Interview With Raytheon UAS Expert Offers 2 Takeaways

By Luke Geiver | January 28, 2016

Speaking with a UAS expert with more than 25 years of experience in operating or leading unmanned aircraft vehicle-based efforts is not something that happens every day. This week, I had the opportunity to talk with John Hobday, business development lead for Raytheon’s unmanned systems division. Our talk left me with two important takeaways.

First, proven technology is getting better, and most importantly as Hobday said, it is also getting cheaper. Raytheon’s Coyote UAV, an expendable sUAV that can be launched from a plane, helicopter, ship or the ground. In the past two years, the Raytheon team has found great interest from civilian partners, including several non-U.S. Department of Defense-related entities like NOAA. We wrote about the Raytheon and NOAA effort to better understand hurricanes earlier this month. You can find the story here.

The interest in the proven Coyote UAV is continuing, Hobday said. But, for it to continue to find its way into the sky, the overall system needs to be “commoditized.” For Hobday, the price-point of most sUAVs on the larger end of the spectrum is too expensive for continuous commercial use. To help solve the cost issue, Raytheon is working to make as much of the Coyote UAV simpler and cheaper. In a reference back to his Midwestern roots, Hobday said the idea is to make UAVs more like simple farm trucks. Most are the same, and most are cheap. They can be tweaked or equipped with more specific options, depending on the needs of the buyer. But, if the base unit isn’t simple and affordable to begin with, the add-on option will never be realized. At a time when most government agencies are operating as budget hawks, Hobday believes price is as important as ever for greater overall UAS usage.

Second, even those who have seen many great UAS accomplishments in the field or in the lab don’t believe they’ve seen everything. At least Hobday doesn’t. According to Hobday, one of the most important things to remember about working, depending on, connecting to or existing in the UAS space is this common idea: the only limit to the UAS industry is our own imagination.

Look for the full story on Hobday and Raytheon’s UAS efforts soon.