|Unmanned systems are starting to be more and more ubiquitous in our daily lives. While they’ve been in use in the defense industry for decades, increased attention from the commercial sector means we can expect to see some disruption within the industry in the next few years.
The opportunities for the govcon industry appear abundant as commercial and defense applications of this technology become more sophisticated and ambitious.
A particularly noteworthy development in the unmanned systems market was the Customs and Border Protection’s solicitation for a sUAS (small unmanned aerial system) with facial recognition capabilities. It ought to be noted that although the Department of Homeland Security and the CBP have previously used UAVs in the past, the models being used were actually created for use on foreign battlefields. The DHS and CBP are seeking the development of a smaller UAS, created specifically for them, rather than using an existing UAV for purposes it wasn’t initially created to fulfill.
Although the deadline for the CBP’s sUAS was at the end of April, the solicitation seems a bellwether for what other agencies may be interested in purposing UAVs for.
Smaller UAVs are capable of nimble maneuvers and intensive coordination in a manner that their larger cousins are not optimized for, thus making the applications of sUAVs quite versatile.
The CBP’s desire for a sUAS capable of facial recognition could open the floodgates for other agencies, and even local law enforcement and anti-terrorism operations, that may wish to acquire biometrically capable UAVs. Developers of biometric software and hardware, UAV manufacturers and maintenance service providers will likely be in high demand as interest in UAV applications increases.
The FAA is well aware of the increasing prevalence of commercial and defense-related UAVs and has a number of initiatives set on regulating their use. Despite the FAA’s registration system being struck down by a Federal court, the ruling does not “affect any aircraft operated for commercial operations.”
The FAA is also examining UAS collision risks, conducting a study in early May on potentially dangerous components of unmanned systems and potential injuries that may result from unmanned systems collisions. We can expect to see more unmanned systems technologies, used across the public and private sectors, even as lawmakers and the FAA combine to solidify regulations for them.
Aerial vehicles are hardly the only type of unmanned systems that deserve a closer look.
UAVs, ground robots, underwater explorers, mine hunting UUVs, bomb-defusing robots and more sophisticated satellites are already being manufactured and in some cases are already operational, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. All fall under the unmanned systems umbrella, and all are enjoying increased interest from industry.
As the manufacturing costs for these products decreases, and as military and civilian interest in them increases, we will begin to see more creative, innovative and efficient uses for this technology.
If you’re interested in learning more about innovations and new uses for unmanned systems, you can register for the Potomac Officers Club’s Unmanned Systems Forum. The Forum will be held on June 6th, beginning at7:00 AM at 2941 Restaurant located at 2941 Fairview Park Drive, Falls Church, VA 22042.
THIS WEEK’S TOP GOVCON STORIES