Aircraft classified by manning

Although you have probably not heard of a classification of aircraft into manned and unmanned aircraft, you have surely heard of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UASs). The difference between these are the need for a person controlling the aircraft in-situ.

Manned aircraft
The typical aircraft, such as airplanes, helicopters, balloons and gliders, have a pilot or a crew controlling the aircraft in-situ (e.g. from a cockpit). We could say that thus far, being manned (in-situ) is the "default" assumption, which is why these aircraft are rarely referred to as "manned aerial vehicles".
Gripen_3.jpg Aircraft.osprey.678pix.jpg HALDhruvIAF.jpg
A manned airplane, the Saab Gripen figther (picture (picture embedded from Wikipedia on 20 May 2009) A manned tiltrotor, the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey (picture embedded from Wikipedia on 20 May 2009) A manned helicopter, the HAL Dhruv helicopter (picture embedded from Wikipedia on 20 May 2009)
Unmanned aircraft
Unmanned aircraft do not need a human pilot in the aircraft. These aircraft are either fully automatic (i.e. controlled by computers onboard) or controlled remotely from the ground. The common name for this type of aircraft has been that of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (or UAV). Of lately, however, it has been acknowledged that there is a wider system supporting these aircraft (i.e. they don't just fly by themselves, after all), and they are being also referred to as Unmanned Aircraft Systems (Wikipedia, 20091) . Although most unmanned aircraft are used for military operations, its use in civil operations is increasing. In fact, one day even a commercial airliner may become an UAV .
MQ-9_Reaper_in_flight_(2007).jpg VUAV_Eagle_Eye.jpg MQ-8B_Fire_Scout.jpeg
An unmanned airplane used by the military, the MQ-9 Reaper (picture embedded from Wikipedia on 20 May 2009) An unmanned tiltrotor used by US cost guards, the Bell Eagle Eye (picture embedded from Wikipedia on 20 May 2009) An unmanned helicopter used by the military, the MQ-8B Fire Scout (picture embedded from Wikipedia on 20 May 2009)
1. WIKIPEDIA (2009). Unmanned aerial vehicle. Retrieved from Wikipedia on 20 May 2009.

Want to know more?

AviationKnowledge - Aircraft
Here you can find other classifications for aircraft.
AviationKnowledge - Unmanned aerial vehicles
This AviationKnowledge page offers further information about UAVs.
Wikipedia - Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)
This Wikipedia page offers more detailed information on UAVs.

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