Fellow Drone Enthusiasts,
First, I’d like to thank everyone for all of the kind words about my previous efforts. The recognition makes the years of hard work that much more rewarding. As many of you know, I have always espoused the notion that this technology needs to be open and available to as wide an audience as possible. That notion continues to be my goal.
Unfortunately, the largest potential end-user group (us) has been long left out of the conversation. Our numbers will undoubtedly dwarf most of the current legal users yet the FAA, and special interest groups have kept us from having a say in defining our future. As one DIY Drones forum poster put it, “it’s time to step up and smell the coffee. “ He is correct; we must ensure that onerous regulation does not destroy our business viability. We have to understand that we are not only ushering in a new disruptive technology, but also a disruptive way of regulating that technology.
More Phantoms are sold every month then the AUVSI has members after 40 years of existence.
A little history –
We as a community have already tried to self-regulate in 2007 and 2008 with the RCAPA Proposed Guidelines. We had a multi-level testing program, which facilitated the availability of commercial liability insurance. We were encouraged, as most of the world’s CAA’s read the RCAPA Proposed Guidelines, unfortunately, just not the FAA. We also worked with the other stakeholders (ALPA and APOA) to promulgating a special rule for Micro-UAS (under 4lbs and frangible) operated under community based standards.
It is entirely possible that we could already be legally flying in the NAS. –
However, I was unable to persuade the AUVSI to include the Special Rule (exemption for aircraft under 4 lbs.) into the H.R. 658 (FAA reauthorization bill) language. I was told (by lead counsel) that the Special Rule could not be supported “because it did not take all of the membership into consideration.” To add insult to injury, the current CEO was unaware of the debacle. I am repeatable told, “we can’t live in the past.” True, but I for one hate to see the same costly mistakes perpetuated year after year.
“We need data.”
The FAA has had countless offers for free data over the years, but didn’t know (still doesn’t) what is relevant and what is not. During the course of the sUAS ARC, a team of engineers from NASA came up with a self-certification program that almost anyone would be capable of performing in their garage. (Man, I have to hurry up and write a book).
The most vocal pushback came from the industry co-chair who also happened to work for AeroVironment. (Incidentally, same industry co-chair for the current UAS ARC and chair of the ASTM F-38 committee.) That good work done by people with a passion for this technology was thrown in the trash. If the FAA had been agreeable to employing the scientific method, we would already have made inroads towards airspace integration. What the FAA has produced, thus far, can hardly be called progress.
The assumptions have to be revisited –
This is one of those instances in history where action must be taken. The only membership that matters is the greater community. No more backroom intrigues, the advocacy and the public rulemaking need to be made public.
The DOD vendors have helped create this mess as a byproduct of them raking in mega billions. I am not faulting them for making money, as that is the motive for business. However, it would be nice to be cut in on the action or in this case, opportunity. I believe those vendors are obligated to help restore (or make up the shortfall) of the millions of dollars pledged for real advocacy elsewhere. If they refuse, they are free to pack up their toys and go. I believe it to be cheaper and more beneficial to the community in both image and credibility in the long run. Advocating the commercialization of offensive weapons systems is not where we want to focus our energy.
We need to run the association like a business and not a government-subsidized contractor. As part of the clean sweep, we need to shed the mantle of a military technology advocacy association and establish an address in Silicon Valley. We also need to terminate contracts for consultants from outside of the unmanned technologies sector. Spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to get advice from unqualified firms to tell us about commercial markets for unmanned systems is ludicrous. So is advice on rebranding (we are doing it right here for free) or many of the other questions and issues facing this association.
Spend the money inside the community, on credible advice from people who live and work with the technology every day. The same goes for representation to the standards groups, CAA’s, FAA’s and ICAO. We want representation from people who have built, designed and or fielded this technology. We cannot afford five more years of unqualified individuals regurgitating talking points (canned goods) out of a focus group prepared stockholder prospectus. It hasn’t worked thus far, and doubtful that it will start working anytime soon.
All hands on deck –
If we are to realize the assertions of industry leaders like Jeff Bezos, we have a lot of work to do. The outpouring of support from the community adds legitimacy to the notion that this technology is our future, and we believe in the promise and potential as well as the jobs and prosperity it offers. The effort you put in now has bearing on when we as a community truly get started on our journey for common sense regulation. We need advocacy for regulation that isn’t designed to favor one group or line of business, but an agreement that considers all of us.
Thank you for your support, Patrick Egan
Please email or call
President & CEO
Chairman of the Board