Date of Award


Access Type

Dissertation - Open Access

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Aviation


College of Aviation

Committee Chair

Dothang Truong, Ph.D.

First Committee Member

John M. Robbins, Ph.D.

Second Committee Member

Robert E. Joslin, Ph.D.

Third Committee Member

Tony Kern, Ed.D.


According to Hitlin (2017) of the Pew Research Center, only 8% of U.S. citizens own an unmanned aircraft. Additionally, regarding feelings if U.S. citizens saw an unmanned aircraft flying close to where they live, 26% say they would be nervous, 12% feel angry, and 11% are scared. As of March 9, 2018, there were 1,050,328 U.S. small unmanned aircraft system (sUAS) registrations compared to 947,970 November 29, 2017. While sUAS use has increased in the U.S., it has lagged when compared to other items for personal use available to U.S. citizens as 92% own cell phones (Anderson, 2015). This slower acceptance rate identifies a potential need for more research as to why. No studies have specifically focused on individual factors for the behavioral intention of using sUAS for data gathering, encompassing the variables used in this study, nor a Structural Equation Model that shows relevant factors and associated relationships. Also, current ground theories fall short, lacking appropriate variables or modeling ability.

Thus, this dissertation study developed a new behavioral research model termed VMUTES to determine the factors that influenced individuals’ intentions to operate small sUASs for data gathering and relationships between those factors. A sUAS system is comprised of integrated hardware, software, processes, or firmware. Data gathering is defined in this study as the transmission or recording of audio, pictures, videos, or collection of other data for modeler, civil, or public use. The new VMUTES model integrates portions of the technology acceptance model (TAM) and theory of planned behavior (TPB) model integrated with new factors: perceived risk and knowledge of regulations. The study used random sampling of Amazon Mechanical Turk® (AMT) members using an AMT Human Intelligence Task (HIT) that included a link to an online cross-sectional large-scale survey to collect data. Data Analysis included descriptive statistics analysis and the SEM process. Besides developing and validating a model and determining influencing factors, attention was also on verifying the relationships between constructs. Study limitations and future research recommendations are also discussed.

Results indicated the VMUTES model had a strong predictive power of sUAS use for data gathering with seven of the ten original hypotheses supported while having a good model fit. Four new hypotheses were also identified with three supported. Additionally, all VMUTES model factors except for facilitating conditions were determined to have either a direct or indirect effect on behavioral intention and/or actual behavior with the TAM and TPB related factors having the strongest effects.

Practically, this study filled an aviation research knowledge gap for sUAS use for data gathering. It also provided a research model and identified influencing factors of individuals’ behavioral intentions related to sUAS for data gathering. Thus, the newly developed model incorporating new variables can be used for further sUAS research and can provide an adaptable model for aviation and other technology areas to predict and facilitate new technology implementation where current models fall short. Finally, this study explored new and verified previously existing demographic variables for individuals who use sUASs for data gathering.

Included in

Aviation Commons