What is a drone? – Definition, Classification and Explanation

We frequently get asked the question of whether our planes are drones or not. This question led us to think about the following:

Is there any clear definition of drones? If so, what is it?

A drone is an “unmanned aircraft” which means that there are no pilots or passengers on board. These include our flight models the Moskito, the SmartPlane Pro and the SmartPlane Pro FPV as well as remote controlled model airplanes, quadcopters and remote controlled helicopters in various weight classes.

With the definition out of the way, lets consider where the separation between the wheat and the chaff lies? Is there a distinction between private and commercial use?

After all, we would all like to know whether there is a difference between flying a 50g flyer over a meadow and flying a 1.5kg copter over weddings and other events for customer films.

Distinction between private and commercial regulation

The answer, at least in Germany, is yes, the German legislation distinguishes between private and commercial regulation.

To this end, we have to take a look at the German air law, specifically, §1 of the of the aviation law.

The air law distinguishes between model aircrafts on the one hand the unmanned air devices on the other. The newly mentioned paragraph one of the air traffic law defines unmanned air devices exclusively as commercial equipment. On the other hand, model aircrafts, which technically are also unmanned air devices, are legally considered to be used for the purpose of recreation and sport, i.e., used in the private sphere.

Distinction by type of use

Under this categorisation, TobyRich’s app-controlled airplanes fall into the category of model aircrafts, at least, in most use cases, i.e., if you use them for the pure joy of flying over luscious meadows and gardens.

However, you will still have to pay attention to stay within the legal framework of arial vehicles which apply to both model aircrafts and unmanned air devices. You find more information about these rules, which came into force on the 7th of April 2017, and about the rules in other countries (US, Austria, Switzerland…) in our blog articles.

The German dictionary has its own narrow (disputable) definition

Interesting: The German dictionary (The Duden) defines drones et al. as follows: “.. unmanned, remote-controlled (model) aircraft for civilian purposes, usually in recreation areas equipped with four or more rotors acting downwards.”

Clearly, there is much to discuss and debate over this definition. What do you think?

We look forward to your comments and feedback!

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