Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Benefits, Savings, Forecast, and Methodology

Many state-level Departments of Transportation have recognized the potential benefits from adopting unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) technology in their everyday operations from possible financial savings to added benefits given by improved safety conditions for workers and increased access to high risk environments. This project will focus on the following goals tailored to UAS operations within the State of California, Department of Transportation (Caltrans): estimating savings for Caltrans through the use of UAS within their 12 geographic districts; identifying cost drivers for UAS use for related applications; and identifying emerging and foreseeable technologies and regulatory changes on the horizon. The cost drivers and emerging indicators will be used to develop a foundational framework for estimating operational cost savings for Caltrans in applied areas where UAS operations are applicable. To complete this framework, the research team will conduct an exploratory analysis of other states' understandings of cost savings regarding DoT UAS operations, conduct a stakeholder anlaysis process through survey and interview procedures with UAS operational experts within CalTrans, and engage with industry experts to understand additional added values and to gauge on-the-horizon technologies and regulatory expectations. The expected project outcomes are to establish a methodological framework that can be used for the future estimation of savings for Caltrans UAS operations, and to disseminate generalizable savings criteria and lessons learned to wider government, policy, and academic stakeholders.


Mineta Consortium for Transportation Mobility
San José State University

Principal Investigator: 

Tyler Spence

PI Contact Information: 

Mineta Transportation Institute
San José State University
210 N. 4th St., 4th Floor
San José, CA 95112

Funding Source(s) and Amounts Provided (by each agency or organization): 

California Department of Transportation – $183,724.80

Total Project Cost: 


Agency ID or Contract Number: 



February 2020 to March 2022

Project Number: