GEOG 892
Geospatial Applications of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS)

The Air Vehicle


The air vehicle is the airborne part of the system. The air vehicle here means the aircraft, in conjunction with the payload, that forms an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS). In general, the unmanned aircraft is usually called an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) and can be either a fixed-wing or rotary airplane that flies without a human on board.

The UAV is a complicated system including structures, aerodynamic elements such as wings and control surfaces, propulsion systems, control systems, communication elements, and launch and recovery subsystems. Larger UAVs use fuel-powered engines in order to attain flight, while smaller UAVs typically use either gasoline-powered engines or electrically powered engines. When the UAV has sensors and payloads, it is customarily called an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS). In this course, the terms UAS and UAV will be used interchangeably to mean the same. Due to inclusion of the word "unmanned," there has been some resistance in recent years to use of the names Unmanned Aircraft and Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. There is a push to adopt the term Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) or Remotely Piloted Vehicle (RPV) because of the crucial human involvement related to the operation of the system. UAVs come in all different sizes and shapes; however, the following are the major factors to be considered in designing a UAV:

  • take-off weight
  • wing span
  • length
  • endurance speed
  • endurance time
  • weight of fuel
  • engine power
  • engine capacity
  • engine weight
  • airframe weight

To Read

  1. Sections 3.1 and 3.2 of chapter 3 of Introduction to the Unmanned Aircraft Systems
  2. Chapter II from: Collier C. Crouch, 2005, “Integration of mini-UAVS at the tactical operations level: Implications of operations, implementation, and information sharing,” master’s thesis, Naval postgraduate school, Monterey, California.
  3. Section 2.6 of the report "Eyes of the Army, U.S. Army Roadmap for Unmanned Aircraft Systems 2010-2035." It is a good reading about UAS definitions.