An unmanned aerial vehicle is a powered machine which operates without the intervention of a human being. Aerodynamic forces are used to provide the thrust to lift the vehicle. It can also fly autonomously or under the remote control of a pilot. The features of the unmanned aerial vehicle are expandability and recoverability. The UAVs are also able to carry lethal and non-lethal payloads.
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The challenges preventing the UAV from launching in the commercial market are many which include inappropriate air regulations that govern all the unmanned aerial vehicles, affordability in terms of price and customization, liability for the civil operation, capacity involving the adaptability of payloads, unreliable frequencies of non-military nature of civil operations, technology developments, training issues of operators and customer perception (Finocchio, Prasad & Ruggieri, 2008, p. 67).
This research seeks to analyze the aspect of affordability which consists of price and customization. It will also examine the aspect of training issues of operators and customer perception.
Two Challenges Preventing UAV from Entering the Commercial Market and Their Problems
The first challenge is the affordability of the unmanned aerial vehicles. In analyzing the challenge of affordability, the first factor to consider is the flight cost per hour. Many agencies opt not to drop their pilot operations because the flight cost per hour of the UAVs is too high. Secondly, there is the aspect of non-recurring costs.
The process of integrating the payload onto the aircraft is usually very costly (Angelov, 2012, p. 58). In some instances, the nature of the payload requires modifications of the aircraft to be done. This turns out to be very expensive and in some instances not feasible.
The vehicle transport is also another non-recurring expenses. The UAVs have to be transported to their target market and the process of flying the UAVs or ground shipment is very costly when using any method. The cost of catering for the support personnel’s travel expenses also forms a non-recurring cost.
Technicians are required for the purposes of UAV set up, maintenance, ground operation and dealing with the payloads. In addition, there is the aspect of aircraft acquisition, obtaining an aircraft for their mission, which is unrealistic to some individuals. In cases where an organization is a UAV operator or owner, the price of maintaining a coast guard patrol might be very high.
Recurring expenses refer to the costs that are proportional to the number of hours the UAV is in operation. The first recurring cost is the direct cost when the UAV is being flown. During this process, the price of fuel and oil proves to be very demanding.
More so, the cost of routine maintenance involved and is proportional to the number of hours. The second recurring cost is insurance. The amount of risk assumed determines the cost of premiums that will be computed. In the case of UAVs, the amount of risk is very massive, and this makes the cost of premiums unfavorable.
Communication support services are also another recurring cost. The cost of communication is determined by the bandwidth that the transmission requires. It is imperative to include the cost of communication for each hour the UAV is being flown. Finally, data analysis forms the last recurring cost, which is also proportional to the time which the UAV is being flown.
The reducing cost is also another aspect of cost (Baik, 2005, p.97). The costs of development, acquisition and operation are high in the civil market. The procurement costs for the UAVs are high and, considering the commercial market the costs, will be very massive. Also, the cost of recruiting the required personnel to set up and operate the UAVs is massive.
Another reducing cost is loss of the payloads, the payloads cost millions of shillings, and it would be a very severe loss if the payloads are lost. The system reliability is also another cost, component failures occur, and this might be very hard to cope with especially in the commercial market.
The second challenge this research analyzes is the training on issues of operators and customer perception. The skills required to handle the UAVs are very complex and advanced. It is not possible for every individual in the commercial market to be able to have these skills (Glackin & Peltzer, 2009, p. 34).
The maintenance and replacement of components in the UAV are very hi-tech and cannot be done in the commercial market. The training process of operators is expensive and next to impossible to train UAV operators outside the military since the expertise required to be a UAV operator is unique.
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The time it would take to train the personnel would be so long. In addition, the places available to conduct the training are limited, and in most instances, they are unavailable.
Nevertheless, in considering the aspect of customer perception, it is viewed that the UAVs are applicable in the military since the commercial market application of UAVs might not be a viable option (Singer, 2012, p. 88). The commercial market will not be able to purchase the UAVs since it will be impossible to have the machinery required for the operations and maintenance of the UAVs.
More so, if UAVs are launched in the commercial market, there is a risk that radicalized groups and terrorists may obtain the UAVs by hiding behind specific organizations. This may enable them to acquire the UAVs for the wrong motives and intentions. In case the terrorists acquire the UAVs, the effects would be catastrophic.
The Steps Being Taken to Address the Challenges
Curbing the cost of payload integration is a process, and the steps involved are developing, documentation and implementing standards that are concerned with payload interfaces and which support plug and play.
In order to address the cost of support personnel, the operating costs during travel have been decreased. Steps have also been taken to ensure that the price of accomplishing missions is affordable (Angelov, 2012, p. 70).
However, to curb direct cost, appropriate steps have been taken to increase onboard intelligence so as to reduce the cost of ground support.
In addressing the cost of insurance, safety and reliability standards of the UAVs have been increased, and to reduce the cost of communication, the UAV operations bandwidths have been limited so as to make communication cheap, and curb the reducing costs removal of technical and regulatory barriers of the UAV have been implemented (Carafano & Gudgel, 2007, p. 25).
In addition, technologies have been developed, these technologies include use of global positioning systems (GPS) and earth observing systems (EOS).
Solutions to the Challenges
In order to address the challenges facing the launching of UAVs in the commercial market, the spending related to the training of personnel, insurance policies, communication and vehicle support should be reduced as much as possible. In addition the aspect of training operators should be improved.
More institutions should be put in place to train individuals on the use UAVs (Rosheim, 2010, p. 50). The commercializing of the UAVs should also be conducted with a lot of caution so as to ensure that radicalized groups and terrorists do not acquire the UAVs. National security should be ascertained at all times.
Impact to the Aviation Industry Once the Problem is Solved
The aviation industry will be able to serve more people as multiple flights will be conducted at once. UAVs will enable longer flight hours and higher efficiency. On the other hand, retrenchments might occur;, due to the use UAVs, pilots might end up losing their jobs because the aircrafts will be uninhabited (Ouellette, 2006, p. 46).
The aviation industry will be more dynamic in nature, and the use of technology will also be very extensive. In addition, there will be a very sophisticated contingency management.
This means that there will be a reaction to unforeseen events and any failures that may occur. The failures that will be addressed include occurrence of casualties during flights, external property damage, aircraft destructions and loss of payloads (ebrary Incorporation, 2008, p. 23).
Another impact will be collision avoidance, in order to fly with minimal restrictions in the airspace of various territories UAVs will need to implement an effective and efficient collision avoidance system.
This will ascertain the safety of the passengers or cargo being conveyed by the use of UAVs. The impacts of the unmanned aerial vehicles will be massive and may improve the aviation industry in the whole world if adopted (Russel, 2010, p. 37).
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