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UAV Propulsion Tech Discusses Shifts & Future Trends within the Unmanned Sector

Read the interview with unmanned industry expert Bob Schmidt, the CEO and Founder at UAV Propulsion Tech Feature Article
UAV Propulsion Tech Discusses Shifts & Future Trends within the Unmanned Sector
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UAV Propulsion Tech Discusses Shifts & Future Trends within the Unmanned SectorIn an exclusive interview with Bob Schmidt, the CEO and Founder at UAV Propulsion Tech, delves into the significant changes and emerging trends within the unmanned industry in recent years. The interview also explores the challenges faced by European companies looking to export to the US, and anticipates future trends in the rapidly evolving unmanned sector.

Thanks for talking with us today. UAV Propulsion Tech is well-known within the uncrewed sector, representing suppliers from across the globe. Could you give us your perspective on the changes you’ve witnessed within the industry over the past 4 years?

The war in Ukraine has increased the demand for UAV’s and has put several systems to the test in this conflict. Loitering munitions seem to be the drone of choice on both sides, with Ukraine developing their own low-cost systems and global allies supplying advanced systems. NATO countries are increasing their military spending, and looking for existing UAV systems to protect their countries which is also increasing the demand for proven systems.

Counter-UAS is also in demand in Ukraine and Israel to knock these flying munitions out of the sky. The US DoD initiated the “replicator” program for low-cost, high-volume swarming drones to support demand in the Pacific. AI will be a key part of this swarming solution. The global demand for our UAV hardware solutions has increased over the last 4 years because of the current world situation.

What demands from the uncrewed sector have influenced your decisions as a US business over the last few years?

The uncrewed sector is always requiring high performance and reliability. For “one way” and swarm solutions, these also need to be at a lower price point. Volz has come out with a low-cost, entry level DA14N servo that has a brushless motor/contactless position sensor to meet demand for lower cost, while still delivering excellent performance and reliability.

The demand for shipboard VTOL solutions with small footprints requires our engines to operate on heavy fuels such as Jet A, JP5, and JP8 to improve safety and logistics. Suter Industries now has a heavy-fuel UAV engine that it launched at XPONENTIAL this year in San Diego to meet this demand.

UAV Propulsion Tech Discusses Industry Shifts & Future Trends within the Unmanned Sector

Could you outline the challenges faced by European companies wanting to export to the US, and do you have advice that could help them?

US defense primes are looking for advanced UAV solutions from Europe (and other parts of the world). I started my business to be able to work with small UAV hardware companies (say in the <$15M annual revenue) and provide local sales/marketing/customer support in the US for these foreign companies. Eight of the fifteen companies I represent are based in Europe. Having a local person in the US to help get your solution in the door of these large companies is valuable.

Also, some of the large defense primes in the early stages of product evaluation would prefer to purchase from a US entity so they don’t have to wire funds outside the US or receive foreign shipments. I provide this service which eliminates this barrier. Eventually, if the defense contractor goes into production and needs higher volumes, then at that time it makes sense to set up the foreign supplier in their supplier system. I am always looking for high-tech UAV hardware solutions that can meet my US customer’s needs if there are companies in Europe that have a unique technology for the UAV market.

What excites you about the rapid development of the unmanned sector and are there any trends or developments you expect to see over the next few years?

AI technology excites me as the global demand for swarming drones increases. The delivery drone segment in the US and globally will be expanding significantly in the next few years as Amazon, Walmart and other companies expand their drone delivery offerings. This will also advance the safety and cost of these solutions. I also think the Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) market will initially start manned, but for it to meet cost objectives, it will need to transition to unmanned. A lot of funding is going into AAM and this will further advance uncrewed technology.

Are there any areas outside of your current product range that you are looking to move into in 2024 and beyond?

My focus has always been propulsion (piston engines, electric motors, fuel cells, etc.) so I am very interested in finding a small turbine company to represent, as demand for counter UAS systems that require faster aircraft expands. I also would like to license some technology that I can produce here in the US. Not sure what product yet but I would like to expand my business into not only being a manufacturer’s representative but also a manufacturer. We will be reviewing alternatives further this year, so follow me or UAV Propulsion Tech on LinkedIn to learn about our new offerings.

It’s been a real pleasure speaking with you today, thank you so much for your insights.

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Posted by Sarah Simpson Connect & Contact