Contemporary aerospace programmes often suffer from large cost overruns, delivery delays and inferior product quality. This is caused in part by poor predictive quality of the early design phase processes with regards to the operational environment of a product. This paper develops the idea of a generic operational simulation that can help designers to rigorously analyse and test their early product concepts. The simulation focusses on civil Unmanned Air Vehicle products and missions to keep the scope of work tractable. The research agenda is introduced along with ideas, initial results and future work. Designers specify details about their product, its environment and anticipated operational procedures. The simulation returns information that can help to estimate the value of the product using the value-driven design approach. Information will include recurring and non-recurring mission cost items. The research aim is to show that an operational simulation can improve early design concepts, thereby reducing delays and cost overruns. Moreover, a tradeoff between mission fidelity and model generality is sought along with a generic ontology of civil Unmanned Air Vehicle missions and guidelines about capturing operational information. The software of choice was AnyLogic, a Java-based simulation tool, which is able to combine Agent-based modelling with a discrete-event paradigm and visual algorithms.