The previous parts in this series of articles took a high-level overview of the first steps and considerations on the journey towards a certifiable, profitable BVLOS drone enterprise. In this concluding part, we will examine some of the details. Depending on your use case, there are a variety of ideas worth considering when it comes to maximising the profitability of the drone platform that you will be designing or assembling to serve your business.
One platform, many use cases
Designing your drone so that payloads can be easily swapped out will allow you to leverage the platform for multiple markets, such as by using different imaging sensors for mapping, aerial photography and precision agriculture. Keep an eye on your weight allowance here and figure out what you can afford to budget for payload capacity, as this may inform the possible use cases. For example, LiDAR sensors are typically heavier and more power-hungry than photogrammetric payloads.
Capitalize on your design efforts
Designing a drone platform that is both fit for purpose for BVLOS operations and acceptable to regulators takes considerable time and effort, a not insignificant amount of paperwork, and likely several design iterations too. The finished product will be highly attractive to companies who are unwilling or unable to undertake this Herculean labour themselves.
Providing your platform as an OEM product to other drone operators could be a highly lucrative business. Similarly, you might want to consider undertaking missions on behalf of other companies, with the option of flying with their branding for extra visibility.
Upsell your connectivity
As we have seen, cellular LTE networks are the communications backbone of any successful BVLOS drone platform. Elsight offers a full CAAS (connectivity as a service) solution that you can upsell to your end customers, allowing you to generate revenue from their data usage.
Keep the SwaP footprint down
Keeping your size, weight and power footprint low is a technical necessity for BVLOS flights, as the main driver behind the shift to this paradigm is the ability to fly further for longer. Maximising your airtime allows your drone platform to get more done in a single flight, and take on a wider variety of use cases. This will be a key differentiator that will put you ahead of your competition.
Horizontal vs vertical integration
Creating a drone design by stacking layers of technology atop one another as you need them may be a quick solution, but bodes poorly for the flexibility required to maximise the revenue-generating potential of the platform.
Careful planning and selection of components, services and software that are known to work together as part of a technology ecosystem will make for more seamless performance as well as cutting down development time and costs. Open architecture-based hardware and software may also be an advantage here, as this will allow the system to be easily adapted as the industry matures and requirements evolve.
By now you will be well aware that strict adherence to aviation authority regulations is a must if you wish to succeed in the BVLOS industry. To avoid further pitfalls, ensure that components comply with any relevant certifications that are required.
Design for reliability and longevity
It may be an obvious point, but it bears repeating nonetheless. Designing for reliability and longevity is essential, and one of the best ways to do this is ensure that your drone platform is designed to be easily maintainable. Modular designs will allow the aircraft to be taken apart and have parts swapped out easily, and will make it easier to spot potential faults and issues that develop over time.
In addition to a clean design, it is well worth the time to develop a comprehensive set of maintenance procedures that can be performed by technicians within your company, as well as a simpler set that can be performed by the end user with a minimum of specialist equipment. You may wish to consult specialists within manned aviation to aid you with this, as the industry has a long history of developing stringent procedures for keeping aircraft safe and airworthy.
Elsight – your partner from concept to certified commercial operations
No matter how you choose to seize your share of this $45 billion opportunity, Elsight can provide you with the robust communication solution you need to power your BVLOS platform. However, we are more than just an off-the-shelf component provider.
As this series of articles has shown you, there are many steps to take and a lot of factors to consider along the way. We can help you lighten the load by providing you with the benefit of our deep insights and experience in drone communications, system design, and meeting certification requirements.
Our Halo Value Investment Program (VIP) is specially designed to set drone companies up for success in expanding their operations from VLOS to BVLOS. Partnering with us gives you access to our SMART Start process detailed in part 3, as well as full support with obtaining BVLOS regulatory approval with regulators around the world, including the FAA and EASA.
To find out more about how we can help fast-track you to assured BVLOS success and profitability, get in touch!
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