Keynote speakers and panelists at day one of FAA UAS 2017 portrayed where the commercial unmanned aerial systems (UAS) industry has come (from regulatory and licensing perspectives) and what challenges remain to expanding access to the National Airspace System (NAS).
Some of the envelope-expansion initiatives, operations over people, beyond line-of sight (BLoS) have structure and anticipated timelines associated to prove operational concepts in real-world environments. Other pathways such as equipage, certifications and commercial UAS build standards are much less defined and could be construed as shaping opportunities for industry. Regarding this murky path forward, a sage advisor jokingly said yesterday: “wherever you go, there you are.”
That perfectly-delivered humor pointed directly at the underlying theme – it appears to be largely up to industry to craft a consensus-driven, desired end state for equipage, certification and perhaps even build standards.
Although these pathways remain undefined there are a growing number of milestones this industry and its ecosystem of participants can reference while planning:
Of note here is the relative speed at which commercial activities have been normalized through Part 107. In comparison to years 2010-2014, industry has witnessed a relative flood of commercial possibilities, with the promise of expanded night operations and exemptions beyond Part 107 to include limited use of aircraft weighing more than 55 lbs. Industry’s decision cycles are shrinking, but what does industry look like? How is it configured? What core competencies will carry these companies into an expanded commercial UAS competitive space?
Velocity Group examined close to 650 organizations with current or planned participation in this nascent commercial UAS market space, with an eye toward which of these organizations are best positioned to grow and succeed. Ultimately consistent, repeatable, funded customers will dictate marketplace success, and that success will be incumbent on best-in-class performance across all of these capability sets. Some categories (UAV manufacture, services) are more crowded than others (propulsion, software) and some of these companies can claim capability sets across multiple categories.
More than anything, this ecosystem snapshot should convey that the commercial UAS ecosystem, is in fact, a system-of-systems or a system of capability sets residing in distinct, separate organizations. Those companies willing to risk change, forge long-term partnerships and attach themselves to existing revenue streams will create agile, adaptable systems to successfully collect, process and deliver information in a timely manner at a price the customer is willing to pay.
Not sure where you or your company fits in the commercial drone market space? Feel free to “buzz the tower.” Contact us, today!