As UAS operations continue to expand in the energy sector, so is the need for regular repair and maintenance of its drones. With the Energy Drone and Robotics Summit coming up in June, we wanted to reach out to Brad Hayden, CEO of Robotic Skies, a MRO service company, to gain his perspective on MRO systems within these rapidly-growing UAS technologies and operations.
Q: How is the UAS market evolving when it comes to repair and maintenance (MRO) needs as enterprises scale their drone programs?
A: While programs continue to evolve and mature to more complex aircraft and operations, enterprises are getting frustrated with current customer service offerings and are realizing maintenance solutions requiring shipment back to a remote facility is not practical as their operations scale.
They are looking for more efficient and cost-effective solutions to maintain their fleets as their programs expand.
Q: How will the emerging market for BVLOS related projects accelerate hardware maintenance needs?
A: BVLOS really means integrating into the National Airspace System. In addition to the navigation and flight control functionality we see today, unmanned systems flying BVLOS will also be required to provide remote identification, comply with instructions from Air Traffic Control, maintain separation from other aircraft, and sense and avoid obstacles. Increasingly sophisticated unmanned avionics hardware components will provide this capability, and just like in manned aircraft, those systems will have to be installed, calibrated, inspected and maintained to assure functionality and accuracy.
Some form of airframe and powerplant certification will also be required for these complex aircraft, and a part of that certification will certainly include a formalized inspection and maintenance program. If the regulators mirror manned aviation practices, they will mandate that inspections and repairs be performed by qualified aviation maintenance technicians with the appropriate ratings.
Q: What trends are you seeing from energy & engineering UAS operators for their MRO needs?
A: We are seeing the commercial flight departments taking more and more ownership – or at least increased oversight – of their company’s UAS programs, and looking to the established infrastructure they know well from the manned aviation world to increase efficiencies and safety. Elements of these programs include aviation grade operations, training, and periodic inspections and maintenance.
Additionally, we are seeing operators demanding a more efficient and effective maintenance solution so as to not interrupt their operations.
Q: How do you see the relationship evolving between UAV Hardware OEMs, Asset Owners/Drone Operators and Maintenance (MRO) Service firms like Robotic Skies?
A: First off, there are no other MRO service firms like Robotic Skies in the commercial UAS industry. Our global footprint with over 170 service centers in over 40 countries uniquely provides the local maintenance solution the industry needs.
As the industry continues to evolve, these relationships are moving more and more towards the established paradigms of the manned aviation industry, where both the OEM and the operator benefit from a professional-grade maintenance/customer service program…ultimately leading to more revenue for both
When working with Robotic Skies:
Q: What are the key ingredients for a successful MRO program? How can this add to the safety for UAV flights in energy & engineering?
A: Here are the key ingredients:
Additionally, employing aviation protocols to the maintenance process provides liability coverage for when a unit crashes and the operator can clearly point to the processes employed in maintaining the UAS and that the maintenance is provided by aviation technicians, not someone who is trained in other professions and are offering UAS maintenance as an ancillary offering.