Leveraging sUAS Technology for Smarter Public Projects

geospatial data for earth observation

The government needs more data. That statement might fill some people with dread, but, when it comes to aerial data that helps people make critical decisions, it can mean saving lives and billions of dollars. From municipal to federal, the public sector deals with massive-scale projects that require geospatial data on vast portions of the earth. With high-quality data in hand, government organizations can better allocate resources and efforts for better outcomes and cost efficiencies.

When it comes to having a bird’s eye view, small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) can get the right data for the job. While these systems are ideal for getting capturing insights on vast areas and assets, choosing the right system and implementing it into the real-world can prove a challenge for organizations that don’t possess lots of expertise in this field.

Let’s examine how sUAS can benefit agencies and how to reduce the complexity and effort of implementing robust aerial monitoring programs.

Modernizing Government Data with Autonomous Solutions

The sUAS is a means to an end, and that end is good data. While the vehicles themselves are conducive to efficient data collection – rapid deployment, compact form factor, customizable payloads – the real secret sauce of good sUAS data is autonomy. While a manually piloted sUAS can work well in smaller-scale operations, an increased level of autonomy enhances remote situational awareness and permits a broader scope of long-range applications.

Flying a precisely programmed route, an sUAS can capture data with absolute precision and repeatability from flight-to-flight. Building a library of consistent data sets for reliable comparative analysis gives us the fuel to power an effective predictive analytics model, allowing agencies to make informed decisions on complex problems. Predictive analytics is all about empowering decision-making.

Leveraging autonomous sUAS systems, government organizations can gain the insights they need to proactively address their respective areas of responsibility. Here are a few examples:

  • Forestry & Wildlife Conservation: Understanding the seasonal trends and changes in forest health allows for better allocation of resources to combat threats to publicly managed lands. In recent years, wildfires have become a major issue. Not only can a sUAS greatly improve the safety and efficiency in wildfire monitoring, removing people from harm’s way, but they also can better monitor the growth rate, damaged caused, and temperature status of the fire. There are many other challenges that aerial data can help you to address, such as the decay of forests due to diseases and pests – for instance, the Emerald Ash Borer beetle – or illegal logging activity on publicly managed lands.
  • Border Patrol: A massive logistical challenge, that consumes lots of resources and manpower to ensure a persistent level of awareness. An autonomous sUAS can act as an eye in the sky, helping agencies direct ground efforts to where they are needed most. Not to mention, aerial systems can work in-tandem with ground teams to actively monitor more area than ever before. As illegal crossings are logged from inspection-to-inspection, border security organizations can identify the hotspots of border-crossing activity and dispatch ground teams accordingly.
  • Emergency Services: Getting a bird’s-eye-view is advantageous for a variety of scenarios in this field. A long-range sUAS can serve as another valuable part of the search & rescue toolkit. In the case of someone lost in the wilderness, the aerial system can survey a wide area, while leveraging infrared sensor imagery to detect a person amongst dense foliage. An aerial system can also serve as a forward scout that preserves the safety of emergency teams, by gathering visual intel before the deployment of human personnel. In the case of environmental disasters like spill of hazardous materials, an sUAS can survey areas that are too risky for human personnel to approach.

These are but a few of many cases where sUAS can make a mass-positive impact on the quality and consistency of data that governments are working with, as well as their ability to manage that data. Keep in mind, greater data doesn’t have to equal greater cost. By the Department of the Interior’s own estimate, the implementation of UAS technology into their efforts saved taxpayers approximately $14 million dollars in 2018 alone.1

Despite the great promise of sUAS technology, the implementation into public sector projects can be a difficult process if agencies are always acting on their own without the experience of an end-to-end service provider.

Finding the Sweet Spot of UAS Price and Performance

Until recently, two classes of UAS have seen prominent deployment in the government sector, each with their pros and cons:

1. Military-Grade:
From a technical specifications standpoint, drones from the military sector are phenomenal aircraft, but results show that the size and complexity of these systems may be overkill for domestic efforts. Additionally, most military systems are prohibitively expensive for many state and local governments. Take the Predator B drone, for example, which costs approximately $17 million dollars per vehicle with operational costs of over $12,000 dollars per flight hour. This high price tag extends to many military-grade aerial systems, regardless of their overall size.2

2. Consumer-Grade:
Manufacturers of consumer vehicles have also created small-class quadcopter drones with slightly improved spec for commercial monitoring applications. However, limited flight endurance and short-range communications systems limit the scale of operations, and serious concerns around the data security of off-the-shelf systems have led to the grounding and outright banning of entire drone fleets.

Better-suited mid-size UAS systems exist, and with the help of experts, you can implement a solution that encompasses the best of both worlds.

Own a Drone or Outsource an Aerial Solution?

It can be difficult enough to even decide which vehicle is best suited for an operation, let alone implement an aerial monitoring solution which provides actionable data. Many of the requirements of effective sUAS monitoring fall outside the core responsibilities and expertise of government agencies, which is why it’s often more efficient and less stressful to contract the job out to expert solution providers. Outline your objectives and desired data, and let the pros figure out the means to your end. At SkyX we handle the entire process from start-to-finish:

  • Provisioning of a proprietary system
  • Navigating a complex and evolving regulatory environment
  • Deployment and operations
  • Performing a broad range of data processing and analysis
  • Managing data quality and security
  • High-impact reporting on the issues that matter most
  • Continuing support

sUAS technology can add rocket fuel to your decision-making with consistent, high-quality data that forms the bedrock of more complex and highly-valuable data models, such as predictive analytics. With the right solution and the know-how to effectively implement it, you can deliver better results on projects with less waste and inefficiencies. Talk about a win-win!

Have questions about how high-quality aerial data can elevate your organization?
Contact our team to discuss your unique challenges and data requirements.


  1. Interior Department Adopts Restrictions Aimed at Chinese Drones, Katy Stech Ferek, The Wall Street Journal, 2020
  2. Drones on the Border: Efficacy and Privacy Implications, David Bier and Matthew Feeney, CATO Institute, 2018