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NASA – Civil uses of remotely piloted aircraft 1976

Really worth a read, a very familiar song sheet now sung since 1976

The intent of this study is to identify and assess the technology effort required to bring the civil uses of RPVs to fruition and to determine whether or not the potential market is real and economically practical, the technologies are within reach, the operational problems are manageable, and the benefits are worth the cost.

To do so, the economic, technical, and environmental implications are examined. The time frame for application is 1980-85.

In-depth interviews with more than 60 potential users were made, ‘and’ 35 specific uses are identified and defined, including present methods. Nine of these uses are selected as representative; detailed functional and performance requirements are derived for RPV systems; and conceptual RPV system designs are devised to meet the requirements in eight of the nine selected uses.

Total system costs of development, purchase, and operation are estimated for the RPV systems, and cost comparisons are made with competing for non-RPV alternatives. The potential market demand for RPV systems is estimated in the uses for which RPVs show a cost advantage.

Environmental and safety requirements and provisions are examined, and legal and regulatory concerns are identified. Areas of technology challenge are also identified, and research and development emphasis is suggested.

A potential demand for 2,000-11,000 RPV systems is estimated. Typical cost savings of 25-35% compared to non-RPV alternatives are determined. There appear to be no environmental problems, and the safety issue appears manageable, although collision avoidance remains the key safety issue.

Earliest potential for a demonstration (in a remote area, with a federal government user) is about 1980, with full-fledged use by a federal agency by 1982 and by other government and commercial users by 1985. Government research and incentives will be required, and specific research is recommended, emphasizing safety features and other areas not likely to be covered adequately in military RPV development programs.

Full report here

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