Introduction to Drones Classification

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Hi Well come to My Website :) 
I used UAV and Drone alternatively, 
Which I mean obviously the same thing a 
Drone and appologize for the inconsistency.



Drones or UAS (unmanned areal System) or Even RPAS (Remotely piloted aircraft systems)

is a system of aircraft without a on board human pilot where as (RPAS) are a set of configurable elements consisting of a remotely piloted aircraft, its associated remote pilot station(s), the required command and control links and any other system elements as may be required , at any point during flight operations. RPAS are a sub-set of UAS (Unmanned Aircraft System). Autonomous aircraft is an unmanned aircraft that does not allow pilot intervention in the management of the flight.

These terms that are coming from the ICAO circular 328-AN/190 are replaced here in the common language by the word drone. The Drone is mostly fully or partially controlled by an on-board computer system.

Usually UAS is Just the whole system that is including their embedded particular functionality, as a system (e.g. systems like: Arial,  Videography, a Photography, LiDAR…). Where as the unmanned areal vehicle (UAV) is the vehicle that we see without the system and Drone is conventionally a common name for all.

General Classifications

Generally they can be classified in to two groups of drones (UAV) known==>

in-terms of their systems controlling:

  • One of the two general groups are drones whose systems controlling are fully automated by an on-board computer made for such purposes, while the other groups of drones are
  • Drones whose systems are remotely controlled by a human operator.

Based on security also , it is proposed to establish three categories of operations and their associated regulatory regime according to the guide called “Concepts of Operations for Drones”:

  • Open,
  • Specific and
  • Certified having a drone aircraft piloting certification…

Where the Open operation category of drones, should not require an authorisation by an Aviation Authority for the flight but stay within defined limitations for the operation (e.g. distance from aerodromes, from people, etc.).
The “specific” operation category will require an Operations Authorisation by an Aviation Authority with limitations adapted to the operation.

Certification will be required for operations with a higher associated risk due to the kind of operation or might be requested on a voluntary basis by organisations providing services such as remote piloting or equipment such as detect and avoid…

Categories According To ICAO:

There can available drones which work semi-automatically out there. However, According to ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) drones are categorised into two.

1) Remotely piloted Aircraft System (RPAS): These drones type are obviously the drones types needs to be controlled in some aspects. This doesn’t mean that they do not have autonomous controlling functions.
2) Fully autonomous : These are the types of drones that you as a pilot can configure a set of parameters as a plan before you fly the drone in order to the drone performs the navigation as you already planned. You don’t need to do something on your controller during the fly, unlike that of remotely piloted drones. This means these Aircraft don’t allow pilot intervention in the management of the flight.

In This Division System: The ICAO foresees that  RPAS should be treated as manned aircraft. These groups of UAS should company with aviation rules guaranteeing the total aviation safety system and consequently they must be approved by a competent authority, the operator shall have a valid RPAS operator certificate, the remote pilot must hold a valid licence; the legislator shall set the safety requirements in relation to the risk, size and type of operation;


According to their Wings:

  • Fixed winged
  • Coptered winged/rottered winged


For more other detailed classifications see down here…

Their Other Classification

UAVs or drones can be classified in many ways: In the following section we’ll try to revise in short the main and widely known classification types:

Military drones: As we see in the following these drones will be reclassified as:

  • Functionality: (According to their purposes, NB that there are UAVs with mixed functionalities too)
  • Target and decoy:  These are military drones to attack enemy aircraft of a missile.
  • Reconnaissance:  These military drones used for military intelligence
  • combat: These military drones provides attack for highly risked missions
  • Logistics: These are drones specialized for cargo delivery
  • Military drones can sometimes be classified according to their sizes
    • Midsize military and commercial drones
    • Large military-specific drones
    • Stealth combat drones 

Research and development: These are drones used as tools to collect a specific spatial data in science projects (eg hurricane hunting).

Civil and commercial UAVs: These are drones getting prevalent these days  which civil peoples use for different purposes. These drones groups can be re-categorized into many branches some of them are:

  • hobbyist drones: hobbyists entertain by piloting drones or even for normal photography and filming and many other entertaining activities. (eg Model aircraft (small UAS)), Commercial aerial surveillance and motion picture filmmaking(eg low-cost UAS) and professional aerial surveying drones(as aerial photography and Lidar platforms).
  • Professional drones: these are drones used in different professional tasks in Geography,Land surveying, civil engineering, agriculture,Architecture and many other similar applications.
  • Other Civil and commercial drones : It’s known that there are about more than 40 practical applications for drones in this area:
    • Journalism
    • Law enforcement(police and border security)
    • Search and rescue
    • Conservation
    • Anti-poaching(monitor rhinos, tigers and elephants and deter poachers)
    • Pollution monitoring(air quality monitoring)
    • Oil, gas and mineral exploration and production(eg magnetic field strength(to know about the underlying magnetic rock==> location of mineral deposits),monitoring of the integrity of oil and gas pipelines and related installations)
    • Disaster relief( intelligence across an affected area,gather information about the damage)
    • Archaeology(In survey work and protect sites from squatters, to discover evidence of looted archaeological sites)’ Cargo transport (eg transport medicines and medical specimens into and out of inaccessible regions)
    • Agriculture (eg dusting crops, crop spraying, monitoring livestock, crops and water levels, crop health, improving yield )
    • Passenger transport (eg Ehang UAV)
    • Criminal and terrorist(eg monitoring assassinations attempts and attacks on nuclear power stations)

Range/altitude:  (Drones can sometimes be classified according to their capacity/endurance):In this system of classification, drones classified by their maximum ascending altitude and the maximum horizontal distance they can navigate.

  • Hand-held 2,000 ft (600 m) altitude, about 2 km range
  • Close 5,000 ft (1,500 m) altitude, up to 10 km range
  • NATO type 10,000 ft (3,000 m) altitude, up to 50 km range
  • Tactical 18,000 ft (5,500 m) altitude, about 160 km range
  • MALE (medium altitude, long endurance) up to 30,000 ft (9,000 m) and range over 200 km
  • High-Altitude Long Endurance (high altitude, long endurance – HALE) over 30,000 ft (9,100 m) and indefinite range
  • Hypersonic high-speed, supersonic (Mach 1–5) or hypersonic (Mach 5+) 50,000 ft (15,200 m) or suborbital altitude, range over 200 km
  • Orbital low earth orbit (Mach 25+)
  • CIS Lunar Earth-Moon transfer
  • Computer Assisted Career Guidance System (CACGS) for UAVs

How we use them: (According to the simplicity or complexity of their interfaces and functionalities when we using them)

  • eg Hobbyist UAVs – which can be further divided into:
    • Ready-to-fly (RTF)/Commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS)
    • Bind-and-fly (BNF) – that require minimum knowledge to fly the platform
    • Almost-ready-to-fly (ARF)/Do-it-yourself (DIY) – that require significant -knowledge to get in the air.


Source of classification Wikipedia
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2 Replies to “Introduction to Drones Classification”

  1. This is quite an interesting and informative article about drones. I didn’t know about the classifications you have covered here. It makes it easier to understand and to choose what you want to focus on in terms of interest or intention for use.

    1. Hi, Tyrell 🙂
      Thanks for taking your time,
      As you may know, there are different approaches to classifying drones Ya, here I try to use the more general approach and this will hopefully make easy to control the overview of the increasing in number drones. Hopefully, this will help the users in many aspects.

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