Here is an excerpt from a NBC News article that has been linked to from the home page:
In 1917, Charles Kettering invented the Kettering Bug in Dayton, Ohio. Conceived as a flying torpedo, versions of it were tested but never used by the military. During World War II, the actor and former RAF pilot Reginald Denny founded a company that manufactured "target drone Dennys," among the first radio-controlled aircrafts.
So who does call them drones? Besides the media and politicians, that is?
Chris Anderson does. The former Wired editor, who now runs 3Drobotics and diydrones.com, says "drones" include all manners of remotely controlled flying objects, large and small, with one caveat: They must be capable of switching to autonomous flight of some description, at least part of the time. So those basic remote-controlled aircraft you can build yourself? Those aren't drones, he told NBC News.
Ryan Calo, a professor of law at the University of Washington, also calls them drones. To him, a drone needs to have three qualities: First, it needs to be able to fly. Then, it needs to have some sensing capacity: a camera or an infrared sensor, or similar. And finally, Calo's drones are capable of some level of autonomy, perhaps following GPS coordinates or a moving guide.
A pretty good write up of different drones that doesn't point to them all being military killing machines..which seems rare in today's media.