In the UAS industry, we love to talk about success stories and the innovative ways companies are using drones every day. There’s no shortage of ways businesses are putting drones to work and seeing great results. But what we don’t talk about as often are the failures — the programs that have started with promise but hit an obstacle and disappeared.
The truth is, establishing a drone program can be difficult if you don’t have an expert to guide you. Many companies start using drones only to get stuck in a rut because they don’t account for the major pitfalls that can take down a UAS operation.
I’ve been working in the drone industry for a while. This isn’t the first time I’ve written about the pitfalls drone programs need to avoid, and a lot of the same principles still apply. Here are some of the top reasons I’ve seen drone programs fail early in the process of establishing drone ops. I’ll follow up later with an article on the hazards facing drone programs as they grow and scale.
#1: Not knowing how or where to start
Let’s start with the obvious: the top reason drone programs fail to get started is that company personnel don’t know what the first step is. For corporations that don’t already have aviation departments for executive travel, there is an overwhelming amount of factors to think about.
- How will I identify and train pilots?
- What aircraft should I use?
- What program standards do I need to set up?
- How will I prove ROI?
- How can I be sure I’m following laws and company policies?
- What are some best practices I’ll need to follow in the industry?
- What jobs will I actually fly on the job site?
That’s why Skyward designed custom packages for companies just getting started with drones. Skyward’s drone experts help you think through the countless details that go into setting up a program. We provide you with the aircraft, aviation management software, and training you need to get off the ground and into the air. And we help you establish a full set of standard operating procedures — the bedrock of any corporate drone operation. You can go from no aviation knowledge and no drone program to flying with standards for productivity, safety, and compliance manner in a matter of weeks.
#2: Risk, Safety, or Legal teams are concerned
Large enterprises have high standards for safety and low tolerance for risk. Bringing a disruptive new technology into the mix introduces a lot of potential concerns. I’ve seen promising programs stopped by corporate executives because the UAS program leaders were unable to prove they could adequately manage the risks.
Of course, drone use can often improve safety when implemented correctly. It’s a great potential strength of a drone program. But the risks presented by drones are real. So how can a budding UAS program prove it can make a hazardous work environment safer and stay compliant with drone regulations?
It starts with strong standard operating procedures (SOPs). Your program standards must comply with the law and be codified and integrated into your operational workflow. Your SOPs must cater to your company’s specific policies and use cases — there’s no universal standard that will work for all companies. From there, you’ll want to closely track your safety record so you have solid data to show your health, safety, and legal teams.
If you’re looking for help standing up a compliant program tailored to your risk tolerance and unique situation, let us know. Skyward’s Professional Services consultants are experts at helping companies manage risk mitigation and corporate policies.
#3: Not having buy-in from leadership
Your largest hurdle may be convincing top-level executives that your drone program is worth the investment. Getting leadership to sign off on your program is an involved process that may take steps such as:
- Networking with executives so they’re aware of your program
- Getting initial funding for your program
- Obtaining and communicating ROI
- Tracking your operations so you have data to work with
- Calling attention to industry peers that are leveraging drones
There are two key ways executives must buy into your program to find success:
The problem of ROI
Plain and simple, your drone program has to achieve a return on investment for your company. Without it, you risk executives pulling budget from your program. But ROI can be difficult to track since drones rarely generate revenue directly.
ROI discussions often begin with money. But while drones can bring financial savings, gains in time or safety are often bigger factors. In industries like construction or energy, drones reduce the need to put workers at height or near hazardous equipment. And the speed with which drones can collect and transfer data is revolutionary in many industries.
Skyward offers tools to help companies assess ROI even before establishing a new use case. We can help you define a proof of concept and think through additional capabilities that can help you demonstrate results to leadership. Our Professional Services team uses an ROI calculator developed through our years of industry experience, and we’re here to walk you through every step of the process.
The problem of stake
Even when your drone program is obtaining ROI, executives need to have visibility into your program and understand what you’re accomplishing. As a UAS manager, it’s your job to gather this data and communicate it clearly to your leadership. Most importantly, employees across the company need to have stake in your drone program so it doesn’t get siloed into one department.
To communicate details of your program, you’ll need a single source to track all the data on your operations — flights, personnel, equipment, documentation, and more. At first, you might be able to get by with spreadsheets and emails. But as your program begins to grow, you’ll quickly become overwhelmed by the volume of information. And creating reports out of an unorganized mountain of data is all but impossible.
Skyward’s Aviation Management Platform helps companies solve the problem of program management. It’s a single digital system of record for your entire drone program, tracking everything from airspace permissions to flight logs. Skyward offers APIs to integrate into your enterprise systems, making reporting easier. And many of our customers give executives and managers access to Skyward so they can check up on the UAS program at any time.
Take charge of your drone ops with Skyward
Skyward enables drone program managers to establish and oversee successful drone operations at any scale. Schedule a consultation with a drone expert today!