In support of extending this heritage approach towards NOAA’s next generation imager validation, an advanced capability development effort was initiated, “GOES-R near surface unmanned aircraft system (UAS) feasibility demonstration study” to mitigate these issues and meet the long-term challenges of validating next generation sensors. We report on the results of this 18-month study to design and develop the prototype systems, both rotary and fixed wing. The rotary system consists of hyperspectral reflective solar and broadband thermal infrared sensors, and a high-resolution context imager to generate products for ABI validation. The fixed wing system consisting of a camera and atmospheric sensor is used to create 2D high resolution georeferenced and orthorectified mosaics, digital elevation models, and atmospheric profiles providing detailed contextual information to complement the data products from the rotary system. We will discuss all aspects of the study from the design, characterization, and integration stages of development through functional and operation environment flight testing. The system and testing refinements throughout the development will be reviewed to highlight the lessons learned in this effort and discuss paths forward towards maturing this capability for operational use. These systems provide new capabilities to address significant validation gaps in the collection of reference data in support of environmental satellite products (L1b and L2+). Such systems have the potential to create a rapidly-deployable, affordable, flexible validation capability that builds off the heritage approaches and can meet the unique challenges of GOES-R ABI and other next generation satellite systems.