On the May 6th, 2021 edition of Drone Source, host Asaf Raz spoke with George Kirov, the Managing Director of Dynamic Strategies & Concepts and former Vice President and General Manager, Commercial UAS Solutions of L3Harris Technologies.
Mr. Kirov is known for his growth-oriented management approach, mergers and acquisition expertise, and strategic consultancy work specifically focused on emerging markets and innovative new products. He has developed a vibrant career serving leading clients in the automotive industry, mining industry, real estate industry, as well as his work with L3 Harris Technologies, a highly influential aerospace firm based in Jacksonville, Florida.
In his work with L3Harris in particular, Mr. Kirov was on the frontlines of the commercial drone/UAS industry through his work with topics such as communication, surveillance, UAV operations, air traffic management, systems, networks and designing the software needed to support emerging companies responsible for developing commercial BVLOS drone technologies.
A highly experienced entrepreneur with a wealth of technical insight into the commercial aerospace industry and regulatory frameworks guiding it. Mr. Kirov has been involved with the drone industry since 2012 when the FAA Reauthorization Act was passed in the United States. He has also taken part in The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) conferences since 2014.
Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) is the Answer to Scalable Profitability
In his view, the development of Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) technology is the key benchmark for the commercial drone industry to be able to develop truly scalable solutions that are not only innovative but also highly profitable for the organizations rolling them out.
“Line of sight operations is where you can make money today. It has become a very competitive landscape, which is a different challenge, but at least the industry is growing. There is huge innovation with 1000s of operators now and hundreds of 1000s registered drones in the United States doing commercial business, that number actually increased to over 400,000 by the last count in 2020”, said Mr, Kirov. “However, the value of the industry will come from Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations. Line of sight (LOS) will still be there, but probably shrink dramatically in terms of significance, and value to the businesses that operate within it.”
Though he believes the industry is expanding in many unique and exciting ways, according to Mr. Kirov, the BVLOS segment of the industry is the place where innovation and scalable profitability most easily come into focus:
“On the operational side of LOS operations; managing pilots, managing fleets, managing customers, teaching towns and communities how to work with the data, the payloads capturing the data, processing the data, understanding and analyzing it is highly complex. As I talked to leading drone operators and the enterprise customers that are using them, or that have invested in developing their own internal operations, I realized it’s a vibrant industry, and there’s so much you can learn. And then as you look closely at the BVLOS segment, an opportunity emerges and eventually completely takes over.”
When asked about what needs to be done to improve the regulatory frameworks connected to the commercial drone industry, Mr. Kirov offered a highly pragmatic answer: “I think we have to take two perspectives into consideration. First of all, the way again, at least from a theoretical point of view, but also, that’s true for most countries, is the safety of the system that matters, the performance of the whole system, the FAA will have to certify both the whole system, which means the weakest link is your problem, as well as the whole operation. So, the idea that independent UAS technological silos can continue to innovate unrelated to each other, is just not going to work. Think about it, you have this marvelous aircraft that can fly beautifully hundreds of 1000s of miles undisturbed. I mean, L3 Harris’s amazing UAV can fly almost 1000 miles in one mission. If you don’t have the communication systems to support this range, the UAV will fly one and a half miles and disconnect. That’s it. The same goes for battery power and other payload considerations. And so, the silos, the industry specialists, have to work together”, said Mr. Kirov. “And I like the idea of a network Alliance because the alternative is what? buying each other? And then you have these huge, complex companies that are hard to manage, which is one way forward… So, number one, you have to understand that the entire system will be certified one day, so you gotta make it work as a system. Number two, from a business point of view, it has to be affordable. The end customer must be willing to pay for the service, at a logical rate, with clear ROI, which means that both enabling technologies and the drone companies themselves must work hand in hand to create affordable, high ROI systems, that will be paid for by the end customers”
Collaboration is the Key to Clearing Technical and Regulatory Challenges to Deliver a Profitable and Sustainable Drone Industry
When asked about whether or not the commercial drone industry can successfully overcome the regulatory and technical challenges necessary to scale towards profitability, Mr. Kirov was quite enthusiastic: “Yes, we do want to help the industry grow and mature and we believe the best way to accomplish that is to actually collaborate with each other across the industry because the technologies are simply amazing. The enabling technologies, the drones themselves, the aircraft, the systems, the platforms, it’s all incredible. It’s easy to see that and say, wow, this is the edge of innovation, but I think the strength lies within cross-functional industry-wide knowledge sharing and collaboration. It’s a very different organizational climate than what the world saw in 1935 during the time the DC3 aircraft was being developed. It’s very different because the information is more readily accessible. Everything is more easily accessible and a bright future for the global drone technology industry is within reach.”
Contact us today to learn more about the spirit of innovation driving Elsight to be a global leader in the development of BVLOS drone technology.
George Kirov on Linkedin