An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), commonly known as a drone, is an aircraft without any human pilot, crew or passengers on board. UAVs are a component of an unmanned aircraft system (UAS), which include additionally a ground-based controller and a system of communications with the UAV. The flight of UAVs may operate under remote control by a human operator, as remotely-piloted aircraft (RPA), or with various degrees of autonomy, such as autopilot assistance, up to fully autonomous aircraft that have no provision for human intervention.

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UAVs were originally developed through the twentieth century for military missions too “dull, dirty or dangerous for humans, and by the twenty-first they had become essential assets to most militaries. As control technologies improved and costs fell, their use expanded to many non-military applications.