Civilian applications and policy implications of commercial unmanned aerial vehicles
Author(s)Sprague, Kara Lynn, 1980-
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Technology and Policy Program.
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As UAV capabilities continue to improve the technology will spill out of the military sector and into commercial and civil applications. Already, UAVs have demonstrated commercial marketability in such diverse areas as scientific and environmental research, cross-seas shipping, communications relays, emergency management, border monitoring, agriculture, and aerial photography. Small-scale tactical UAVs in particular have an enormous potential to fulfill a number of roles within urban centers, transforming the way civil safety institutions carry out their jobs. A lack of established flight regulations is currently the greatest barrier to the standardized use of these vehicles. While the United States is currently the world's leader in UAV manufacturing, this position is tenuous given strong competitive threats from a variety of foreign countries who are already ahead in establishing a standardized regulatory environment for UAVs. As part of a larger research effort focused on the design, implementation, and demonstration of highly maneuverable rotorcraft UAVs, the primary objective of this work is to examine how UAVs might gain access to and function safely in civil and commercial markets. Despite the wide variety of existing UAVs in terms of size, targeted flight altitude, and capability, this work focuses primarily on small-scale tactical vehicles with the intended purpose of operating in and around urban centers. Operational requirements and risk mitigation strategies can be devised and effectively implemented to allow such UAVs to be operated at an acceptable level of risk. By combining GIS data manipulation with modem approaches to path-planning, UAVs can be operated such that the risk to the general public and urban infrastructure isminimized. Instead of focusing on vehicle reliability requirements which severely limit present-day experimentation and development of UAVs, efforts which focus on operational strategies allow for applications of the technology to be explored while the systems continue to grow more reliable. Public-private coalitions should expand their efforts beyond high altitude, long endurance UAVs to establish operating regulations for all of the vehicle classifications. The diversity of UAVs should be treated with an equally diverse set of regulations tuned to the particular requirements and risk management issues each classification represents. Finally, local and national government should recognize civil UAVs not only as a new commercial industry of great potential, but also as a latent threat to domestic security for which regulations should be established sooner rather than later.
Thesis (S.M.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Engineering Systems Division, Technology and Policy Program, 2004.Includes bibliographical references (leaves 50-52).This electronic version was submitted by the student author. The certified thesis is available in the Institute Archives and Special Collections.
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Technology and Policy Program.; Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Engineering Systems Division; Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Technology and Policy Program
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Technology and Policy Program.