As far as unmanned aviation has come in the last decade, it remains the rare niche aviation market that can't agree on what to call its signature product.
As an acronym, do we call them a UAV, UA or UAS? As a word, should we describe them as unmanned, uninhabited or unpiloted?
Never one to join the crowd, the US Air Force has coined its own new term: Remotely Operated Aircraft (ROA, anyone? Frankly, we think that's already DOA, or should be).
Now, the US Department of Defense is proposing to settle this nomenclature madness once and for all. Here is DOD's new and long-awaited Unmanned Aircraft Systems Roadmap. Among other things, it decrees the term UAV is passé.
Henceforth, the DOD will recognize two terms: an unmanned aircraft (UA) and an unmanned aircraft system (UAS). The UA is to be used when referring to the flying component of a UAS, which refers to a ground station linked with one or more UAs.
"This change in terminology more clearly emphasizes that the aircraft is only one component of the system, and is in line with the Federal Aviation Administration's decision to treat 'UAVs' as aircraft for regulatory purposes," a footnote reads.
There may be some logic to this. It reflects the fact that unmanned flight requires more than just an aircraft to work - and, thus, for governments to regulate. And it substitutes the smoother word, "aircraft", for the clunky and possibly anachronistic term,"air vehicle." (Who came up with "unmanned air vehicle" anyway? Any theories?)
But there is a catch. Even if the aim is to clarify, it doesn't do you any favours if few others in the English-speaking world know the difference between a UAS and a UA. Or, for that matter, a UAS and a UAV.
It is something we're thinking about among our editorial team. Flight International uses the term UAV, which has its flaws but at least is commonly understood. This may have to be discarded at some point, but we are asking two questions: when? and with what?Technorati tag:UAV