Elizabeth Howell, a Space.com Contributor, recently published a reference piece that attempts to define the term “Drone” (as well as UAV or Unmanned Aerial Vehicle). While she does a good job with regards to Military Drones, there is much left to be desired if you are looking for a non-military definition.
In aviation and in space, a drone refers to an unpiloted aircraft or spacecraft. Another term for it is an “unmanned aerial vehicle” or UAV. On Earth, drones are often used for military purposes because they don’t put a pilot’s life at risk in combat zones. Also, drones don’t require rest, enabling them to fly as long as there is fuel in the craft and there are no mechanical difficulties.
Here is a more generic definition. A drone or UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle), is an aircraft without a human pilot aboard or flying robot. Its flight can be controlled either autonomously by onboard computers or by the remote control of a pilot on the ground or in another vehicle. Referred to as an unpiloted aerial vehicle and a remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Drones come in a variety of designs including planes, helicopters, quadcopters.