The phrase Unmanned Aerial Vehicle describes the military ones that look like planes, e.g.:

enter image description here

and Quadcopters, Hexaocopters, etc. that are used both for civil applications like photography and military applications e.g. for surveillance:

enter image description here

If I speak about Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, every body thinks of the plane-like (1st image). What is the word for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle that doesn't look like the plane-like one?

Is drone a correct expression for these flight objects?

  • 1
    I believe the generic term is rotorcraft (as opposed to fixed-wing). However, this includes manned vehicles. Dec 17, 2016 at 22:07
  • Did you mean to say "plane-like"?
    – Hot Licks
    Dec 17, 2016 at 22:11

3 Answers 3


There are 3 general terms for these vehicles:

  • Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)

  • Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA)

  • Unmanned Air Systems (UAS)

and they describe any flying vehicle or system that does not contain a human inside it.

They may or may not have a pilot guiding it physically through the air.

Many UAV's are given orders to linger, seek and loiter, seek and hunt, document, detect, fly between predetermined waypoints (a spot on the Earth described by its GPS coordinates) and many other commands that allow the vehicle to make decisions on its own without the guidance of a human.

There is no distinction in these terms for type of aircraft in terms of number and type of propellers, or motors or size.

People that use these aircraft for their job, military, police, or search and rescue for example, never use the word drone, citing the need to mitigate fear and confusion, and lack of acronym.

The best meaning for drone is a flying vehicle, unmanned, made to find people and places on its own and fire weapons to kill and destroy. It is used however, as anything that flies and is remotely controlled or can fly autonomously. It is used by the media to spread fear of technology and the unknown to get attention, spread controversy and increase ratings. Autonomous vehicle would be better, but if it doesn't fly itself, it's just an RC airplane or helicopter, as quad- or any multi-bladed copter is a type of rotorcraft or helicopter.

  • Drone commonly refers to practice targets for weapons testing. This, by itself, is a good reason not to use the term to refer to operational UAVs.
    – Phil Sweet
    Dec 17, 2016 at 23:44

The specific term for the vehicle in the picture is hexacopter:

  • An unmanned helicopter having six rotors:
    • ‘the overhead footage was captured from a remote-controlled hexacopter’


  • As a general definition you can use drone for remote-controlled flying objects.
  • What does ODO mean?
    – black
    Dec 18, 2016 at 17:17
  • 1
    @black - Oxford Dictionary Online
    – user66974
    Dec 18, 2016 at 17:39

I heard many times it referred to as "multirotor" or "multicopter" as it has multiple rotors. Rotor means:

an assembly of rotating blades that supplies lift or stability for a rotorcraft


Depending on the number of rotors, it is called "quadcopter / quadrotor", "pentacopter / pentarotor, "hexacopter / hexarotor", "octocopter / octorroter", etc.

  • I have heard multirotor and multicoptor, too. Is there a difference in the word usage (e.g. one expression is more technical?) And do you write multicoptor or multicopter?
    – black
    Dec 18, 2016 at 17:19
  • @black Sorry, multicoptor was a typo. Just edited it. Multirotor seems to be more popular than multicopter.
    – user140086
    Dec 18, 2016 at 17:21

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