Commercial Autonomous Aircraft Market: Three Lessons on Customer Research


In our last post, we discussed the growing interest in commercial applications for compact unmanned aircraft, or drones. Imaging, in particular, presents a real opportunity for optics and photonics component manufacturers. This emerging UAV market provides important lessons on the criticality of understanding and anticipating the needs of your target customers. Here are three things to remember:


1. Trim Down

Although demand for drone features increases, the size and weight requirements remain tight. Successful companies fine-tune their products to meet performance specifications and not performance limits. Unneeded capabilities are a waste. Instead of "How can we improve our product?" the correct question might be "How much can we cut?"


2. Get Tough

A principle feature of drone technology is the ability to maneuver in environments and in ways that a manned craft cannot. Do you understand the end user's applications? Some requirements won’t be obvious to you if you’ve only read the spec sheet. Acceleration, corrosion, and extreme temperatures are all examples of end-user concerns that might play into your production decisions.


3. Study Up

ITAR regulations are complex. For any product that might have a military application, the effects of ITAR restrictions can extend deep into that product's components. It might not be worthwhile for your business to develop unique technology for a product with a constricted market. Furthermore, even if you are only supplying stock components to an ITAR restricted product, ITAR investigations might determine that your components have previously unrecognized military significance, which could end existing international partnerships.


These are just some examples of why it is important always to investigate the unique needs and drivers of your customer. Early customer-focused investigation enables your business to create product development and product launch plans that ensure a strong entry into the market.

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