Cover: Characterizing the Performance of Uncrewed Aircraft Systems

Characterizing the Performance of Uncrewed Aircraft Systems

Published Feb 6, 2023

by Bradley Wilson, Shane Tierney, Rachel M. Burns

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Research Questions

  1. What are the performance parameters and availability of various UAS platforms?
  2. What is the quality of available UAS performance data?

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate asked the Homeland Security Operational Analysis Center to help it characterize the performance and availability of various uncrewed aircraft system (UAS) platforms.

The analysis leveraged available data sets that aggregated UAS performance to develop an approach to characterizing spray coverage as a function of payload, speed, endurance, and delivery. They present performance parameters of interest whether the spraying goal is breadth or density of coverage. Although the data were not perfect, they appeared to provide a good representation of manufacturer-reported performance.

Spraying balances the trade space of covering the largest area with how densely the area is covered with the substance being delivered, or saturation level. The analysts considered both. The analysts found that reasonable assumptions about spray rate (based on pump capability) and height were far more–important drivers of spray coverage than any of the other UAS performance measures. Next steps could include developing a parameterized analysis to more deeply assess the trade space between use case, platform, coverage, and saturation level and building component-level models of selected platforms.

Key Findings

Reasonable assumptions about spray rate (based on pump capability) and height were far more–important drivers of spray coverage than any of the other UAS performance measures

  • Increasing pump rate can decrease the potential area covered.
  • Increasing the spray height, cruise speed, or payload weight can increase the potential area covered.
  • Platform endurance is not a major factor because the total time spraying is almost always limited by pump rate and payload weight rather than endurance.
  • Smaller UAS platforms tend to provide denser coverage than larger platforms do, likely because of their slower overall cruise and maximum speeds. Also, changing spray rate and spray height naturally changes the spray density.

Recommendations

  • Develop additional data sets of price information.
  • Perform a detailed analysis of third-party test data.
  • Perform data-set verification with a larger sample.
  • Develop a parameterized analysis to look more deeply at the trade space between use case, platform, and coverage.
  • Build component-level models of selected platforms.

This research was sponsored by the Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) Office of Science and Engineering and conducted by the Acquisition and Development Program within the Homeland Security Operational Analysis Center.

This report is part of the RAND research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

RAND is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.