What is the difference between drone and aircraft ?
In recent years, drones have gathered huge popularity among common people. Their once small but increasing enthusiastic fan base have contributed a lot in this rising fame for these little mechanical machines that can allow one to navigate the open skies with the help of a remote in hands.
From being used for videography purposes to have them race each other for fun, their list of uses is becoming endless. What was once thought of as a dream by a common person, drones have turned them into reality. It can serve some kind of functional purposes for a professional or can be just used for hobbies. It would not be wrong to say that drones are awesome.
Most of the time people use the term drone to include all types of vehicles or machines that can be flown without requiring any human presence in them. However, this category would be far too broad to include all of such types of aircraft. Along with that, there is also considerable difference between drone and aircrafts.
Introduction to unmanned aircraft
In the late 20th century, the U.S. Air Force used to call any retired aircraft that was transformed for flying remotely as “remotely piloted vehicle” or RPV.
Most of the times, purposes of RPVs was air reconnaissance to point out any aerial target. After identifying a potential target, Air Force used to send their own manned jets and planes to complete the rest of the job.
Initially, the term drones was applied to smaller aircraft which were designed from the beginning for remote flights or which followed only a pre-determined flight paths.
A lot of technological advancement occurred in early 21st century. The innovation led to the development of better and more capable aircraft and one particular innovation stood out among everything. It was called as unmanned air vehicle or UAV. These were not only capable of air reconnaissance but could also destroy any potential target and now the military did not have to risk their own men for these purposes. Since most people used the term drone‘ interchangeably to refer to unmanned flying vehicles, drones got a bad reputation because of this.
But, in recent times as people are becoming more used to seeing these machines flying in the air without any hint of danger, they are becoming more accepted among common folks.
In a general sense, every remote-controlled airplanes or similar vehicles could be called as drones but the terms are used in very different ways. UAVs have strictly become associated with military purposes. But, popular media also use the word drone to represent them which has caused this massive confusion. Popular brands like DJI use the term drone for their products which are used by common people. That would seem more accurate use of that word since, as mentioned earlier, drones referred to smaller air vehicles.
Drone vs Aircraft
The piloting perspectives of an inhabited aircraft and a remote-controlled drone would be at the opposite end of the spectrum. It is quite obvious that a regular air plane have pilots who control all the operations from inside the cockpit whereas drone would be controlled by an operator standing on the ground. For a normal aircraft, flying represents something far more different than what it does for a drone. It would include take-offs or cruise or climbing which are absent from the drone experience. Though drones do have the capability of providing an aerial view through screen,
It would be far inferior from those which would be experienced from a normal aeroplane. Rising out of a sunrise or flying into the dawn is something that cannot be experienced by people on the ground. For that they would have to be high in the sky among clouds to truly feel that majestic beauty. But for both of them, flying represents something that would allow them to enter a realm which would be different from their normal world.
Drones, today, relate to fun and entertainment. Today, the drone community has graduated to more sophisticated system that can allow many more things. But their perspective would always be that of an outsider unless they are using First Person View (FPV) which allows them to extend the scope of their flying experience. It would still be virtual but with unique hybrid of both realms.
Rules and regulations
In USA, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is the all-powerful national authority responsible for creating all types of rules and regulations related to every aspect of civil aviation. These also include the certification of aircraft. FAA use the term unmanned aircraft (UA) for any aircraft system that does not have any flight crew on board. By this definition, drones would come under this category. In USA, Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) have prescribed the safety standard for anything that is flown for recreational or sport purposes which are voluntarily adapted by all the operators. However, in December 2015 FAA announced that any drone weighing more than 250 grams must be registered before being flown.
Even several states have passed legislation that limits the use of drones. Their primary fear is the violation of privacy and their illegal use to spy on other people. A popular cartoon show, South Park, aired a satirical episode based on the use of drones for such purposes depicting how big a menace it could become if not regulated properly.
There are far less regulations if the drone is merely used for hobbies but for professional purposes, one would need to pass an FAA test and receive Part 107 certification that would allow them to earn money from drone usage. There are also a basic set of regulations that has to followed by drone operators. These include rules such as flying below 400 feet, keeping the drone within sight, not fly near sensitive places etc.
The common sense would indicate that drones are basically aircraft whose controls are always at the ground. But, when one takes a closer look, the differences becomes obvious. Drones are their own species. They have their own unique set of characteristics which put them into a different light altogether.
Today, drones have become very popular are in constant demand. They are being innovated on a regular basis and every day something new is being added. But, besides everything, they are really fun to fly.