AuthorTimothy M. Ravich
C 1
Worldwide interest in unmanned aerial vehicles—“drones1is easy to explain.
Like so many other seemingly ubiquitous devices integrated into the Internet
of ings, drones are “smart,” fun tools that offer substantial economic, military, and
humanitarian benefits. Moreover, thanks to breakthroughs in miniaturization and nan-
otechnology, drones democratize flight. As sma ll, lightweight, intelligent, and automated
robot airplanes, drones are widely accessible and affordable to consumers of all ages and
are operable without the infrastructure and human costs and constraints associated with
traditional aircraft and helicopters. Air traffic control, airports, and airfields are unneces-
sary for many missions. Indeed, f rom schoolyards to backyards, operators can control tiny
drones with ordinary smartphones and tablets. No wonder venture capitalists, journalists
and global media like CNN, insurance companies like USA A, and companies like Ama-
zon are investing in a commercial drone market.
Fundamentally, drones exemplify the Information Age as much as they mark a new
age in aviation. Many starter drones weigh only a few ounces or pounds and yet possess
outsized abilities to capture, produce, and ana lyze “big data.” Among the standard features
of inexpensive, store- bought drones are algorithmic- driven software solutions, artificially
intelligent sensors, high- definition cameras, global positioning systems (GPS), and other
wireless proficiencies. Really, then, these drones are aerial platforms whose hallmark is
data and intelligence. Hence, modern drones are not so much an advance in aviation
or aeronautical engineering as much as a transformation in data science and informa-
tion technology— the latest evolutionary leap in aeronautical history from kites to bytes.
1 “Unmanned aer ial vehicle” (UAV) refers to an air frame— a body (e.g., fuselage and w ings)— whose flight is managed
and manipul ated via an integrated network or s ystem of ground- based assets, person nel, controllers, and equipment.
Hence, unmanned aerial system (UAS) is a more comprehensive term t han drone to ide ntif y mod ern u nman ned a irpl anes .
Drone prevails in common d iscourse in the United States, t hough the term is interchange ably and globally referred to
by an a lphabet soup of acr onyms— remotely pi loted ai rcraft system ( RPAS), u nmanne d aeria l system (UAS), un manned
aerial vehic le (UAV), remotely controlled a irplanes (RC), pilotless ai rcraft (PA), and optionally piloted a ircraft (OPA).
A “drone” may al so sometimes be referred to as a “model ” or “hobby or recreational ai rplanes,” but care must be tak en
with such dis tinctions, as thes e terms are legally s ignificant (as deta iled in Chapter 3 infra).

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