The drone market is still immature and large-scale industry consolidate has not yet taken place. Manufacturers are often very small companies with a short history and the maturity of their internal processes is low. This can be reflected in the quality of their products.
The law in many countries does not require airworthiness certifications for drones as they are mandatory for aircrafts used in manned flight. This means that while the buyer of a plane for manned flight can rely on the fact that the airworthiness of a plane was independently verified by the civil aviation authority, this is usually not the case for drones, at least not for drones below a maximum takeoff mass of 25kg.
The careful selection of vendors/manufacturers is therefore very important, especially in cases where internal risk assessments show significant accident risks in case of hardware or software failures.
If airframes are bought from one seller and the payload integration is performed by another party it is important that the responsibility cut-offs are clear.
Customizations of airframes to allow them to carry and control specific payloads is a complex topic with implication on the airworthiness of drones. This type of work should only be handled by companies which have been sufficiently background and reference checked.
A good indicator of the maturity of products and integration services is the quality of technical specification sheets, manuals and operating instructions provided.
- Standard risks related to all types of procurement.
- Accidents due to faulty products.
- Accidents or damage due to missing or incomplete documentation of performance limitations.
- Warranties invalidated by modifications of drones for the purpose of payload integration.
- Review the segregation of duties in place for the requesting, ordering and receiving of drones and equipment.
- Review the processes in place to ensure drone suppliers and manufacturers meet expected quality standards.
- Review the quality of manuals and instruction materials available for drones in current use.
- Interview pilots about the quality of support they receive from drone suppliers when they have questions.
- Interview maintenance personnel about the quality of support they receive from drone suppliers.