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Lessons Learned on Estimating Costs for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)

Lessons Learned Track

Downloadable Files:



This paper/presentation is aimed at provided lessons learned on performing cost estimates for the Predator, Reaper, and Global Hawk UAS.

Paper/presentation will compare recent Mil Std 881 WBS guidance with actual estimates for the above programs and discuss unique items such as ground control stations and multiple comm links.

Other lesson learned to be presented include:
– Unmanned aircraft systems may tend more to spiral development and concurrency with production than manned aircraft. E.g., Predator and Reaper are not necessarily complex vehicles, but are built to carry multiple sensors and payloads which keeps RDT&E going on for a long time.

– Differences between Predator and Global Hawk with regards to DOT&E. Predator never went through a D/OT&E program anywhere as rigorous (or expensive) as a manned system. Probably because they don’t carry a crew and aren’t clear to fly in civilian airspace – they can’t do enough damage here to be on the evening news. While Global Hawk has a fairly rigorous DOT&E because it is much bigger and could do enough damage to be on the evening news

– Systems don’t have exotic materials

– Software: Predator doesn’t have a large OFP, while Global Hawk does

– The double edged sword of COTS

– Data rights: All of the systems are contractor proprietary systems to which the government has only limited rights

– Subcontractor relationships

– O&S cost concerns

The bottom-line is that UAS are still relatively new to DoD, but they are a growing area. There are unique concerns when estimating the costs for a UAS. Hopefully this presentation/paper will provide a basis for further discussion and study.

Presenters: Charlie Kapaku and Chris Tuttle (MCR)


Charlie Kapaku
Charlie Kapaku is an employee MCR, LLC and works in the Global Hawk Program Office at Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio. He has over 25 years of experience in Air Force Financial Management and Cost Analysis.
Charlie has performed cost estimates/analyses on a wide variety of major acquisition programs to include aircraft systems such as the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) and the F-22 Raptor; space systems such as the Global Positioning System (GPS); electronic systems including the Joint Services Imagery Processing System (JSIPS) and Cheyenne Mountain Upgrade; and major automated information systems to include the Logistics Modernization Systems (LMS) and the Joint Ammunition Management Standard System (JAMSS). Charlie has worked at all levels of Air Force acquisition to include base level program offices, HQ AFMC, the AF Cost Analysis Agency and SAF/FMC.

Chris Tuttle
Chris Tuttle is an employee of the MCR Company and works at the Predator and Reaper Program Office at Wright Patterson AFB Ohio. He has 30+ years experience in Air Force Financial Management and Cost Analysis.
He has worked in various weapons system program offices, and as a member of the Comptroller Cost Staff at the Aeronautical Systems Center. He has been assigned to various Air Force acquisition offices, including the C-17, C-5B, Tacit Rainbow, Predator, Seek Spinner, CSAR, NDAA, ASC ACE, and ASC XR. A highlight of Chris’ career was a stint as a Senate staffer with the U.S. Government Affairs Committee in 1993, observing the process that brought us the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act.
Chris, his wife Lynn, and two Scottish terriers live in Beavercreek Ohio. He has three adult daughters, all of whom live in Ohio.