2016-03 B-assignment: investigating unmanned cargo aircraft initiatives

Bachelor assignment: identifying and analyzing initiatives for developing unmanned cargo aircraft

Background Information

Unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) are rapidly gaining interest in the civil transport aviation sector. These remotely or autonomously controlled systems are already widely used for military operations. Further developments based on emerging technologies for extensive civil transport applications are promising. The advantages for civil transport by unmanned cargo aircraft (UCA) as compared to manned air vehicles (MAV) speak for themselves: lower build and operating cost, higher productivity and efficient transport of volumes of cargo that are too small for cost-effective manned aircraft operations. Moreover, UCA have good potential for environmentally friendly operation.

The Platform Unmanned Cargo Aircraft (PUCA) aims to facilitate the development and operation of UCA. One of its activities is to help members who want to develop UCA or start a UCA airline with acquiring the information they need to make informed decisions. That is what this assignment is about.

Worldwide, there are many initiatives for developing UCA hardware (aircraft, engines etc.) and services (cargo transport with UCA). But there has not been a systematic analysis of all these initiatives. Such an analysis is needed for organizations wanting to enter the field of UCA to assess potential competitors and market opportunities.


Key objective

  • To obtain an overview of worldwide initiatives to develop UCA hardware and services, and present this overview in such a way that organizations wanting to develop UCA hardware or services can make informed strategy choices.


  • Develop an analytical framework for classifying UCA activities (development, operation, type of UCA like aircraft or helicopter, state of maturity, civil/military and so on).
  • Perform a literature and Internet search of worldwide initiatives concerning the development and operation of UCA.
  • Insert the acquired data into the analytical framework.
  • Identify the opportunities and threats for three planned UCA initiatives (to be designated at a later stage; the information is as yet confidential).
  • Write a procedure for periodically monitoring UCA developments.


Duration: 10-12 weeks
Location: UT
Assignment level: BSc TBK or Minor Aerospace Management
Start date: ASAP


Dr. Hans Heerkens
Department IEBIS
E: j.m.g.heerkens@utwente.nl