FAQ: What's the difference between a UAV and a RC plane?

I get this question all the time from newcomers, so I'll answer it here as we build a proper FAQ:

Q: What's the difference between a RC plane and a UAV? And why doesn't the AMA allow UAVs on its fields?

A: The generally-agreed distinction is that UAVs have the capacity for autonomous flight and navigation. A RC plane becomes a UAV with the addition of an autopilot.

The AMA doesn't allow UAVs because its insurance doesn't cover them. I actually agree with the policy, since our UAVs are by nature experimental and sometimes out of control. We're pretty careful to test away from people.

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Comment by Patrick Egan on July 31, 2008 at 9:42pm
One other distinction is commercial use of any UA (Unmanned Aircraft).
Comment by Varga András on August 1, 2008 at 1:49am
ANNEX 3n - 08_Autonomous_WG_rep_1.pdf

This attachment is a report from the FAI / CIAM conference which was in March this year. This contains some recommendations of the CIAM autonomous flight working group. The main consequence is that amateur UAV builders need to form a worldwide association, since CIAM does dot want to deal with this topic (that's why I think the next blog post is very useful) . That's the only document I found on the FAI website about it.


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