Is A Drone Considered A Robot? Everything You Need To Know

Is a drone a robot

Yes, all dynamic remotely operated navigation equipment (drones) are considered to be robots (mechanical). However, robots such as robotic exoskeletons and prosthetic robots cannot be called drones as they technically have a pilot on board.

The field of robotics is vast. It covers many topics, has many applications, and uses many designs.

In this article, we’ll be covering the definitions of robots and drones which will include their similarities, their differences according to things such as their application, function, or level of autonomy, and some examples of both robots and drones.

What Are Robots And What Are Drones?

What is a robot?

A mechanical robot is a device/machine with a body capable of physically changing something in the world around it. It senses information around it, processes that information, and then executes the best course of action.

The word ‘robot’ originated from a famous Czech writer called Karel Čapek who used it in his play called Rossum’s Universal Robots (R.U.R) back in 1920.

It was based on the Slavonic word ‘Robata’ which means ‘servitude’ or ‘forced labor’.

What is a drone?

A drone is a remotely operated, autonomous, or automated robot that is capable of sensing information, processing it, and executing a physical action that changes something in the world without a pilot on board.

Check out our full post that goes into detail about each component used in drones and their materials (including some examples of drones with their materials):

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Both can be built to resemble humans or to perform human tasks, both can be built with different levels of autonomy, both can be built using various designs and sizes, and both need to make a physical change in the world around them.

As you can see, drones and robots are very similar.

This is because drones consist of a smaller category of robots. All drones are robots. However, not all robots are drones.

These machines were built to revolutionize the way we live by getting rid of limitations plaguing us and enhancing what we believe we are capable of achieving in a safer and more effective manner.

Check out our post that goes into important things you need to know before getting a drone. We dive into the rules and regulations, deciding what kind of drone you want, how to be safe when operating one, should you buy or build one, and much more:

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What Are Some Types Of Robots?

It’s important to look at some of the main types of robots out there to understand how broad the terms robots and drones are.

There are many types of robots such as:

  • Mobile robots
  • Humanoid robots
  • Teleoperated robots
  • Autonomous robots
  • Pre-programmed/automated robots

Robotic exoskeletons and prosthetic robots are types of robots that are not considered to be drones as they are technically manned machines.

If you’d like to learn more on the different types of drones including the types according to design, payload, range, power source, and use cases including some examples of both consumer, commercial and military drones, then check out our full post below:

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The following types of robots are just a few of the many in the vast field of robotics.

Mobile robots

Mobile robots include all robots that are capable of moving around in their environment. This is a very broad term that includes all drones but not all robots.

Robotic arms are a prime example of fixed robots (the opposite of mobile robots). These robotic arms may be capable of moving around, however, their range is limited compared to mobile robots that can essentially freely move around their environment.

Most unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs), unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs), and unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) are considered to be mobile robots.

Take note that unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) refer to all drones that operate on the surface of a body of water. This primarily refers to boats of any kind.

Check out our full post where we dive into several power sources currently used in drones. For each power source, we expand on how they work, the different types, the advantages, disadvantages, and real-world examples of drones that use it.

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Humanoid robots

Humanoid robots include all robots built to resemble a human being. These robots may have an entire body shaped like a human being, or may simply be modeled after a certain part of the human body.

Machines built to aesthetically resemble the human body are called Androids which are a specific type of humanoid robot.

Machines built to aesthetically resemble a specific part of the human body such as a limb are called prosthetic robots.

Teleoperated robots

Teleoperated robots include all robots that are remotely controlled. This includes tethered robots. These robots can still be capable of being autonomous and automated as long as they can be controlled remotely.

Most drones that can be controlled remotely are considered to be teleoperated robots.

This term can apply to many if not most robots as most have the capability of being controlled remotely by an operator.

Check out our post where we dive into the different drone speeds for various types of drones:

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Autonomous robots

Autonomous robots include all robots that are capable of operating without the assistance of a human operator. They achieve this with the use of multiple sensors and on board computers that execute the best course of action based on the data obtained.

Many drones have been equipped with some level of autonomy. These levels go from semi-autonomous to fully autonomous.

Pre-programed robots

Pre-programed robots, also known as automated robots or automatons include all robots that are programmed to carry out specific tasks that are included in their programming.

Pre-programed robots are most often used in industrial environments where the work is very repetitive and where a precise machine is ideal.

Once again, most drones are also equipped with some automated technology for them to operate.

We recommend you go check out our post on whether or not it’s worth buying a drone where we discuss drone laws, why owning a drone may and may not be worth it, drone accessories, countries that have banned drones altogether, and much more:

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What Is The Difference Between A Robot And A Drone?

The difference between a robot and a drone is that a robot can have a pilot on board operating the vehicle whereas a drone cannot.

If you’d like to learn all about consumer drones, we have a full post on this topic below:

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Any hybrid vehicle that can be piloted either manned or unmanned will primarily be considered a robot but can be specifically considered a drone if only used unmanned.

Take note that unmanned in this case refers to any vehicle that does not have a pilot operating the machine on board. These vehicles may still have passengers on board.

What Are Some Examples Of Robots And Drones?

Here are 11 examples of robots and drones:

Roomba s9iRobotRobot/DroneUGV (Wheels)
SpotBoston DynamicsRobot/DroneUGV (Quadruped)
RexRex BionicsRobotRobotic Exoskeleton (Lower limb)
Mavic Air 2DJIRobot/DroneUAV (Quadcopter)
i-Limb UltraÖssurRobotProsthetic robot (Hand)
OpportunityNASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPS)Robot/DroneUGV (Rover)
SophiaHanson RoboticsRobot/DroneHumanoid robot
Gladius MiniChasingRobot/DroneUUV (Tethered)
StalkerLockheed Martin+PowerLight TechnologiesRobot/DroneUAV (Hybrid VTOL)
PowerRayPowervisionRobot/DroneUUV (Tethered)
LUKEMobius BionicsRobotProsthetic robot (Arm)
Blackjack 42″ 8S RTRPro Boat (Horizon Hobby)Robot/DroneUSV
11 examples of robots and drones

Quadruped: A mobile robot that uses four legs to move around

Quadcopter: An aerial mobile drone that uses four propellers to fly

If you’d like to discover more about who the best drone companies are in the world for the consumer, commercial and military drone markets and some fun facts about them, we have a full post on this topic below:

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We hope you now understand how drones directly tie into the field of robotics and know just how vast this term is.

A drone can be much more than just an aerial vehicle, but you cannot always use the term ‘drone’ interchangeably with the term ‘robot’.

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