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A drone is

[a]n unmanned vehicle which conducts its mission without guidance from an external source.[1]


"Drones were first put to limited military use in World War I and then again in World War II. The U.S. military applied UAS technology for reconnaissance missions and some combat roles during the Vietnam conflict, and later in Operation Desert Storm and in Bosnia. UAS first became part of a weapons delivery system during wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and in antiterrorist activities by U.S. intelligence agencies.

The unmanned aircraft now being sold in the commercial and hobbyist marketplace do not generally look like military drones. The civilian industry is consciously seeking to use another terminology, such as UAS, to differentiate its product from the military version."[2]

"The use of the word 'drone' for such aircraft appears to have originated before World War II, when the U.S. Navy used unmanned aircraft for target practice. The British Royal Navy had named its unmanned target aircraft the Queen Bee, and so the U.S. Navy used the term 'drone' for its targets, a reference to a type of male bee that does not do any work.[3]


  1. NATO Standardization Agency, NATO Glossary of Terms and Definitions 2-D-10 (2008) (full-text).
  2. Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS): Commercial Outlook for a New Industry, at 1-2.
  3. Id. at 1-2 n.4, citing Jack Nicas, "Why Some Drone Makers Hate the Word 'Drone' and Want to Change It," Wall St. J. (Oct. 9, 2014).

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