After the severe earthquake in Japan in March 2011, they were the first to provide images from inside the destroyed reactor blocks of the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles – also known in the technical literature as Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) or Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS). However, UAS have so far had little presence in the field of civil applications, especially in Europe. Within the scope of this study, the potential civil areas of application of UAS were identified and critically examined from 2011 to 2012. The aim was to highlight both the advantages and the limitations of unmanned aircraft. Based on the specific characteristics of UAS, they were compared with existing alternatives already in use for civil observation missions and their potential for use was evaluated. Special attention was paid to the support of UAS in disaster management and the use of UAS in homeland security.