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Many continue to espouse the notion that the solution for the pressing U.S. NAS integration issues lay with finding the FAA more money. Perplexing to me, as the FAA already has a budget in the tens of billions.
However, grousing about a lack of manpower and or available resources is not exclusive to the FAA. What is, are determinations of what constitutes an equivalent level of safety, what standard(s) sense and avoid will need to be developed to, or how many tens of millions of dollars (and a timeline) it may take for the FAA to make these determinations. Are we as a community to go to Congress and say “We really need to make sure the FAA gets “X” millions of dollars with no plan” ? What can the FAA objectively show in the way of accomplishments or progress thus far? Trotting out the old COA (waiver process), that is as dysfunctional as the one this industry has to work with only serves to illustrate the deficiencies of a bureaucratic model still toddling out of the twentieth century. This supposed course of action in our current budget climate hardly sounds viable to me.
I propose that we look to new ideas that represent a lower cost solution. The taxpayer and the NAS stakeholders maybe better served by direct grants, or a technology prize. It is very plausible that these types of technological solutions can come from the small business community. Why? Well, small businesses are the only ones who can objectively look at the problem and are agile enough to succeed with moving targets. With grants of say between fifty and five hundred thousand dollars, many small business can apply different solutions to the same quandary. For the vendors, these sums would only represent a small part of the business plan, but for small business it would be the business plan.
The small business community is just the engine for this task, as it has proven itself to be very dynamic time after time. The level of creativity still continues to astonish me and serves well to illustrate the multi-industry crossover of this technology. Third parties or independent review boards could administer the grants or prizes. These “boards” would also assist in development of criteria (with the input of the FAA/academia/industry) and facilitate airspace for testing around the country. Not working against the FAA, but in partnership. A mutually beneficial partnership that builds bridges by providing opportunity for small businesses as well as encouraging regulatory compliance from within the community.