Green UAS: what the new program means for drone companies

The American drone industry has long been subject to an alphabet soup of terms, like UAM, AAM and RAM, among many others. Lately though, it’s also become subject to a growing rainbow of designations. The rainbow has expanded thanks to a relatively-new term in the drone industry called the Green UAS Program.

The Green UAS program riffs on the more-widely known Blue UAS program. The Blue sUAS program, run through the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), is a way to signify that a drone meets the U.S. government’s strict cybersecurity and performance standards. All drones on the Blue List are NDAA-compliant. NDAA-compliance refers to requirements spelled out in the U.S. government’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which restricts the products that certain federal agencies can buy.

The Green UAS is something of a bridge for drone companies that don’t have formal Blue UAS distinction, but that still will meet the same levels of security requirements as the DIU’s Blue UAS 2.0 program.

Association for Uncrewed Vehicle Systems (AUVSI), which is a massive lobbying group that advocates for the drone industry, created the program in a partnership with the DIU.

“AUVSI’s goal is to assess and certify additional platforms and components beyond those on the Blue UAS list as secure, widening the offering of secure, vetted drones available for procurement by non-DOD agencies,” according to a statement from AUVSI.

Green UAS
Green UAS

What is Green UAS, and why does it matter?

Green UAS certification is a process somewhat similar to the compliance and cybersecurity verification procedures used to verify products on DIU’s Blue UAS list. It basically achieves two goals, which are:

  • Verifying security: Green UAS puts drones through a rigorous evaluation process to ensure they meet high cybersecurity standards. This includes vulnerability and penetration testing to identify and address potential weaknesses.
  • Ensuring compliance: The program verifies compliance with the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) supply chain requirements. This ensures drones are built with components from trusted sources, mitigating security risks.

So what are the intended benefits of the Green UAS program?

  • Increased trust: For end-users (aka people who buy drones), Green UAS certification signifies a drone meets robust cybersecurity standards.
  • Streamlined vetting: The Green UAS program offers a faster and more streamlined vetting process compared to the Blue UAS program, making it attractive for commercial applications.
  • Wider market: Green UAS opens doors for drone manufacturers to sell their products to a broader range of non-defense customers who require strong cybersecurity but may not need the full rigor of Blue UAS.

Green UAS primarily is relevant to two sets of groups:

Drone manufacturers: Companies that want to certify their drones for commercial or non-defense government use can benefit from Green UAS.

A history of Green UAS

The program fell into the spotlight during XPONENTIAL 2024, which is considered one of the biggest drone events in the world. The massive drone conference for uncrewed systems and robotics was held in April 2024. AUVSI, which also created the Green UAS program, leads the event.

AUVSI announced the Green UAS program in its opening day keynote. There, AUVSI shared that it had entered a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the DoD’s Defense Innovation Unit (DIU). The goal? Green UAS in theory makes it easier for drone component manufacturers that also hold a Green UAS certification to share their data with the DIU. In turn, that streamlines supply chains and makes it more clear what drone parts truly are NDAA-verified.

Green UAS vs. Blue UAS

While Green UAS shares similarities with the Department of Defense’s Blue UAS program, there are key distinctions:

  • Focus: Green UAS targets the commercial and non-defense drone market, whereas Blue UAS is specifically for DoD use.
  • Rigor: The security requirements for both programs are similar, but Blue UAS typically involves more stringent evaluations.
  • Cost and time: Green UAS offers a faster and more affordable certification path compared to Blue UAS.

AUVSI shared a graphic spelling out how procurement works. It shows whether Blue or Green UAS status is needed, based on type of client (federal versus state or local vs private industry):

Secure UAS Procurement Guidance AUVSI Blue Green UAS
Graphic courtesy of AUVSI

AUVSI also shared a table spelling out the differences between Green and Blue UAS in terms of their security assessments:

Green UAS vs BlueUAS certification AUVSI
Graphic courtesy of AUVSI

How Green UAS certification works

Given the differences, the Green UAS certification process is less onerous than Blue UAS. On a high level, here’s how Green UAS certification works:

  • Apply: Manufacturers apply for Green UAS certification. Their drones undergo security control assessments, vulnerability testing, and penetration testing. That submission form lives on the AUVSI website.
  • Pay the application fee: Annoyingly, this has become something of a cottage industry, as AUVSI charges both a submission and certification fee. Costs vary depending on whether or not you’re a member, but the cost to certify your product as Green UAS compliant runs from an estimated $55,000 to $100,000. The money goes to AUVSI to cover their testing costs.
  • Earn a spot on the cleared list: Drones that successfully meet the standards earn a spot on a publicly available “cleared list.”
  • Get a special badge: Applicants that pass the certification process receive an “official mark of certification.” They’re also displayed on a Green UAS cleared list. That appears on both the Green UAS website and DIU’s Blue UAS Hub.
  • Continuously undergo monitoring: Even after clearance, drones remain under continuous monitoring to maintain security.

Criticism of Green UAS certification

Though the Green UAS certification process has its merits in streamlining approval processes, it’s not without its critics.

Given the high application fees, AUVSI is able to use the Green UAS as a profit arm. AUVSI offers discounts on aspects of the certification process to its members. That creates another opportunity to boost its membership numbers —and further boost its own profits.

And by controlling Green UAS certification, some might see AUVSI as a gatekeeper in the commercial drone market. With it, AUVSI could potential hold outsized influence on which drones gain wider acceptance.

And though some might justify the high application price given the work involved to test and analyze products, it could be a barrier for smaller manufacturers. That potentially limits competition and favors larger AUVSI member companies with more resources.

Benefits of Green UAS certification

That said, Green UAS brings plenty of benefits and opportunities. In general, Green UAS offers what some might argue to be an ultra-valuable service. It promotes cybersecurity standards and creates a trusted marketplace for commercial drones. That just makes drones more useful and legitimate. In turn, it could promote the drone industry across the board (even for non-Green UAS-certified companies).

And what about AUVSI’s involvement specifically? AUVSI’s membership and experience could likely position them well to understand the drone industry’s specific needs, allowing it to further develop a relevant certification program.

Did you find this article helpful? Drone Girl makes money (to write more content like this) through generous donations like yours. Please make a donation today!

One-Time
Monthly
Yearly

Make a one-time donation

Make a monthly donation

Make a yearly donation

Choose an amount

$5.00
$15.00
$100.00
$5.00
$15.00
$100.00
$5.00
$15.00
$100.00

Or enter a custom amount

$

Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

DonateDonate monthlyDonate yearly

Leave a Reply