithium Polymer (battery)

MALE – Medium Altitude Long Endurance

MSL – Mean Sea Level

NDVI – Normalised Difference Vegetation Index

PWM – Pulse Width Modulation

RAAF – Royal Australian Air Force

RF – Radio Frequency

RGB – Red Green Blue

SAR – Search And Rescue

ToF – Time of Flight

VFR – Visual Flight Rules


Welcome to the bright exciting world that is aviation! Now if you’re ever wondering what an NDVI capture over a paddock means, you can return to this guide for quick reference.

How to register your drone

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