What's the difference between a drone, UAV, and a quadcopter?

Excellent excellent question!

With the rising popularity of RC Quadcopters, it is no doubt people misuse words.


Unmanned Ariel Vehicle, aka UAV, is any Ariel Vehicle without the pilot physically in the aircraft itself. Be it the MQ-1 predator, an RC Plane, RC Helicopter, Rc Quadcopters, they are all UAVs. Autonomous aircraft are also UAVs


Drone is just a broad term that describe a Unmanned Survalence machine. It can be UAV, UGV (unmanned ground vehicle / autonomous cars), AUV (autonomous underwater vehicle), or Unmanned Spacrcraft (satellites). In the Olden Days where consumer grades RC Quads weren't as popular, Drones were simply used to refer to Unmanned Combat Vehicle, like the Predator. Now the word is used to describe RC Quadcopters or less often, RC Planes and RC Heli


A Helicopter has one set of rotor, or propeller, or "fans".

A Bicopyer has 2 sets, like a chinook.

A Tricopters has 3 set.

A Quadcopter, 4.

Note that the number of rotors decide the kind of "copter" it is, not the number of booms. A aircraft with 4 booms with 8 rotors like the Ehang 184, would be classified as an octacopter, not quadcopter.

Why Quadcopter is the most popular one?

Quadcopter holds the balance between simplicity and functionality. A helicopter requires swashplate setup, which only hobbyist and professional are confident at doing, not regular consumer. A Tricopter requires a special rotating tail which is also complicated to calibrate if you don't know how. A Quadcopter is simple to set up, allowing designer to hide the complicated stuff like flight controller in the body to avoid tampering. All you have to do is plug your battery in. DJI is currently the leading consumer brand.

A film production company might use a hexacopter or octacopter to hoist heavy cameras.

I hope this clears your doubt, continue asking if you need help clarifying.

The question is problematic. The term "drone" was originally applied to pilotless airplanes used in target practice. Although "drone" is currently used as a synonym for remote-controlled vehicles, many professionals in robotics feel that this is inaccurate; they prefer "unmanned systems" or "Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. (UAV)" This phenomenon is similar to engineers who object to the widespread mispronunciation of the term "nuclear," and use the correct pronunciation to establish credibility within their profession ("How can you claim to be an expert on nuclear power when you can't even say it correctly?").

Trying to establish a definition that distinguishes between "drone" and "UAV" is akin to distinguishing between "mutt" and "mixed breed." One is an informal, casually used word, while the other is more technical.

I suspect this is a situation in which language is lagging behind technology. For example, no modern person would use the same word for a bicycle and a tractor.  However, suppose a person came from a primitive culture whose language only contained one word for a wheeled vehicle; they would apply the same word for both a bicycle and a tractor. As unmanned technology becomes more ubiquitous, future generations will probably have everyday language that distinguishes between automated machines, remote-controlled vehicles, and autonomous UAVs.

