Tuan U. Tran

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Department of Systems Engineering and Management

First Advisor

Joseph R. Wirthlin, PhD.


The advancement in small unmanned aerial vehicle (SUAV) technology has brought a new revolution in the military domain. Their uses have become more synonymous with intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions. Concerns over their flight test safety and accountability have been addressed in multiple policies to mitigate mishaps and increase proper accountability. However, current DoD and FAA mandated regulations and policies concerning UAV flight tests are sometimes considered slow and time-consuming, which may lead to delays in UAV research and development. This study explores the quantitative and qualitative measure of benefits associated with an abbreviated flight test process for SUAVs. Specifically, it examines the current agreement between two major USAF research centers regarding the SUAV flight test approval process. This research utilized high-level multidisciplinary approaches and techniques including qualitative cost benefit analysis, interviews, value stream mapping (VSM) analysis, and heuristic risk analysis to evaluate the current-state process. The findings conclude that there is a slight economic cost and schedule savings in an abbreviated process. Additionally, this research finds no correlation between SUAV flight mishaps and system maturity. This research proposes using a streamlined process for additional safety reviews to eliminate non-value added process steps considered unnecessary due to the nature of the SUAV complexity. Furthermore, this study recommends using a decision rule matrix based on the total cost of the SUAV and its weight and energy at impact for choosing an abbreviated flight test safety review process.

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