News & Blog

UAS vs. UAV: What's the difference?

April 13th, 2023

As the drone industry continues to grow, the terminology surrounding unmanned aircraft becomes increasingly popular, but also a bit confusing. One common question that arises is the difference between UAS and UAV, and how these terms apply to commercial and consumer drones.

In this blog post, we will explore:

-the distinctions between UAS vs. UAV

-the significance of these terms in the drone industry

-why the drone industry prefers one term over the other

Table Of Contents:

commercial drone uses

Understanding the Terminology: Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) and Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS)

To begin, let’s examine the given definitions of these different phrases:

At first glance, it may seem a bit strange that two terms are used to describe what appears to be the same purpose.

However, it’s essential to understand that while all UAS involve a UAV, not all drones or UAVs are part of a comprehensive UAS.

Questions? Need a product demo? Need additional information? Contact us and a member of our team will get back to you promptly.

Exploring the Differences: UAS and UAV

The primary difference between a UAV and a UAS lies in the scope of their respective systems.

A UAV is simply the aircraft or drone itself, while a UAS includes the entire system that supports and controls the UAV.

This means that a UAS encompasses ground control stations, data links, and any other components required for the vehicle’s operation.

For example, a professional-grade, American made drone used for commercial applications, such as an Inspired Flight heavy-lift drone, would be classified as a UAS due to its integration with advanced communication systems, payloads, flight-planning software, and ground control stations.

UAVs: Remote Control, Autonomous Flight Capabilities, and Applications

UAVs come in various shapes, sizes, and capabilities, with some designed for consumer use and others tailored for commercial or government applications.

Many UAVs require human intervention to fly, either through a remote control or a ground control station. This means that a human pilot is responsible for taking control of the aircraft, guiding it through the airspace, and ensuring it follows the desired flight path.

However, most UAVs are also equipped with autonomous flight capabilities, meaning they can travel autonomously without constant human intervention.

These UAVs typically use GPS, IMUs, accelerometers, and advanced control algorithms to maintain their position and altitude, making them ideal for tasks such as aerial photography, inspectingsurveying, and mapping.

Commercial UAVs, like the ones produced by Inspired Flight, often have more advanced features than consumer drones.

commercial drone uses

These may include:

  1. longer flight times
  2. greater payload capacities
  3. more robust navigation systems

Additionally, they may be subject to stricter regulations and requirements, such as remote ID, to ensure their safe operation in shared airspace.

UAS: Ground Control, Advanced Systems, and Applications

While a UAV refers specifically to the aircraft itself, a UAS is an entire system that enables the drone to operate safely and effectively.

This includes ground control stations, which allow pilots to monitor and control the UAV from a remote location.

Ground control stations can range from simple handheld devices to complex command centers with multiple displays and sophisticated software.

man using commercial drone

The advanced systems within a UAS often provide more extensive capabilities than those found in standalone UAVs.

For example, a UAS might offer:

This functionality essentially enables the unmanned aerial vehicle to perform more complex tasks with minimal human intervention.

UAS applications span a wide range of industries, from commercial endeavors like agriculture, construction, and infrastructure inspection to government and military uses such as search and rescue, border patrol, and reconnaissance missions.

The comprehensive nature of UAS enables them to seamlessly integrate into these sectors, providing valuable data and insights while reducing risks and operational costs.

Why The Industry Prefers One Term Over the Other

Many pilots and operators in the drone industry lean toward using the term “UAS” over “UAV,” as it more accurately reflects the complexity of the systems they work with.

While the term “UAV” primarily refers to the aircraft itself, “UAS” encompasses all components necessary for its successful operation, including the ground control station, software, and communication systems.

The preference for using “UAS” also helps differentiate professional-grade unmanned aerial systems from consumer drones, which often have more limited capabilities and are typically flown for recreational purposes.

By using the term “UAS,” pilots and operators can emphasize the advanced technology and sophisticated systems that enable their aircraft to perform at a higher level in various commercial and government applications.

Commercial vs. Consumer Drones

Understanding the differences between commercial and consumer drones is crucial in the context of the UAS vs UAV debate.

Consumer drones are typically smaller, lighter, they often have shorter flight times and lower payload capacities, making them unsuitable for many commercial and professional applications.

On the other hand, commercial drones, such as those produced by Inspired Flight, are designed with more demanding tasks in mind. For example, our IF1200A heavy lift drone has industry leading payload capacity (up to 19 lbs) and flight time (up to 43 mins) was designed for applications such as powerline inspection, LiDAR mapping, emergency response work, government work and more.

Apart from higher payload capacities and longer flight times, commercial drones have more robust navigation systems, enabling them to tackle jobs like aerial surveying, inspection, and agricultural monitoring.

Additionally, commercial UAVs are often part of a larger UAS, incorporating advanced ground control stations and communication systems to support their operation.

commercial drone uses


In summary, the primary distinction between UAS and UAV lies in the scope of the systems they represent.

A UAV refers specifically to the unmanned aerial vehicle or drone, while a UAS encompasses the entire system that supports and controls the UAV, including ground control stations, software, and communication systems.

While both terms are commonly used in the drone industry, many drone operators prefer the term “UAS” as it more accurately reflects the complexity and sophistication of the systems they work with.

By understanding the differences between UAS and UAV, as well as the distinctions between commercial and consumer drones, organizations and governments can make more informed decisions when selecting the right drones for their specific needs.

Questions? Need a product demo? Need additional information? Contact us and a member of our team will get back to you promptly.

‹  Back to all news

Stay Connected

Get the latest on new releases and exciting updates!