For more information on unmanned systems, please see Unmanned Systems Archives - AMREL.com
The term "drone" is lazy and inexact.  However, it's also becoming like "Thermos"(TM) and "Kleenex" (TM): a common usage that most people would agree refers to X.  In this case, "X" would be an unmanned aircraft, specific type undefined, but a blind flying robot of some sort. (I decline to accept the spinmeisters' attempt to call them "remotely piloted aircraft," since they have a habit of slipping their leashes and taking the pilot out of the equation way too often for my taste.)
Think of unmanned aircraft as being exactly the same as manned aircraft, but without the body or bodies inside.  The only real difference is that there has to be a way of pointing them the way you want them to go from somewhere else, which for unmanned aircraft requires an electronic datalink of some type.  So, unmanned aircraft might be fixed-wing airplanes, helicopters, lighter-than-air blimps, or some very creative hybrids. 
Since they don't have to be built to carry the weight of a person, they can be built smaller and less expensively, with more of what they can do in terms of speed or lifting power devoted to carrying out a task of some type.  They also can be built very large, capable of covering long distances or carrying very heavy payloads.  The only limits are imagination and a plan for what you want to do with one.
A "quadcopter" is a generic term for a rotary-wing aircraft with four main rotor systems and no tail rotor.  There's nothing that says it has to be unmanned, but common usage of the term these days has given it that implied qualifier.  Also, "quadcopters" flown for hobby or recreational use (but certainly not for business, because that's not provided for in aviation rules yet) pretty much all come down at the small end of the size spectrum.
1.  It isn't wrong to call almost any kind of remotely or self-directed vehicle a "drone."
2.  All unmanned aircraft may be considered "drones."
3.  It's basically impossible to come up with a currently flying example of a quadcopter that isn't an unmanned aircraft (part of an "unmanned aircraft system") and therefore, at the end of the day... a drone.
Drone is a general word that refers to the wide range of unmanned vehicles. A drone cannot only be aereal but can also refer to spatial, marine, submarine and in some cases terrestrial or sub-terrestrial auto guided or remotely guided device.

An UAV is a specifically a drone that can fly, found most commonly in the form factor of an airplane, a helicopter, a multi rotatory wing or a hybrid between those.

A quadcopter is a rotary-wing aircraft that has 4 main rotors/propellers. If its unmmaned, remotely controlled or auto guided, its a quadcopter UAV drone. If there is a pilot inside, then its a quadcopter vehicle.

Media referring to quadcopters as drones is not wrong, just very unspecific, as in saying 'An animal landed in the White House'.

For short:
-Drone is an unmanned vehicle of any sort.
-All UAV are drones, but drones that cannot fly are not UAVs.
-Most quadcopters are both UAVs and drones, as long as unmanned.
A drone and a UAV are the same thing.  UAV is the fancy new military/industrial acronym - meaning "unmanned aerial vehicle".

These words all mean similar things, I am going to use a slightly different comparison for you, i hope it helps you understand.

Drone, UAV, quadcopter, DJI Phantom

substance, liquid, coffee, Folgers

Drone is a lame term for anything that is autonomous, technically a RC car with autonomous controls could be considered a drone, but usually people refer to flying devices as drones due to modern warfare.

UAV as you pointed out is a technical term for a flying vessel that is unmanned, both autonomous and remote controlled.

Quadcopter is a specific style of UAV that uses 4 rotors and a microcomputer to control itself, they can be autonomous or RC.

DJI Phantom was my addition to go one step further, this is a common brand name of Quadcopter.

this is a complex question because the definition of a drone is not very well set and can and is often used to describe various objects.

an unmaned aerial vehicle refers to any type of flying vehicle that does not have a person onboard. this could be as simple as a $20 RC helicopter and as complex as a military remote controlled plane with weaponry and surveillance equipment. all of these can be considered UAVs.

a drone on the other hand has typically been used for these UAVs that have autonomous flight functionality.
in the military this term was given to UAVs that could be programmed to loiter around an area gathering information while awaiting other orders. in the hobbyist world, the word drone was adapted for the use of multi-rotors like quad-copters as their computerized platform allows for easy flight automation. any decent hobby level quad-copter can have a flight plan programmed in where the quad can take off, fly around and land all on its own. this automation earned these devices the term drone just like the military planes.

unfortunately, through various accounts of misuse and mislabeling, other RC vehicles like regular RC planes, helicopters and other devices have been called drones despite their constant need for a pilot.
an hobby level RC plane will not be able to fly itself without pilot interaction. it has no automation. despite this lack of automation, media sources like TV news, magazines and newspapers have started attaching the label of drone to any RC vehicle.

because of this mislabeling, the word drone has started to spread in meaning to any remote controlled flying object even if it has no level of automation.

originally the term drone was used for automated and completely computerized flying things typically used by armed forces but now a simple RC airplane bought at walmart can be called a drone and people will understand what it is.

Source: Yahoo

NY Drone Zone - Services

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