Drones are an Opportunity, not a Solution

cognitive-dissonanceThe most vital aspect of a successful drone business is not the drone itself. It is  everything that follows the drone for integration. As they say, business is business, and while many large organizations are now beginning to see how drones can help them, their full understanding hasn’t quite shaped up. While engineers and scientist are eager to get their hands on the latest technologies to help advance their studies, reduce overall costs for their operation, minimize risks associated with aerial imaging, or provide more accurate and more localized infomatics via LiDar or other sensors, helping the business make sense to their clients or internal stakeholders is often the most difficult part. This is why I enjoy what I do. I build narratives. Some call that business development. Some call it storytelling. I call it lighting your path through the mire that sometimes define UAV technologies. These swamps can quickly drown your passion or lose your support from important stakeholders. I have recently begun doing building narratives and relationships with what I believe is one of the most fundamentally important companies in the UAV space – VStar Systems Inc.VstarSystemsLogo_500x500

VStar systems Inc. provides a service requisite for success in today’s drone-crazy work environment. They take what you think you need drones to do for you, tests those assumptions, analyze all variables in your system (technological needs, individual biases, organizational structure, municipal or government requirements, and performance goals), and provide analysis for moving forward. They also work in very advanced modeling and simulation; acting as an End-To-End Unmanned and Robotics Systems Integrator. Young manufacturers need this service to help refine their performance targets while better understanding their specific customers. Adopters of UAV technology need this service to avoid the pitfalls of acquiring wrong or insufficient technology, and to see just how a given system will interact with the rest of their operation – from data management to flight experience, from comparability to life-cycle management.

Our work changes daily. Sometimes our task is designing new technologies in a novel way such as using drones equipped with LiDar to find micro fissures in old soviet power stations. Sometimes the mission is to develop a robust UAV program for oil & gas powerhouses to minimize their impact on the ecosystem, increase patrols of pipelines, and diminish the risk to human pilots in the arctic. It doesn’t really matter the environment or the use, the same problems most often overlooked by the most eager to move forward remain constant. A lack of understanding in the overall Concept of Operations Lidar(CONOPS) sets up an organization to drift aimlessly as it pursues the implementation and integration of UAS platforms.

Visionaries and Entrepreneurs are problem solvers by nature. They identify a unique opportunity for their solution and want to promote that solution to any organization with money and a use case that “might fit.” These client organizations are likewise looking for a good fit. They want to buy something novel, implement the sensor platform, and get flying. The technology isn’t the hard part, and in fact it is usually the least costly element of the overall systems concept.

Drones are not expensive. Integrating a new platform into a complex organization can be costly in time and expense when you consider all elements that are required for full integration. When you do NOT consider these elements ahead of time it, becomes even more costly as safety and security are jeopardized in the name of your organization. In the case of an accident, or even a high-profile incident, the indirect costs will far outweigh the direct costs. The insurance industry puts indirect (hidden) costs at a value of 3 – 10X the amount of direct damage.systems-engineering

Integration, dependability, data control, standardization, safety, security, and stable management inclusion are all important components to consider when developing a drone program. You must consider not only the costs of purchasing a drone or the training of personnel on the drone, you must consider many of the following components that are so often overlooked in developing a program that leads directly to failure or slow adoption and success of small entities internally. Among the most overlooked are below:

  • Concept of Operations –
  • Safety Program Requirements – ICAO, FAA, EASA
  • Emergency Response Plan
  • Standardization – MIL-STD-882-E, MIL-STD-182-B, SAE ARP4754A, SAE ARP4761, ASTM F2584-06, ASTM F2585-08, ASTM F2636-08
  • Maintenance Requirements & Life-Cycle Implications
  • Signal protection and Interference Prevention
  • Organizational Complexities
  • Approval and Oversight from Executives
  • Local Weight and Operating Height Restrictions
  • VFR Condition Times and Likelihood
  • Safety Auditing and Inspections
  • Many, many, more….avionicsarchitecture

Corporate entrepreneurship is hard and I am tired of seeing companies drown ininappropriately allocated resources and early failures of UAV appropriation before bringing Wolf UAS LLC or VStar Systems Inc. in to help. Before purchasing your drone, speak to the experts in integration – VStar Systems Inc. – the guys who know how to develop a robust program that has success and safety equally paired with mission and drive, exemplified in this blog post of theirs. You can keep
both your direct and indirect costs down, by understanding the importance of safety, checklist development, manualization, standard operating procedures, and regulatory familiarity.

Ultimately, a drone business must be a business first. What enables the drone to be successful is a well-thought out approach to mission, to safety, to people, and to responsibility. When companies understand that greater focus must be paid to every element beyond the drone, then the drone can become the answer to the scientist’s and engineer’s problems.

Stated simply: Drones are an Opportunity, not a Solution 

Wolf UAS

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